Louis I Kahn spent his entire ‘architectural‘ life, attempting to answer the requirement of architecture to be an impression of man’s life. On his death anniversary, this article celebrates and applauses the works of the architect, who expounded on the thought of utilizing his musings on architecture as a reaction to human action.

“I sense a Threshold: Light to Silence, Silence to Light – an ambiance of inspiration, in which the desire to be, to express, crosses with the possible Light to Silence, Silence to Light crosses in the sanctuary of art.” -Louis I Kahn

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Louis I Kahn; Source: www.thenation.com

Kahn started his journey in the 1920s, the time which was additionally set apart by the ascent of Modernist Architecture turning the whole context of architecture as it is today, by presenting functionalism and structural expressionism in their extremities. As indicated by his thoughts and words, and the testimonies of various users of his designs, he was someone who designs intimately and yet produced spaces that belonged to everybody. He, as an architect grouped the drama between spaces, considering its timelessness and accentuating its mysticism as he invented the environment.

Structures from the past have constantly enlivened his plans. At first, he utilized shapes from historic buildings to understand their form, order, and space, envisioning these old structures as being built with precast cement. By analyzing his drawings, one can begin to understand his way of thinking and unfolding his designs. An element seen noticeably in his undertakings is evenness. He has constantly treated the service spaces as discrete structures, added due significance to support spaces and accepted the idea of the room being portrayed by the minor space that serves it. Kahn’s structures originated from functionalism as he constantly attempted to utilize functional expressions to accomplish an explanation of explicitness. Architecture as proclaimed by Kahn, ‘is the thoughtful making of spaces’. His work contains numerous instances of indoor and open-air rooms, blurring the transitions with outdoors, creating spaces for ideation and contemplation.

The Salk Institute in La Jolla, California (1965), for instance, utilizes an open space to address the skyline of the Pacific and employ a channel of water and light to propose a powerful measurement in the examination into the shrouded laws of nature. Kahn undoubtedly considered the Salk Institute, his masterpiece. But, when the architect questioned Salk Institute researchers concerning their own “program”— how the space in the structure would be utilized—he wound up contradicting them. He, in this manner, chose to reinvent and divert the thoughts of the researchers about where and how they needed to function. This 11‐ million-dollar research facility structures were just one‐third of Kahn’s total site plan for the Salk Institute. In any case, the large meeting hall and the residences that were planned could never be constructed, on account of the lack of funds that plagued numerous Kahn ventures.

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Salk Institute for Biological Studies; Source: www.wje.com

Many accept that his principle commitment has been the unmistakable look of his structures. With the substantial block storehouses penetrated with a circular arch that encompasses his Indian Institute of Management at Ahmadabad, Kahn made grounds in which the open spaces were extraordinarily pondering and calm, while the private ones were full of life and movement.

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IIM Ahmedabad; Source: www.worldarchitecture.org

The Kimbell Museum in Fort Worth, Texas (1972) has its cycloid vaults split open at their peak to concede a break of sunlight to the insides where it is diffused over cleaned solid surfaces, avoiding the usual reflected glares from the exhibits. In these later works, Kahn appears to be focused on making conspicuous, the relevant obvious through the most basic methods. In all his designs- structure, space, and light are intertwined. He believed that any room should always and always have natural light. His works show little decoration other than the unfinished materials they are made of. Philip Johnson concurs that Kahn’s recorded significance will be as what draftsmen call a “form giver,” an innovator of better approaches, assembling the old shapes.“His peculiar, semi strict articulations were all fairly disturbing to me and my generation,’ says the presentation’s caretaker, Stanislaus von Moos, a craftsmanship history specialist. “He is especially difficult to depict. I had continually valued his work, and yet thought that it was somewhat intimidating.” Numerous Critics and theoreticians sometimes allude to the feasible defects of the Richard building as a proof of Kahn’s readiness to relinquish human prerequisites for slick or speculative targets.

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Kimbell Museum, Texas
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Richard Medical Building; Source: www.divisare-res.cloudinary.com

Louis Kahn felt that design must be a provocative power, both at the scale of the environment and at the human scale; He discusses structures to have a will, however, it becomes a duty and an unquestionable hunch for architects to provide buildings with the will they deserve. It was this transcendental part of Kahn’s which till-date remains the focal viewpoint to his advancement of making the designed environment. “Function” being offered an approach to thoughts of direction and issues of formal portrayal- all the center of the postmodernist discussion and all manifested extraordinarily in Kahn’s work. Although his buildings recount to an account of design authority and virtuoso, the endurance of Kahn’s driven soul and his late hard-won achievement can’t be disparaged. His life and his battle to discover a form and infuse life between silence and light is as yet a motivation for some contemporary professionals.

  1. Lerup, L. (1998) Louis I khan: in conversation with students, Rice university school of architecture, published by Princeton architectural press, Texas.
  2. Scully, V. (1962). Louis I khan, Published by George Braziller, Inc., London.
  3. Kweon, Tae-Ill. (2009). A Critical Study on Louis I. Kahn's 'Architectural Essence' (Ⅰ) - focused on the analysis of Platonic character in Kahn's architectural theory and works -. Journal of architectural history. 18.
  4. Ksiazek, S. (1996). Critiques of Liberal Individualism: Louis Kahn's Civic Projects, 1947-57. Assemblage,(31), 57-79. DOI:10.2307/3171442.
  5. com. (1970). The Architectural Metaphysic of Louis Kahn. [online] Available at: https://www.nytimes.com/1970/11/15/archives/the-architectural-metaphysic-of-louis-kahn-is-the-center-of-a.html
  6. Wainwright, O. (2013). Louis Kahn: the brick whisperer. [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2013/feb/26/louis-kahn-brick-whisperer-architect

Yash Siroliya is a Masters in Urban Design student at the Planning Department in CEPT. In an award winning bachelor's thesis, Yash focused on the restoration of the artistic and cultural legacy of a Himachal village. These days he spends his time thinking about public spaces for the next billion.

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