Louis Kahn (February 20th 1901 – March 17th 1974) was one of the United States' greatest 20th century architects, known for combining Modernism with the weight and dignity of ancient monuments. Though he did not arrive at his distinctive style until his early 50s, and despite his death at the age of just 73, in a span of just two decades Kahn came to be considered by many as part of the pantheon of modernist architects which included Le Corbusier and Mies van der Rohe.
This article was originally published on August 27, 2017. To read the stories behind other celebrated architecture projects, visit our AD Classics section.
In 1959, Jonas Salk, the man who had discovered the vaccine for polio, approached Louis I. Kahn with a project. The city of San Diego, California had gifted him with a picturesque site in La Jolla along the Pacific coast, where Salk intended to found and build a biological research center. Salk, whose vaccine had already had a profound impact on the prevention of the disease, was adamant that the design for this new facility should explore the implications of the sciences for humanity. He also had a broader, if no less profound, directive for his chosen architect: to “create a facility worthy of a visit by Picasso.” The result was the Salk Institute, a facility lauded for both its functionality and its striking aesthetics – and the manner in which each supports the other.[1,2]
Italian artist Federico Babina has published the latest in his impressive portfolio of architectural illustrations. “Archivoid” seeks to “sculpt invisible masses of space” through the reading of negatives – using the architectural language of famous designers past and present, from Frank Lloyd Wright to Bjarke Ingels.
Babina’s images create an inverse point of view, a reversal of perception for an alternative reading of space, and reality itself. Making negative space his protagonist, Babina traces the “Architectural footprints” of famous architects, coupling mysterious geometries with a vibrant color scheme.
Yale University’s School of Architecture was in the midst of pedagogical upheaval when Louis Kahn joined the faculty in 1947. With skyscraper architect George Howe as dean and modernists like Kahn, Philip Johnson, and Josef Albers as lecturers, the post-war years at Yale trended away from the school’s Beaux-Arts lineage towards the avant-garde. And so, when the consolidation of the university’s art, architecture, and art history departments in 1950 demanded a new building, a modernist structure was the natural choice to concretize an instructional and stylistic departure from historicism. Completed in 1953, Louis Kahn’s Yale University Art Gallery building would provide flexible gallery, classroom, and office space for the changing school; at the same time, Kahn’s first significant commission signaled a breakthrough in his own architectural career—a career now among the most celebrated of the second half of the twentieth century.
In 1961, the architect Louis I. Kahn was commissioned by the Fine Arts Foundation to design and develop a large arts complex in central Fort Wayne, Indiana. The ambitious Fine Art Center, now known as the Arts United Center, would cater to the community of 180,000 by providing space for an orchestra, theatre, school, gallery, and much more. As a Lincoln Center in miniature, the developers had hoped to update and upgrade the city through new civic architecture. However, due to budget constraints, only a fraction of the overall scheme was completed. It is one of Kahn’s lesser-known projects that spanned over a decade, and his only building in the Midwest.
British architect Sir David Adjaye, Founding Principal of Adjaye Associates, will be honored as this year’s recipient of the Louis I. Kahn Memorial Award by the Center for Architecture and Design in Philadelphia. The annual award celebrates the achievements of an individual who has made a significant contribution to the field of architecture, while also celebrating the achievements of influential Philadelphia-based architect Louis Kahn.
Some of the greatest architectural works throughout history have been the result of religion, driven by the need to construct spaces where humanity could be one step closer to a higher power. With more people choosing a secular lifestyle than ever before, are the effects that these buildings convey—timelessness, awe, silence and devotion, what Louis Kahn called the “immeasurable” and Le Corbusier called the “ineffable”—no longer relevant?
With the Vatican’s proposal for the 2018 Venice Biennale, described as “a sort of pilgrimage that is not only religious but also secular,” it is clear that the role of "religious" spaces is changing from the iconography of organized religion to ambiguous spaces that reflect the idea of "spirituality" as a whole.
So what does this mean? Is there still a key role for spirituality in architecture? Is it possible to create spaces for those of different faiths and those without faith at all? And what makes a space "spiritual" in the first place?
B.V. Doshi, one of modern Indian architecture’s most celebrated practitioners, was born in Pune, India in 1927. Nearly 90 years later, the Pritzker Prize jury chose Doshi as the 2018 Laureate. Get to know about Doshi’s history—including his close relationship to the legendary Le Corbusier—in this list of interesting facts.
This year’s Pritzker jury has selected Indian architect Balkrishna Doshi, often known as B.V. Doshi or Doshi, as the 2018 Pritzker Prize Laureate. Doshi has been a practitioner of architecture for over 70 years. Previously, he had studied and worked with both Le Corbusier and Louis Kahn. Doshi’s poetic architecture draws upon Eastern influences to create a body of work that “has touched lives of every socio-economic class across a broad spectrum of genres since the 1950s,” cites the jury. Doshi is the first Indian architect to receive architecture’s highest honor.
The Renovation of Louis Kahn's Yale University Art Center: A Significant Moment for Architectural Preservation
This article was originally published by Common Edge as "How the Restoration of Louis Kahn’s Yale Art Gallery Helped Kickstart Modern Preservation."
I have a distinct memory from my days as an architecture student at the University of California Berkeley in the late ‘80s. During an architectural survey class taught by Spiro Kostof, Louis I Kahn’s Yale University Art Gallery popped up in the slideshow. “Nice building,” I thought, “but what’s with those windows?”
Fifteen years later at Polshek Partnership (now Ennead Architects), I would become the project architect for the construction phase overseeing the rehabilitation of that classic building—the most challenging aspect of which was to replace “those windows.” I came to understand, intimately, how the double-paned window wall had failed almost as soon as construction was complete. Condensation accumulated between the panes, creating the foggy effect that marred my first impression of this groundbreaking building.
The story of master architect Louis Kahn (1901 – 1974) is intrinsically connected to Philadelphia, where he spent most of his life and career. Louis Kahn: The Power of Architecture is the first major retrospective of Kahn’s work in two decades, encompassing over 200 objects related to Kahn’s buildings and projects in the form of architectural models, plans, original drawings, photographs, and films. With complex spatial compositions and a choreographic mastery of light, Kahn created buildings of archaic beauty and powerful universal symbolism. The Fabric Workshop and Museum is proud to be the final venue of the international tour.
Built from 1964 to ’67 as part of celebrations for the American Bicentennial, the 195-foot-long vessel has since been used as the waterborne home of the American Wind Symphony Orchestra (AWSO), allowing the group to take their own venue places as far away as Paris, France and St. Petersburg, Russia. Along with circular doorways and portholes, the structure features a 75-foot-wide stage that can be opened and closed using a hydraulic lift system.
Famous architects are often seen as more enigma than person, but behind even the biggest names hide the scandals and tragedies of everyday life. As celebrities of a sort, many of the world's most famed architects have faced rumors and to this day there are questions about the truth of their private affairs. Clients and others in their studios would get a glimpse into an architect’s personal life, but sometimes the sheer force of personality that often comes with creative genius would prevent much insight. The fact remains, however, that these architects’ lives were more than the sum of their buildings.
Louis Kahn’s Kimbell Art Museum is a masterclass in natural lighting, with thin-shelled concrete vaults that feature subtle openings to reflect light into the galleries below. While Kahn’s wing of the Fort Worth Museum opened in 1972, in 2013 a second Renzo Piano-designed pavilion was added to the complex. Piano was selected to design the addition because he had worked for Kahn as a budding architect, and the homage to his former mentor is evident in the building’s similar layout and use of translucent glass panels. In this video, architect-photographer Songkai Liu takes viewers on a serene stroll through the museum’s campus. Time-lapses and pans of Kahn’s concrete are juxtaposed with the clean details of Piano’s glass in a soothing exploration of the two complementary projects.
In this second installment of his revamped “Beyond London” column for ArchDaily, Simon Henley of London-based practice Henley Halebrown discusses a potential influence that might help UK architects combat the economic hegemony currently afflicting the country – turning for moral guidance to the Brutalists of the 1960s.
Before Christmas, I finished writing my book entitled Redefining Brutalism. As the title suggests I am seeking to redefine the subject, to detoxify the term and to find relevance in the work, not just a cause for nostalgia. Concrete Brutalism is, to most people, a style that you either love or hate. But Brutalism is far more than just a style; it is way of thinking and making. The historian and critic Reyner Banham argued in his 1955 essay and 1966 book both entitled The New Brutalism: Ethic or Aesthetic that the New Brutalism began as an ethical movement only to be hijacked by style. Today, it is a mirror to be held up to the architecture of Neoliberalism, to an architecture that serves capitalism. More than ever, architecture relies on the brand association of the big name architects whose work has little to do with the challenges faced by society, which are today not unlike the ones faced by the post-war generation: to build homes, places in which to learn and work, places for those who are old and infirm, and places to gather. We can learn a lot from this bygone generation.
In celebration of the life of Louis Kahn, who would have celebrated his birthday on this day, photographer Laurian Ghinitoiu has visited the Indian Institute of Management in Ahmedabad – one of the architect's seminal projects, which was only completed after his death in 1974.
Well-known architects are easy to admire or dismiss from afar, but up close, oddly humanizing habits often come to light. However, while we all have our quirks, most people's humanizing habits don't give an insight into how they became one of the most notable figures in their field of work. The following habits of several top architects reveal parts of their creative process, how they relax, or simply parts of their identity. Some are inspiring and some are surprising, but all give a small insight into the mental qualities that are required to be reach the peak of the architectural profession—from an exceptional work drive to an embrace of eccentricity (and a few more interesting qualities besides).
Religion, in one form or another, has formed the core of human society for much of our history. It therefore stands to reason that religious architecture has found equal prominence in towns and cities across the globe. Faith carries different meanings for different peoples and cultures, resulting in a wide variety of approaches to the structures in which worship takes place: some favor sanctuaries, others places of education and community, while others place the greatest emphasis on nature itself. Indeed, many carry secondary importance as symbols of national power or cultural expression.
AD Classics are ArchDaily's continually updated collection of longer-form building studies of the world's most significant architectural projects. The collection of sacred spaces collated here invariably reveal one desire that remains constant across all faiths and cultures: shifting one’s gaze from the mundane and everyday and fixing it on the spiritual, the otherworldly, and the eternal.