Cornelia Hahn Oberlander, O.C., FCSLA, FASLA, BCSLA, 2013

I knew Dan Kiley from about 1945. I saw him swishing down the hills in Franconia and I had one wish that I could work for him one day.

The year was 1951 - I am in Philadelphia working for Oscar Stonorov on Schuykill Housing and Lou Kahn Mill Creek Housing. One day Oscar Stonorov tells me "We are getting Dan Kiley down to Philadelphia to work with you on those two housing projects. He will teach you how to write specifications." "Oh, that is good, because nobody taught me that at Harvard."

So, Dan arrived and we work on the concept for these housing projects. For Oscar Stonorov from 8am to 4pm, for Lou Kahn from 4:30pm to midnight.

When the concept was accepted, Dan said "Why don't you come up to Charlotte, Vermont. We can finish it there." And so I entered the life of the Kiley family (with 8 children) in the rented Grenfell house above Lake Champlain. It was permitted to swim in the lake between 7am and 8am. One morning I arrived for breakfast and Dan said to me "Cornelia, tread lightly in the woods." I replied "But Dan, I always wear sneakers!" Dan looked at me quizzically and said nothing. Later it dawned on me he meant to say "Don't disturb the forest." And thus I learned quickly about the ecology of the area.

Dick Haag and I worked in the studio. However, a new job came into the office from the Rouse Brothers in Baltimore, Md. "Mondawmin Shopping Centre" - one of the first shopping centers in the U.S. This entailed endless grading studies and making a model to be taken to Baltimore by Dan Kiley for the presentation. We drove to Burlington, Vermont, and Dan insisted that the model and he would fit into one berth on the sleeper. Of course that didn't work and we had to buy another berth.

The summer went by and not much was done on the housing projects, and so I learned all by myself to write the specs and finish the drawings (by the way, the Mill Creek one is in Lou Kahn's archives at the U of Pennsylvania, showing vegetable gardens and fruit trees for every tenant).

To live with the Kiley family was unforgettable. The goat came to the kitchen to be milked at 8am for the porridge. I was given a bedroom and Katie liked the bed, thus I spent every night on the floor. By Friday I told Dan I have to go home to work on my Mother's farm in New Hampshire, and so I drove, whenever possible, to sleep in my own bed at home, and return refreshed on Monday for the work ahead.

I hope these anecdotes are helpful for the retrospective. Use whatever you think is suitable. Dan Kiley's spirit and his masterful designs will never be forgotten.

More Recollections...