A complex family man who is an extraordinary architect

When Kahn was a little child, his family moved from Estonia to Philadelphia in the United States. The majority of his work would be finished in that city. He developed an early interest in castles and other structures while he was young, particularly in Scottish and mediaeval cities. In direct contrast to the lightness of other artists’ works, including those of Phillip Johnson and Mies van der Rohe, these influences would have a significant impact on much of his work, which was represented through monumentality, solidity, and depth.

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(Louis I. Kahn, 1972 _Image © Eugene Carlson)https://crosscut.com/2016/03/the-off-kilter-life-of-a-great-american-architect

After earning his architecture degree from The University of Pennsylvania in 1928, Kahn set out on a European architectural tour. After returning home, he started working as a draughtsman and, after starting his own business in 1935, designed buildings throughout the 1930s and 1940s.

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(Corridor, Salk Institute_Image © Randi Giacomo, Pixabay)https://www.designingbuildings.co.uk/wiki/Louis_Kahn

In terms of astonishment, expression, and beauty, Louis I. Kahn defines architecture. As a representation of exhausted light, he describes material. According to him, there is only the spirit of architecture, which cannot be categorised for sale in the market, and nothing more.

Kahn was provided with two diving boards by Yale’s students and professors who were deeply involved in the transformation of academic education and the introduction of modern principles. A young art historian, Vincent Scully, became his most active propagandist, while he was given a commission to build the university’s Art Gallery, a commission he executed with an unusual degree of brutality within the conformist architectural panorama of American institutions. A triangular staircase was incorporated into a concrete cylinder containing slabs of tetrahedral coffers, destined to be widely copied, and which would make a marginal figure a world figure for the first time. 

A chain of works punctuated the rest of the story, giving contemporary monumentality a whole new meaning. At once imposing and intimate, and lyrical in their molding of light, as well as eloquent in their definition of the encounters between materials, these buildings are buildings of archaic solemnity exquisitely constructed and rigorously choreographed with elementary geometry, imposing and intimate at the same time.

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(Yale University Art Gallery, ca. 1954. Construction view of staircase_Image ©Lionel Feininger)https://www.archdaily.com/959697/architecture-not-exclusively-for-architects-ole-bouman-on-finding-measure

Can We Call Him One Of The Best Architects Of The Century?

He is if the United States is a great nation, Louis Kahn was a great architect whose significance lies in an American interpretation of ancient themes from the Old World. He was also an impoverished immigrant who was generously welcomed by his adopted nation and possessed a perplexing talent that could only flourish in the positive and upbeat environment of American patronage. Without Paul Mellon, Kay and Velma Kimbell, or Jonas Salk, Kahn would not have existed. As defining of the postwar Americana as Frank Lloyd Wright’s houses were of the Emersonian individualism of a country of farmers, his revision of functionalism to create modern monuments that could symbolise institutions’ yearning for permanence and celebrate community togetherness. However, his formal findings are now considered a part of the history of architecture Only his late career start and Eurocentric shortsightedness prevent him from joining the hall of fame, which Jencks refers to as the big four (Wright, Mies, Le Corbusier, and Aalto), whose entire body of work historians of Docomomo are pleading with the Unesco to include in its list of World Heritage Sites, alongside 28 structures designed by minor figures like Kahn’s Richards Laboratories. The only person other than the major four featured in the chapter titles of the most widely read history of modern architecture, authored by William Curtis, is the master of Philadelphia, together with the now unfairly underappreciated Gropius. 

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(Kahn’s 1972 building for the Kimbell Art Museum. View from the southwest_Image ©(Iwan Baan) https://www.archpaper.com/2022/11/50-louis-kahn-kimbell-art-museum-fort-worth-texas-paragon-architectural-achievement/

There was also a deep connection between “the mysteriousness” of shadow and the evocation of silence and awe. Despite its potential dangers, Kahn saw darkness as a deep source of mystery as well as uncertainty. In order to create a “treasure of shadows,” a “sanctuary of art,” architects must work with light and shadow.A cloister’s dark silence is brought to mind when walking through the Salk Institute’s portico. The large wall surfaces have a fine texture due to the shadow lines and holes created by the precisely defined moulds. A monotonous three-dimensional canvas is created by the white stone and grey concrete walls. As a result of Kahn’s monolithic volumes, the use of shade provides vital information regarding form and arrangement.”

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(National Assembly At Dhaka, Bangladesh_Image ©John Shreve Arbuckle )https://www.archdaily.com/406753/buk-seoul-museum-of-art-samoo-architects-and-engineers

Francis Kere

“If we learn to build with local materials, we have a future.”

Louis Kahn created and built numerous structures in areas with intense sunshine, but he did not do it solely to shield his occupants from the sun; rather, he did so to preserve the sacredness of the shadow. According to Ingeborg Flagge, the former director of the German Architecture Museum and the curator of the exhibition “The secret of the shadow,” he did not believe in manufactured shade, such as “brise-soleils.” (ArchDaily).  Instead, he controlled and directed the light into the interior using windows and doors in his double walls. The Indian Institute of Management’s huge, open windows and doors are described by Kahn as belonging to the sun outside while people live and work inside. In order to forego sun protection. I came up with the concept of a deep intrados to guard the cool shadow. Louis Kahn.

(Library, Phillips Exeter Academy, Exeter, New Hampshire 1965–72_Image © Flickr – Ed Brodzinsky) https://www.archdaily.com/63683/ad-classics-exeter-library-class-of-1945-library-louis-kahn/5037e16028ba0d599b0001b5-ad-classics-exeter-library-class-of-1945-library-louis-kahn-photo?next_project=no

Reference list: 

Harrouk, C. (2021) “Architecture not Exclusively for Architects”: Ole Bouman on Finding Measure, https://www.archdaily.com/959697/architecture-not-exclusively-for-architects-ole-bouman-on-finding-measure.

Louis Kahn (2021) https://www.designingbuildings.co.uk/wiki/Louis_Kahn