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AD Classics: Salk Institute / Louis Kahn

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]

© Liao Yusheng © Liao Yusheng © Liao Yusheng © Liao Yusheng + 20

AD Classics: Yale University Art Gallery / Louis Kahn

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.[1] 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.

© Samuel Ludwig © Samuel Ludwig © Samuel Ludwig © Samuel Ludwig + 16

AD Classics: Arts United Center / Louis Kahn

© Jeffery Johnson
© Jeffery Johnson

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.

AD Classics: Palazzo dei Congressi / Louis Kahn

The city of Venice has been caught in a tug of war between progress and traditionalism for many years, and particularly since the construction of a railroad viaduct in 1846 linked the island city to the Italian mainland for the first time in its history.[1] Over a century later, the Venetian government commissioned Louis Kahn to design a new Palazzo dei Congressi for the city; his proposal, while paying respect to the histories of both the Republic of Venice and a unified Italy, could not escape similar controversy.

AD Classics: Esherick House / Louis Kahn

© Todd Eberle © Todd Eberle © Todd Eberle © Todd Eberle + 14

Houses  · 
Philadelphia, United States
  • Architects Authors of this architecture project Louis Kahn
  • Project Year Brands with products used in this architecture project
    0

AD Classics: AD Classics: Yale Center for British Art / Louis Kahn

AD Classics: AD Classics: Yale Center for British Art / Louis Kahn AD Classics: AD Classics: Yale Center for British Art / Louis Kahn AD Classics: AD Classics: Yale Center for British Art / Louis Kahn AD Classics: AD Classics: Yale Center for British Art / Louis Kahn + 14

Gallery  · 
New Haven, United States
  • Architects Authors of this architecture project Louis Kahn
  • Project Year Brands with products used in this architecture project
    1974

AD Classics: Kimbell Art Museum / Louis Kahn

© Zereshke Courtesy of Parker © Andreas Praefcke Courtesy of Xavier de Jauréguiberry + 20

Located in Fort Worth, Texas, the Kimbell Art Museum by Louis Kahn has become a mecca for all who are interested in modern architecture. The element of natural light is the main focus of the design, and creates elegant spaces that are perfectly suited for the art that it houses.

AD Classics: First Unitarian Church of Rochester / Louis Kahn

AD Classics: First Unitarian Church of Rochester / Louis Kahn AD Classics: First Unitarian Church of Rochester / Louis Kahn AD Classics: First Unitarian Church of Rochester / Louis Kahn AD Classics: First Unitarian Church of Rochester / Louis Kahn + 12

Churches  · 
Rochester, United States
  • Architects Authors of this architecture project Louis Kahn
  • Project Year Brands with products used in this architecture project
    1969

AD Classics: Indian Institute of Management / Louis Kahn

© Dave Morris AD Classics: Indian Institute of Management / Louis Kahn AD Classics: Indian Institute of Management / Louis Kahn © Dave Morris + 10

Institute  · 
Ahmedabad, India
  • Architects Authors of this architecture project Louis Kahn
  • Project Year Brands with products used in this architecture project
    1974

AD Classics: National Assembly Building of Bangladesh / Louis Kahn

© Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons © Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons AD Classics: National Assembly Building of Bangladesh / Louis Kahn AD Classics: National Assembly Building of Bangladesh / Louis Kahn + 11

Modernist architecture is traditionally understood to be utilitarian, sleek, and most of all without context, such that it can be placed in any context and still stay true to aesthetic principles and its functional requirements. However, Louis Kahn’s National Assembly Building of Bangladesh in Dhaka is an extraordinary example of modern architecture being transcribed as a part of Bangali vernacular architecture. The National Assembly building, completed in 1982, stands as one of Kahn’s most prominent works, but also as a symbolic monument to the government of Bangladesh.

AD Classics: Exeter Library (Class of 1945 Library) / Louis Kahn

© Flickr - Ed Brodzinsky © Flickr - Ed Brodzinsky © Flickr - Ed Brodzinsky © Flickr - Ed Brodzinsky + 15

Library  · 
Exeter, United States
  • Architects Authors of this architecture project Louis Kahn
  • Area Area of this architecture project
  • Project Year Brands with products used in this architecture project
    1972