Oliver Kiley (BS ’03, MLA ’08)

Mobility and Transportation Design

Oliver Kiley (BS ’03, MLA ’08) began his career at SmithGroup, an international architectural firm with deep roots in Detroit and Ann Arbor, just after earning his degree in the Master of Landscape Architecture program at SEAS. In recent years, he has been elevated to a principal landscape architect at SmithGroup’s Ann Arbor office.

SmithGroup is a multi-disciplinary, integrated-design firm that combines landscape architecture, civil engineering, architecture, urban design and planning disciplines to create resilient and sustainable places and communities.

Kiley is one of the co-leads in the firm’s mobility specialty, an area that he helped to develop.

“Our work is at the intersection of mobility and transportation design,” says Kiley. “We look at whole road corridors and figure out how to make those safer, more accessible and more comfortable for people—whether they’re walking, biking, taking the bus or driving their car.”

Kiley says SmithGroup gives thought and attention to the aesthetic design—as well as functional considerations—to create inviting spaces that include features such as pocket parks, plaza spaces, seating areas and other amenities.

Ann Arbor residents will be familiar with numerous projects that SmithGroup has completed in partnership with the Downtown Development Authority—such as the William Street Bikeway, the more recent First Street Bikeway, and the reconfiguration of the Fifth Street and Detroit Street area that encompasses the farmer’s market and Community High School.

Kiley, who was involved in the design and engineering work on these “people-friendly streets,” says the aim is to make downtown Ann Arbor more inclusive, safe and accessible.

Asked what changes he’s seen in the field over the course of his 14 years at SmithGroup, Kiley discussed several shifts in priorities and perspectives.

“One of the big drivers that is shaping the way that landscape architects are practicing is an emphasis on community resiliency, and how that relates to climate change from a mitigation and adaptation standpoint,” says Kiley. “To prepare for climate outcomes such as more intense and more frequent rainfall events, the need to design our streets to be more flexible and resilient is critical.

“Another huge driver is from the perspective of equity. There’s a lot more sensitivity now, and a recognition of the impacts that our projects can have, such as gentrification and unintentionally displacing people. To address those issues, our engagement processes need to be much more inclusive in working with the community to figure out how to make changes in a way that’s harmonious with community needs—making sure that we’re not creating inequities, but instead, we’re confronting those historic inequities.”