August Komendant (1906–1992) was an Estonian-American structural engineer, whose collaboration with famous architects and engineers resulted in several 20th-century architectural masterpieces. His professional career spanned more than half a century from the 1930s to 1980s and coincided with an era characterised by modernisation, urbanisation and the rapid development of technology.
Concrete By the middle of the century, reinforced concrete had become one of the most popular structural materials for building a new living environment. A strong and durable composite emerges when liquid concrete, a mix of water, cement and aggregate (sand, gravel, crushed stone, etc.), solidifies around the reinforcing steel bars. Concrete
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.
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?
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.