DAN KILEY

Watching the solemn, harrowing and star-studded movie, Judgment at Nuremburg recently (a fictionalized account of the Nuremberg Trials), brought to mind Dan Kiley.

He was born in Boston Mass in 1912. From the age of 20 to 26 he worked in the office of Warren Manning who had worked in the office of Olmsted.  (Fletcher Steele had also worked in the office of Manning).  Quite a lineage!

During WWII (1942-45) Kiley served with the Army Corps of Engineers, where he became the chief designer/architect for the Nuremberg Trials Courtroom, which gave him an opportunity to visit European Gardens. 

While there he visited the work of André Le Nôtre at Sceaux Chantilly, Versailles, and Vaux-le-Vicomte,.  One could certainly see how the formality and geometric layout shaped his future Classical Modernist style.  The geometric layout of allees, bosques, water, paths, orchards, and lawns characterize Dan Kiley’s design – obvious examples being the Miller Garden, US Airforce Academy, Lincoln Center etc.

Back to Nuremburg….According to Nazi War Crimes by Michael Salter, “Kiley’s task was to incorporate novel presentation devices AND facilities into the very structure of the redesigned Palace of Justice at Nuremburg to enable the OSS trial evidence, particularly film and large charts.  These modifications had to be incorporated in a way that diminished the formality and aura of the courtroom.” (The US government hired Hollywood’s finest to create these films: director John Ford, producers Budd Schulberg and George Stevens.)

 Kiley surveying construction

Kiley surveying construction

According to Joseph Disponzio in Daniel Urban Kiley, The Early Gardens, “ A typical courtroom configuration would locate the bench at the far end of a rectangular hall facing the adjudicating parties and the audience. Kiley altered the standard arrangement of a courtroom in a simple yet dramatic way.  He shifted the international panel of judges ninety degrees to one side, and placed the Nazi defendants facing them.  The victims, their representatives, and the world were seated, as if in a theatre, to witness the trial.  A film screen to show Nazi “crimes against humanity” (and charts) was placed on the wall behind the traditional bench location. 

 Images of the actual War Crimes room

Images of the actual War Crimes room

Judgement at Nuremburg film clip

Bob Holden in the Independent speaks of Kiley as “an architect of space, dealing with ground as form, trees as sculpture, and shrubs, vines, groundcover and water jets as textures and shapes that articulate the surface of his forms. His is not garden design in the established English manner.  His effects were grand, noble and rigorous.”

One could begin to suggest that Nuremburg was instrumental in the development of this influential designer.