Louis Isadore Kahn : architect biography

famous architect : Louis Isadore Kahn [page1] [page2]

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Louis Isadore Kahn architect
Louis Isadore Kahn architect
Louis Isadore Kahn architect
Louis Isadore Kahn architect

Louis Isadore Kahn

In his search for a formal vocabulary symbolic of man's institutions, Louis Isadore Kahn consistently based his compositions on a centralized enclosed space surrounded by secondary spaces. Kahn created a cloistered, contemplative atmosphere within the walls. This is seen most clearly in the design of the Jewish Community Center Bath House (Trenton, New Jersey, 1954-1959), the First Unitarian Church (Rochester, New York, 1959-1969), Erdman Hall (Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, 1960-1965), Phillips Exeter Academy Library (Exeter, New Hampshire, 1965-1972), and in one of Louis Isadore Kahn 's most monumental works, the National Capital of Bangladesh (Dacca, 1962-1983).

Kahn's preference for the enclosed core is pervasive in his work, appearing at various scales. As a "hollow stone," it was the basic structural element in the City Tower project (1952-1957), a triangulated space frame structure designed with Anne G. Tyng. At Dacca, the concrete diamond-shaped Parliament Building rises from the head of the capital complex. Its center contains the assembly hall, which is surrounded by secondary rooms. Using universal abstract geometry, Louis Isadore Kahn evoked an archaic, awe-inspiring past to symbolize the unity inherent in his understanding of the institution of assembly. On a much larger scale, Louis Isadore Kahn envisioned Philadelphia's center city surrounded by a wall of parking towers that serves to defend the symbolic institutions in the pedestrian core from the encroaching automobile. By means of the central enclosed core, often integrated with the idea of served and servant spaces, Louis Isadore Kahn established a sense of order that synthesizes differentiated and specific spaces.

Integral to Kahn's notion of timeless form in the making of significant architectural spaces is the role of natural light. Louis Isadore Kahn described structure as the giver of light. For several projects located in hot sunny climates, such as the U.S. Consulate in Luanda, Angola (1959-1962). the meeting houses of the Salk institute, the Indian Institute of Management (Ahmadabad, India, 1962-1974), and the National Capital at Dacca, Louis Isadore Kahn developed visually dynamic sunscreens. Great walls with variously shaped openings shield inner rooms from the harsh light. The evocation of a wall in ruins suggests an ancient part Louis Isadore Kahn 's handling of light is a central theme in two unrealized synagogue projects, Mikveh Israel (Philadelphia Pennsylvania, 1961-1972) and Hurva (Jerusalem Israel, 1967-1974) as well as in one of his greatest works the Kimbell Art Museum (Fort Worth, Texas. 1966-1972). In the art museum, light enters through narrow slits in the concrete cycloid vaults and is diffused through the gallery interiors, which are rich with travertine and oak.

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Several open courtyards also provide light, each containing different reflective surfaces such as foliage or water to convey a different quality of light Light is the central theme as well in one of Louis Isadore Kahn 's last philosophical concepts, "silence and light." Silence represents the darkness of the beginning, and light symbolizes the source of life, the inspiration of the creative act.

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The greatest honors were bestowed on Louis Isadore Kahn for his achievements in architecture and education. Among them Louis Isadore Kahn received the Gold Medal from the American Institute of Architects in 1971. After Kahn's death his drawings and papers were purchased by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and placed in the custody of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. They have been given a permanent home at the University of Pennsylvania.


1. Louis Isadore Kahn, "Architecture is the Thoughtful Making of Spaces," Perspecta 4, 2 (1957).

General References

J. P. Brown. Louis I. Kahn. A Bibliography. Garland Publishing Inc., New York, 1987. The most complete bibliography pub-lished to date with references to Kahn's writings and hundreds of secondary articles and books.

C. Chang, ed., "Louis I. Kahn: Silence and Light," A+U 3, 5-222 (973),

R. Giurgola and J. Mehta, Louis I. Kahn, Westview Press, Boulder, Colo., 1975.

W. Jordy, "What the Building 'Wants to Be': Louis I. Kahn's Richards Medical Research Building at the University of Penn-sylvania." in American Buildings and Their Architects, Vol. 4. Doubleday & Company, Inc., New York, 1972.

The Louis I. Kahn Archive: Personal Drawings, 7 Vols,. Garland Publishing, Inc., New York, 1987, The publication of over 6000 drawings by Kahn contained in the Louis I. Kahn Collection University of Pennsylvania.

"Louis I. Kahn: Conception and Meaning." A+U 11, Extra ed., 4-240(1983).

A. E. Komendant, 18 Years with Architect Louis I. Kahn, Aloray Publisher, Englewood, N. J. 1975. Account by the structural engineer for many of Kahn's most important works and projects.

A Latour, ed., Louis I. Kahn, l'uomo, il maestro, Edizioni Kappa Rome, 1986. Interviews with people who knew Kahn.

J. Lobell, Between Silence and Light, Shambhala Publications, Inc., Boulder, Colo., 1979,

H. Ronner, S. Jhaveri, and A. Vasella, eds., Louis I. Kahn Complete Works 1935-1974, Westview Press, Boulder, Colo., 1977, The most complete publication of drawings, models, and photographs of buildings illustrating the design development of each project.

M. Sabini, ed., "Louis I. Kahn 1901/1971." Rassegna 21. 4-88 (1985).

V. Scully. Jr.. Louis 1. Kahn. George Braziller, Inc., New York. 1962.

The Travel Sketches of Louis I. Kahn, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, 1978. Contains an excellent introductory essay by V. Scully.

A. Tyng, Beginnings: Louis I. Kahn's Philosophy of Architecture, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., New York, 1984.

R. S. Wurman, What Will Be Has Always Been. The Words of Louis I. Kahn, Access Press Ltd. and Rizzoli International Publications, Inc.. New York, 1986. Contains nearly all of Kahn's published writings, transcriptions of his speeches and interviews, excerpts from his notebooks, and interviews with people who knew him.

R. S. Wurman and E. Feldman, eds.. The Notebooks and Drawings of Louis I. Kahn. Falcon Press, Philadelphia, 1962

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