When Renzo Piano’s addition to the Kimbell opened in late 2013, critical responses ranged from “both architects at the top of their games” (Witold Rybczynski) to “generous to a fault” (Mark Lamster) to “distant defacement” (Thomas de Monchaux). In this excerpt from a special issue of Cite: The Architecture + Design Review of Houston, Ronnie Self gives a deeply considered assessment of the two buildings after a full turn of the seasons. The special issue also includes a review by Christopher Hawthorne of Johnston Marklee’s plans for the Menil Drawing Institute, a review by David Heymann of Steven Holl’s expansion of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and an essay by Walter Hood and Carmen Taylor about Project Row Houses. Also featured are interviews of the directors of all four museums and their architects (Piano, Holl, Johnston Marklee, David Chipperfield, and Rice Building Workshop), making for a very comprehensive issue.
Piano’s main task was to respond appropriately to Kahn’s building which he achieved through alignments in plan and elevation and by dividing his project into two major bodies: a concrete walled, glass roofed pavilion facing Kahn and a separate, sod-roofed structure behind that should integrate a significant portion of the project with the landscape and thereby lessen its overall impact. Still, the loss of the open lawn that existed in front of the Kimbell where Piano’s building now stands is regrettable. Kahn’s Kimbell was conceived as a large house or a villa in a park, and unlike much of the abundant open and green space in the Fort Worth Cultural District, that park was actually used. Piano’s new outdoor space is more like a courtyard – more contained and more formal. It is more urban in its design, yet less public in its use.
Aside from lamenting the loss of the open lawn, how might we judge the addition?
Louis Kahn, (February 20th 1901 – March 17th 1974) was born Itze-Leib Schmuilowsky in Pärnu, in what is now Estonia. His family emigrated to Philadelphia when he was just a child, where Kahn would remain for the rest of his life, completing many of his later works there. Though he did not arrive at his distinctive style until his early 50s, and despite his death at the age of just 73, Kahn became known for combining Modernism with the weight and dignity of ancient monuments, and in a span of just two decades came to be considered by many as part of the pantheon of modernist architects which included Le Corbusier and Mies van der Rohe.
When Sheila O’Donnell and John Tuomey, who practice in partnership as O’Donnell + Tuomey, were named as this year’s recipients of the RIBA Royal Gold Medal, a palpable collective satisfaction appeared to spread throughout the profession. No one could find criticism in Joseph Rykwert and Níall McLaughlin’s nomination, nor the ultimate choice of the RIBA Honours Committee, to bestow the award upon the Irish team. Their astonishingly rigourous body of work, compiled and constructed over the last twenty five years, has an appeal which extends beyond Irish and British shores. A robust stock of cultural, community and educational projects, alongside family homes and social housing projects, leaves little doubt about the quality, depth and breadth of their mutual capabilities and the skill of those that they choose to collaborate with.
Read the conversation with the Gold Medallists after the break.
New Republic has presented a list of 100 great thinkers from the past 100 years. The list, as the magazine puts it, honors “people we believe have made the greatest intellectual contributions to the fields and causes that this magazine holds dear.” One of these fields is architecture, and New Republic’s honoree for that category is the illustrious Louis Kahn. Kahn is famous for projects such as the Kimbell Museum and the Salk Institute. His work displays what architecture critic Sarah Williams Goldhagen describes as a “cognitively rich, metaphorically complex, multi-sensorial approach.” Curious to see who else made the list? See the full roster here!
The Getty Conservation Institute (GCI) is partnering with the Salk Institute to help develop techniques for conserving one of Louis Kahn’s finest works. Overlooking the Pacific coast in La Jolla, California, Kahn took advantage of the peaceful surroundings and natural light when he designed the Salk Institute site. However, these same marine elements also provide unique conservation challenges for the concrete and wood structure, particularly for its teak window walls, the Getty Trust reports.
Part of the GCI’s Conserving Modern Architecture Initiative, the project will determine the condition of the teak and develop recommendations for its treatment and long-term conservation. “Partnering with the Salk Institute on this conservation challenge will assist in developing new approaches for practitioners in conserving other icons of modern architecture, which makes it a terrific project for us,” said Susan Macdonald, Head of Field Projects at the GCI.
Read on after the break to learn more about the conservation initiative.
Built four decades after Louis Kahn’s death, New York City’s Four Freedoms Park - the architect’s posthumous memorial to Franklin D. Roosevelt and his policies – is becoming one of the architect’s most popular urban spaces. In a recent article for the Guardian, Oliver Wainwright investigates what he describes as perhaps Kahn’s ”best project”. Wainwright’s spatial description of the monument is interweaved by fragments of Kahn’s personal history, building up a picture of a space with “the feel of an ancient temple precinct” and “a finely nuanced landscape”. Although Gina Pollara, who ultimately realised the plans in 2005, argues that Four Freedoms Park ”stands as a memorial not only to FDR and the New Deal, but to Kahn himself”, can a posthumous project ever be considered as an architect’s best? Read the article in full here.
Arthur Andersson of Andersson-Wise Architects wants to build ruins. He wants things to be timeless – to look good now and 2000 years from now. He wants buildings to fit within a place and time. To do that he has a various set of philosophies, processes and some great influences. Read our full in-depth interview with Mr. Andersson, another revolutionary ”Material Mind,” after the break.
In Kengo Kuma’s work you may see influences of light, transparency and materiality. But when visiting the Woodbury School of Architecture in San Diego, Kengo Kuma shared a few of his not so apparent influences, from Frank Lloyd Wright and Louis Kahn to jazz music. Make sure to view “Knowing Kuma” to see the architect’s definition of architecture, materials and more.
Where do you receive inspiration? Nalina Moses asked the question to nine contemporary residential architects, asking each to choose one residence that had left an impression on them. The following answers were first published on the AIA’s website in the article “Homing Instinct.”
When nine accomplished residential architects were asked to pick a house—any house—that has left the greatest impression on them as designers, most of their choices ran succinctly along the canon of American or European Modern architecture. Two—Alvar Aalto’s Villa Mairea and Pierre Chareau’s La Maison de Verre—were even tapped twice.
If the houses these designers chose weren’t surprising, the reasons they chose them were. Rather than groundbreaking style or technologies, what they cited were the moments of comfort, excitement, and refinement they offered: the restful proportions of a bedroom, the feel of a crafted wood handrail, an ocean view unfolding beyond an outdoor stair.
The American architect Louis Kahn (1901-1974) is regarded as one of the great master builders of the Twentieth Century. Kahn created buildings of monumental beauty with powerful universal symbolism.
This exhibition encompasses an unprecedented and diverse range of architectural models, original drawings, travel sketches, photographs and films. Highlights of the exhibition include a four-metre-high model of the spectacular City Tower designed for Philadelphia (1952-57), as well as previously unseen film footage shot by Kahn’s son Nathaniel Kahn, director of the film ‘My Architect’.
Title: Exhibition: Louis Kahn / The Power of Architecture
Organizers: Design Museum
From: Wed, 09 Jul 2014
Until: Sun, 12 Oct 2014
Venue: Design Museum
Address: Shad Thames, London SE1, UK
For architects, Louis Kahn’s Kimbell Museum has long been hallowed ground. For Renzo Piano, who designed the museum’s first major expansion, it was also an enormous difficulty to overcome. His addition to the museum could be neither too close to Kahn’s building, nor too far. It had to solve a parking problem, yet respect Kahn’s distaste for cars. It had to respond to Kahn’s stately progression of spaces—and that silvery natural light that make architects’ knees go wobbly. And yet it could not merely borrow from Kahn’s revolutionary bag of tricks.
Though Louis Kahn turned down developer Steven Korman numerous times, the would-be patron persisted and eventually convinced Kahn to accept the commission for a residence which was to contain “rooms large enough to play football in.” Located in Forth Washington, Pennsylvania, the Korman house would be Kahn’s final residential project.
The house, considered a masterpiece, is characterized not only by Kahn’s assiduous sense of order, but also a unique combination of materials that create a play of structure and light. Decades after the original 1971 commission, Korman’s son Larry has now selected New York based-designer Jennifer Post to take on the task of redesigning the interior space of the house.
Light matters, a monthly column on light and space, is written by Thomas Schielke. Based in Germany, he is fascinated by architectural lighting, has published numerous articles and co-authored the book „Light Perspectives“.
Does shadow have the power to give form to architecture? The increasing number of transparent buildings and LED installations would enforce the impression that light has eliminated the relevance of shadow. But to answer that question, let’s look back to a master of light whose architecture was shaped by shadow: Louis Kahn.
More Light Matters, after the break…
In this jaunty little clip, Louis Kahn stresses the importance of honoring your materials to a group of students at the University of Pennsylvania.
Estonia-born in 1901, Louis Kahn had a steadfast belief that all materials had their own destiny and wouldn’t tolerate any attempt to deviate from that. During the age of clean modernism and the use of cutting edge materials, his architecture was often dismissed for being overly symbolic and heavily venerating buildings of the past. Influenced by the arid nature of many of his sites, Kahn’s buildings often took the form of cavernous brick shells with large geometrical cut outs, which he would like to describe them – in his bizarre Kahn-way - as ruins in reverse.
Here are a few of Kahn’s intriguing brick creations:
In September 2011 Barney Kulok was granted special permission to create photographs at the construction site of Louis I. Kahnʼs Four Freedoms Park in New York City, commissioned in 1970 as a memorial to Franklin D. Roosevelt. The last design Kahn completed before his untimely death in 1974, Four Freedoms Park became widely regarded as one of the great unbuilt masterpieces of twentieth-century architecture. Almost forty years after having been commissioned, it is finally being completed this year, as originally intended.