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Funding is needed to finish this oral history about the work of landscape architect Joe Karr and that of the Office of Dan Kiley.
Funding is needed to finish this oral history about the work of landscape architect Joe Karr and that of the Office of Dan Kiley.
33 backers pledged $9,650 to help bring this project to life.

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The fifteenth installment of TCLF’s award-winning Pioneers of American Landscape Design Oral History Project will examine the extraordinary talent and vision of the Office of Dan Kiley through three of the firm’s employees who subsequently formed important practices: Joe Karr, Ian Tyndall, and Peter Ker Walker. This oral history will thus be a departure from others in the series, which focus on the life and career of a single practitioner. Instead, it will triangulate the perspectives of these landscape architects to further illuminate Kiley’s innovative firm while also highlighting their own significant careers, body of work, and how their careers were influenced by their tenure with Kiley’s office. 
  

Dan Kiley (1912-2004) was one of the nation’s most important post-War landscape architects. During his prolific career, which spanned more than half a century, he worked with equally significant architects, including Eero Saarinen, Louis Kahn, and I.M. Pei, to create internationally recognized icons of Modernist design. Like many great design firms, The Office of Dan Kiley was home to a team of tremendously talented individuals who would eventually go on to enjoy significant careers of their own. Landscape architects such as Joe Karr, Peter Ker Walker, Ian Tyndall, and Peter Schaudt (1959-2015) worked in Kiley’s office for years and were instrumental in some of the firm’s most notable projects, including the Oakland Museum, the Ford Foundation, the National Gallery of Art, and Fountain Place in Dallas, to name but a few.

Oakland Museum, Oakland, CA, which Joe Karr helped design
Oakland Museum, Oakland, CA, which Joe Karr helped design

Joe Karr, a native of Rochelle, Illinois, entered the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1956 to study city planning, but soon changed his focus to landscape architecture. He received his B.F.A. in landscape architecture in 1960 and soon thereafter headed to the University of Pennsylvania as a graduate student to study with landscape architects Ian McHarg and Karl Linn. In the spring of 1963, Karr joined the office of landscape architect Dan Kiley in Charlotte, Vermont.

The Ford Foundation Atrium, New York, NY, which Joe Karr helped design
The Ford Foundation Atrium, New York, NY, which Joe Karr helped design

Dan Kiley and Vermont’s natural beauty had a profound effect on Karr’s sense of aesthetics and his professional development. He was particularly influenced by Kiley’s approach to aptness in design. Karr, like Kiley, felt that architecture and landscape architecture were seamlessly connected. He recognized that architects and landscape architects were both designers and manipulators of space and that the difference between them was primarily in their material palettes.  

Ameritech Center, Hoffman Estates, IL, designed by Joe Karr
Ameritech Center, Hoffman Estates, IL, designed by Joe Karr

Karr left the Kiley office in 1969 to start his own practice, Joe Karr and Associates, as a division of the Chicago architectural firm of Harry Weese & Associates. Karr’s office designed more than 700 landscapes for universities, colleges, corporations, hospitals, senior-living communities, institutions, parks, plazas, cemeteries, industrial sites, residential complexes, atria, and single-family homes. Karr’s work has been published extensively, yet his legacy remains elusive to most. Karr was named a Fellow of the American Society of Landscape Architects in 1992. In 2004, after 35 years of practice, he closed his office but continued to work as a landscape architectural consultant through 2011. Karr retired in 2012.

Rendering of the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery, Elwood, IL, designed by Joe Karr
Rendering of the Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery, Elwood, IL, designed by Joe Karr

The combined oral history will include ten video segments, approximately 45-minute running time for each of the three landscape architects, illuminating their lives, design philosophies, and built projects (both those undertaken while with Kiley and those subsequently completed). The richly edited and musically scored video segments not only reveal each designer’s ideas and passions but also their relationships with Kiley and significant architects (Kevin Roche, John Dinkeloo, Eero Saarinen, and Harry Weese, to name but a few), illuminating how Kiley and his firm came to revolutionize post-War Modernist landscape architecture, from atrium and roof gardens to cultural and academic campuses.  

This oral history, like the previous fourteen, will be made freely available on YouTube and tclf.org. These videos allow the designers themselves to speak about their work and design process in their own words, creating an invaluable first-hand account of these significant cultural landscapes and the designers who created them. TCLF’s YouTube channel has garnered approximately 280,000 views, and its website receives more than 600,000 unique visits annually. Unfortunately, without funding, TCLF will be unable to finish the work of bringing an extraordinary design legacy to the public. 

A non-profit established in 1998, The Cultural Landscape Foundation “connects people to places.” TCLF educates and engages the public to make our shared landscape heritage more visible, identify its value, and empower its stewards. TCLF achieves this mission through the ongoing development of its three core programs: 

 >What’s Out There®, North America’s largest and most exhaustive database of cultural landscapes; 

 >Pioneers of American Landscape Design®, an in-depth multimedia library, inclusive of video oral histories, chronicling the lives of significant landscape architects and educators; 

 >Landslide®, an ongoing collection of important landscapes and landscape features that are threatened and at-risk. Your gift to TCLF is tax deductible to the extent allowed by law and will ensure TCLF's programs and ongoing initiatives collectively tell the stories of our nation's rich landscape heritage. 

Risks and challenges

Time is our greatest challenge. Joe Karr is in his eighties, and a number of his most seminal projects were completed more than 50 years ago. For those that still survive, documenting the built work is a challenge because many properties have changed ownership and have experienced deferred or limited maintenance, thus making the design intent less apparent. Moreover, there is the constant threat of outright destruction, as many landscapes fall prey to development or thoughtless alterations. These critical funds will allow us to move quickly to finish the project and will help make visible and easily accessible the legacy of two important post-War landscape architects, Joe Karr and Dan Kiley.

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    Earns you a mention (and our sincerest thanks) in the Office of Dan Kiley Oral History production credits and acknowledgements, as well as TCLF’s Annual Report

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    Receive a copy of the book Dan Kiley: Landscapes - the Poetry of Space, edited by Reuben M. Rainey and Marc Treib

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Funding period

- (30 days)