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The Poetry of Space

Had thought I learned all I needed to know about geometry back in the 10th grade. Repeated visits to the Miller House over the past few years have forced me to further appreciate another aspect of the topic, with Dan Kiley’s use of the medium in creating his masterpiece of modernist landscape design.

View through the orchard

Though much of landscape architecture involves the careful manipulation of spaces, the gardens at Miller House represent one of the best examples of the craft. Working closely with the home’s architect, Eero Saarinen, Kiley laid out a plan which closely reflects and reinforces the strict geometry of the residence. As with his many other commissions, Mr. Kiley used a limited palette of plants. This was not to be a garden of show-stopping color and horticultural diversity. Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Design, Horticulture, Musings


A Religious Experience

“Man, this is like going to church!” were the first words uttered by friend and colleague, Ed Blake, as he entered the Miller House and Garden property a few weeks ago.  Ed is a landscape architect from Hattiesburg, Mississippi, and now working to develop the IMA’s Virginia B. Fairbanks Art & Nature Park.  He was part of a small group joining Bradley Brooks and me for a special Saturday morning tour of this remarkable site.

Ed first witnessed the site decades ago while on a work assignment in Columbus.  He was then only able to peek through the already tall arborvitae hedges guarding the property’s east side, but knew the place was indeed very special.  After all, one of the 20th century’s masters of landscape design, Dan Kiley, had worked his magic here.  For all of us in the field, this is a place for reverence.

Miller House, summer 2009 (Ed Blake and Bradley Brooks on far right)

Miller House, summer 2009 (Ed Blake and Bradley Brooks on far right)

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Filed under: Art, Art and Nature Park, Design, Musings


Number Two


As the IMA website indicates, we have taken official possession of the Miller House and Garden in Columbus, Indiana. This will make the second National Historic Landmark property the IMA has in its collection (Oldfields-Lilly House and Gardens being the first). How’s that for bragging rights! As a practical matter however, home ownership is not all fun and games in this situation. Ahead lies a road of challenges for the staff working on MHG teams.

Columbus is an hour’s drive south of Indy, which makes it difficult to explore the house and conduct business with the current local staff. Director of Lilly House Operations Bradley Brooks, head of our team of six, has spent a lot of time on the phone and making the trek south in the run-up to taking possession of the property. He has interacted with everyone from members of the Miller family to a nephew of  Eero Saarinen. Bradley has been, and continues to be a very busy beaver.

The task of converting a residential property into a museum showcase has been an educational experience for our team, so far. It has forced us to look at all the things we do here at the museum, a lot of which we take for granted, and formulate how to adapt and transplant these practices to a former family home fifty miles away.

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Filed under: Art, Conservation, Current Events


Art and Nature Park Public Forum TONIGHT

When I started at the Indianapolis Museum of Art in the fall of 2004, the opening of the Virginia B. Fairbanks Art & Nature Park seemed so far in the future it was laughable to me that we even had meetings about it. Fall 2009 seemed like an eternity away. For God’s sake, I thought to myself, I’ll be nearly 30 years old when the park finally opens! Now with the recent proliferation of my first gray hairs, 30 doesn’t seem that far away, and with the plans for the park taking shape neither does opening day.

The Virginia B. Fairbanks Art & Nature Park has always seemed a bit ambiguous to me. With the solidity of the Museum and its galleries and history of Oldfields-Lilly House & Gardens, the Art & Nature Park seemed like the elusive Holy Ghost of the IMA’s trinity. Scheduled to open in the fall of 2009, The Virginia B. Fairbanks Art & Nature Park has a history that goes well beyond my time at the IMA. Discussions about the use of the space have been ongoing for decades. However, over the last few months, plans for the park have really come together and as we get closer and closer to the opening date, I can now see more clearly the future of the 100 acres of woodland, wetland and meadows adjacent to the Museum.

Want to learn more about the Art & Nature Park? Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Art and Nature Park


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