Spotlight: Louis Kahn

Looking at His Tetrahedral Ceiling in the Yale University Art Gallery, 1953. Gelatin silver print. Image © Lionel Freedman. Yale University Art Gallery Archives Transfer.

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 of modernist architects which included Le Corbusier and Mies van der Rohe.

In Conversation With Sheila O’Donnell And John Tuomey, 2015 Royal Gold Medallists

and Sheila O’Donnell – recipients of the 2015 Royal Gold Medal. Image Courtesy of RIBA

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.

AD Round Up: Classics in Brick

Colònia Güell / . Image © Samuel Ludwig

As one of the most ubiquitous forms of construction, it can sometimes be easy to overlook the humble brick. However, this prosaic building method can also be one of the most versatile available to architects, thanks to the experimentation of countless architects who, for centuries, have worked to create new forms of expression with the simple material. In this round up, we celebrate architects who, with their architectural classics, have expanded the possibilities of brick craft: Antoni Gaudí‘s fantastical vaulting at Colònia Güell and Alvar Aalto‘s experimental brick patterning at his house in Muuratsalo; the powerful brick piers of Kevin Roche and John Dinkeloo‘s Knights of Columbus Building and the Catalan vaults of Porro, Garatti and Gattardi’s National Arts School of Cuba; and finally, what brick round up would be complete without the brick-whisperer himself - Louis Kahn and his all-brick fortress for the Indian Institute of Management.

New Republic Honors Great Thinker Louis Kahn

© Robert C. Lautman

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!

Getty Conservation Institute to Help Conserve Louis Kahn’s Salk Institute

© Liao Yusheng

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 and 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.

Four Freedoms Park: Louis Kahn’s “Ancient Temple Precinct” in NYC

Aerial Rendering Prior to Completion. Image Courtesy of Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park, LLC

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 GuardianOliver 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 on Timeless Materials & Building “Ruins”

Tower House . Image © Art Gray

Material Minds, presented by ArchDaily Materials, is our new series of short interviews with architects, designers, scientists, and others who use architectural  in innovative ways. Enjoy!

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.

VIDEO: Kengo Kuma on Architecture, Materials And Music

In Kengo Kuma’s work you may see influences of light, transparency and materiality. But when visiting the 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.

9 Architects Reflect on the Homes That Most Inspired Them

The homes that inspire architects.

Where do you receive ? 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 ’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.

Exhibition: Louis Kahn / The Power of Architecture

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
Website: http://designmuseum.org/exhibitions/2014/louis-kahn
Organizers: Design Museum
From: Wed, 09 Jul 2014 
Until: Sun, 12 Oct 2014 
Venue:
Address: Shad Thames, SE1, UK

Material Inspiration: 10 Projects Inspired by Concrete

To celebrate the launch of ArchDaily Materials, our new product catalog, we’ve rounded up 10 awesome projects from around the world that were inspired by one material: concrete. Check out the projects after the break…

Piano Takes on Kahn at Kimbell Museum Expansion

Renzo Piano Pavilion at . Image © Paul Clemence

For architects, ’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.

Giveaway: The Houses of Louis Kahn

The Houses of / William Whitaker and George Marcus. Image Courtesy of Yale University Press

UPDATE: Congrats to Lukas Binder of Austria, the winner of The Houses of Louis Kahn giveaway! Thank you to all those who participated. Keep your eyes peeled for two more fantastic giveaways in the coming weeks. 

Our friends at Yale University Press have offered to give one of our readers a newly released copy of The Houses of Louis Kahn by William Whitaker and George Marcus.

Deemed by American Art and Architecture author Michael J. Lewis to be “quite simply the most important book on Kahn” published in over two decades, The Houses of Louis Kahn examines the architect’s nine major residential commissions in detail, offering an overview of Kahn’s relationship with his projects’ patrons and his active involvement with the design of interiors and furniture. The 280-page book features all new photography of the homes, alongside period photographs and original drawings, and previously unpublished from personal interviews, archives, and Kahn’s own writings.

To participate, all you have to do is answer the following question in the comment section below: “Which Kahn project do you find most inspiring and why?”

You have until Monday, November 18th to submit your answers. The winner will be contacted the following day. Good luck! 

Interior of Louis Kahn’s 1971 Korman House to be Redesigned

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, , 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 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: Louis Kahn and the Power of Shadow

Louis Kahn Looking at His Tetrahedral Ceiling in the Yale University Art Gallery, 1953. Gelatin silver print. Image © Lionel Freedman. Yale University Art Gallery Archives Transfer.

, 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…

Video: Louis Kahn Talks to a Brick

YouTube Preview Image

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 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:

For more information about Kahn and his brick channeling abilities you can read this rather excellent article by the Guardian’s Olly Wainwright, entitled “Louis Kahn: the brick whisperer“. 

BUILDING: Louis I. Kahn at Roosevelt Island / Barney Kulok

In September 2011 Barney Kulok  was granted special permission to create photographs at the construction site of Louis I. Kahnʼs 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, became widely regarded as one of the great unbuilt masterpieces of twentieth-century . Almost forty years after having been commissioned, it is finally being completed this year, as originally intended. 

Kahn’s FDR Four Freedoms Park Opens in NYC!

© Diane Bondareff / Four Freedoms Park

October 24 marks the long-awaited grand opening of the Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) Four Freedoms Park in . Located on a triangular site formed by the southern tip of Roosevelt Island, the four-acre FDR memorial park stands for the “freedom of speech and expression, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear”. It was conceived nearly four decades ago by the legendary architect , shortly before his death in 1974.

Read our previous coverage for all the design details and get a sneak peak after the break with images from the dedication ceremony.