Professor Dipl.-Ing. Hans H. Kienle Landscape Architect, Architect (1940-2018)

Profile PictureProfessor Dipl.-Ing. Hans H. Kienle

Landscape Architect, Architect (1940-2018)

On 5 June 2018, the message I sent Hans asking how he was doing was answered by his wife Ally, “Jala, Hans left just now”. Hans was not well, in and out of hospital for months. Still, his passing away was very sad. Hans was a dear friend, a mentor, an exceptionally talented designed and wonderful human being. The sense of loss prompted me to share with my colleagues at IFLA personal reflections and recollections of his life.

Hans received his Master degree in Architecture with distinction from the Technical University of Stuttgart in 1975. His diploma research ‘Ecological Aspects of Urban Planning and Landscape Design’ was the inspiration for the Majlis Al Shura landscape (KOCOMMAS), a 100ha site at the edge of the Wadi Hanifah in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Hans was employed by Professor Luz and Partners Landscape Architects –later he was invited to become a partner. The desert garden Hans proposed was extensive, 70ha, dominated by a seasonal watercourse, wadi, with a wide range of native desert flora. The landscape proposed was daring because it was not all what the client expected. Landscape architect in the Middle East in the 1970s was expected to produce a replica of ‘western’ amenity landscapes, mainly expanses of lawn, lush exotic plants and lots of ornamental bedding disregarding the environmental cost in desert climates. The desert landscape Hans envisioned was daring also because there was no guarantee that the native flora proposed will succeed, nor how long it would take for them to flower, if at all. That is the way when designing ‘with nature’. I have no doubt that the project served as inspiration three decades later to the award winning Wadi Hannifah.

Hans established his own practice in 1985, Kienle Planungsgesellschaft. He teamed with Heinle, Wischer und Partner, Stuttgart, and won first place in the international competition for the Al Rashid University, Iraq. I met Hans for the first time that year as he presented the landscape concept for 400ha site of the new university. The scale and complexity of the landscape design was impressive. Energy and water intensive ornamental gardens, 90ha, mainly academic courtyards and formal landscapes, were countered with functional and sustainable green areas, respectively 35ha agricultural experimental fields and 30ha of hardy afforestation irrigated by storm water runoff only. Hans’ expertise in landscape ecology were complimented by his sensitive aesthetic sensibilities that drew on gardens in the Islamic World. Hans explained his ideas with passion and superbly rendered colored pencil drawings that became the hallmark of his presentations. I fell in love with landscape architecture, there and then. I had developed an affinity with ‘landscape’ in my undergraduate and graduate studies in architecture. But with no landscape architecture education in Iraq at the time –not even now- not a single practicing landscape architect to learn from, I was at a loss as how to pursue my interest. Working closely with Hans in the following five years, on Al Rashid and another project he was commissioned, Salahaddin Parade Grounds, was an education, an inspiration and the launching pad for my own career in ecological landscape design and planning.

Hans’ work in Iraq was followed by competition entries he won most of which were realized. These include state/public landscapes: Town hall plaza, MarkgröningerStraße and Schulstraße in Asperg, 1990-91; Community Center, Reutlingen-Rommelsbach, 1995; SudheimerPlatz, Stuttgart 2003-06; Conversion of former military area in the baroque palace gardens, Rastatt, 1997-2007. There were also designs for industrial, financial and health buildings. All his projects prioritized sustainable water management regardless of climatic zone, for example the Siemens Headquarters, Stuttgart-Weilimdorf, that included a ‘wadi’ feeding a 1000m2 rainwater pond, completed in 1995, Green Beijing’ Olympic Games 2008, 100ha rainwater lake, International competition with HWP that won 3rd prize, 2004, and many more projects in China. The high-profile Olympic project competition landed Kienle Planungsgesellschaft with several city-scale projects in Zhenhai, Kunshan and in De Qing where intensively cultivated land around Xiazhuhu Lake, 50km2, was converted to a landscape park for Shanghai and Hangzhou region.

Hans’ innovative approaches to plant selection, creative planting configurations, a balance between formal and informal geometries, was another area that distinguished his practice. The Landeszentralbank Villingen-Schwenninge Landscape design, proposed intensive and extensive roof planting, a competition won with Günther Herrmann in 1996, realized in 1998. With variation, these roof gardens were introduced in several projects.

The fact that Hans was registered architect and landscape architect, in Stuttgart, allowed him to evade contrived disciplinary categorization; he was architect, landscape architect and urban designer all in one. The spaces he conceived and the experiences he envisioned flowed in and out of buildings, capitalized the interplay between city and region and utilized the synergy between ecosystems, vernacular landscape practices and local culture. The simplicity and beauty of his conceptions were appreciated by professional and lay people alike, landscapes that are enduring, timeless and beautiful.

Hans was not only a sensitive designer, but also an academic. He lectured at the Universities of Biberach and Stuttgart in the 1980s. In 2003 he was made honorary professor at Stuttgart University. His professional and academic brilliance brought him many invitations to lecture and serve on competitions juries all over the world.

Hans’ death is a loss to the profession. His memory will be kept alive with his loving wife Ally, his nephews and nieces and all who had the good fortune to know him.

This Article is written by Jala Makhzoumi, Delegate, LELA (Lebanese Landscape Association)