Louis Isadore Kahn (born Itze-Leib Schmuilowsky) (February 20, 1901 or 1902 – March 17, 1974) was a world-renowned architect based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. After working in various capacities for several firms in Philadelphia, he founded his own firm in 1935. While continuing his private practice he served as a design critic and professor of architecture at Yale School of Architecture from 1947 to 1957. From 1957 until his death he was a professor of architecture at the School of Design at the University of Pennsylvania. Influenced by ancient ruins, Kahn's style tends to the monumental and monolithic, heavy buildings that neither hide their weight, their materials, nor the way they are assembled.
In 1928, Kahn made a European tour and took a particular interest in the medieval walled city of Carcassonne, France and the castles of Scotland rather than any of the strongholds of classicism or modernism. After returning to the States in 1929, Kahn worked in the offices of Paul Philippe Cret, his former studio critic at Penn, and in the offices of Zantzinger, Borie and Medary in Philadelphia. In 1932, Kahn and Dominique Berninger founded the Architectural Research Group, whose members were interested in the populist social agenda and new aesthetics of the European avant-gardes. Among the projects Kahn worked on during this collaboration are unbuilt schemes for public housing that had originally been presented to the Public Works Administration.
Among the more important of Kahn's early collaborations was with George Howe. Kahn worked with Howe in late 1930s on projects for the Philadelphia Housing Authority and again in 1940, along with German born architect Oscar Stonorov for the design of housing developments in other parts of Pennsylvania.
Louis I. Kahn did not find his distinctive architectural style until he was in his fifties. Initially working in a fairly orthodox version of the International Style, a stay at the American Academy in Rome in the early 1950s marked a turning point in Kahn's career. The back-to-the-basics approach he adopted after visiting the ruins of ancient buildings in Italy, Greece and Egypt helped him to develop his own style of architecture influenced by earlier modern movements but not limited by their sometimes dogmatic ideologies.
In 1961 he received a grant from the Graham Foundation to study traffic movement in Philadelphia and create a proposal for a viaduct system. He describes this proposal at a lecture given in 1962 at the International Design Conference in Aspen, Colorado:
In the center of town the streets should become buildings. This should be interplayed with a sense of movement which does not tax local streets for non-local traffic. There should be a system of viaducts which encase an area which can reclaim the local streets for their own use, and it should be made so this viaduct has a ground floor of shops and usable area. A model which I did for the Graham Foundation recently, and which I presented to Mr. Entenza, showed the scheme.
Kahn's teaching career started at Yale in 1947 and he was eventually named Albert F. Bemis Professor of Architecture and Planning at MIT in 1962 and Paul Philippe Cret Professor of Architecture at the University of Pennsylvania in 1966 and was also a Visiting Lecturer at Princeton University from 1961 to 1967. Kahn was elected a Fellow in the American Institute of Architects (AIA) in 1953. He was made a member of the National Institute of Arts and Letters in 1964, He was made a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1968 and awarded the AIA Gold Medal, the highest award given by the AIA, in 1971 and the Royal Gold Medal by the RIBA in 1972.
While widely known for his spaces' poetic sensibilities, Kahn also worked closely with engineers and contractors on his buildings. The results were often technically innovative and highly refined. In addition to the influence Kahn's more well-known work has on contemporary architects (such as Tadao Ando), some of his work (especially the unbuilt City Tower Project) became very influential among the high-tech architects of the late 20th century (such as Renzo Piano, who worked in Kahn's office, and Norman Foster). His prominent apprentices include Moshe Safdie, Robert Venturi and Jack Diamond.
Many years after his death, Kahn continues to inspire controversy. Interest is growing in a plan to build a Kahn-designed Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial, Four Freedoms Park at the southern tip of Roosevelt Island. A modest New York Times editorial opined:
There's a magic to the project. That the task is daunting makes it worthy of the man it honors, who guided the nation through the Depression, the New Deal and a world war. As for Mr. Kahn, he died in 1974, as he passed alone through New York's Penn Station. In his briefcase were renderings of the memorial, his last completed plan.The editorial describes Kahn's plan as:
...simple and elegant. Drawing inspiration from Roosevelt's defense of the Four Freedoms -- of speech and religion, and from want and fear – he designed an open 'room and a garden' at the bottom of the island. Trees on either side form a 'V' defining a green space, and leading to a two-walled stone room at the water's edge that frames the United Nations and the rest of the skyline.
Critics note that the panoramic view of Manhattan and the UN are actually blocked by the walls of that room and by the trees. Other as-yet-unanswered critics have argued more broadly that not enough thought has been given to what visitors to the memorial would actually be able to do at the site. The proposed project is opposed by a majority of island residents who were surveyed by the Trust for Public Land.
The movement for the memorial, which was conceived by Kahn's firm almost 35 years ago, needs to raise $40 million by the end of the year (2007); as of July 20, it had collected $5.1 million. ...Click link for New York Times photographs of project site There is a merest hint in Architectural Record about the often-heard argument that it must be built because it was literally Kahn's last project; and this is rebutted by those who've said the plans aren't enough like Kahn's other work for it to be touted as a memorial to Kahn as well as FDR.
In this context, Roosevelt himself had something to say: "There are many ways of going forward, but only one way of standing still.
All dates refer to the year work commenced
The Image Of His Father; Louis Kahn was one of the most influential architect's of the 20th century and perhaps the most illusive, as his 'secret' son Nathaniel Kahn found when he decided to make a film about his engimatic life
Aug 29, 2004; WHEN Louis Kahn died in the toilets of New York's Pennsylvania Station on March 17, 1974, he left behind a wife and a daughter...
HIS FATHER'S HOUSE IN THE DOCUMENTARY `MY ARCHITECT,' A SON TRIES TO UNDERSTAND THE LEGENDARY LOUIS KAHN THROUGH THE BUILDINGS HE LEFT BEHIND
Feb 08, 2004; LOUIS KAHN WAS THE GREATEST AMERICAN ARCHITECT OF HIS TIME. THIS WEEK, AN OSCAR-NOMINATED FILM BY HIS SON NATHANIEL, "MY...
Louis Kahn: Drawing to Find out. the Dominican Motherhouse and the Patient Search for Architecture: On the Thoughtful Making of Space. the Dominican Motherhouse and a Modern Culture of Space
Jan 01, 2011; Books/Louis Kahn: Drawing to Find Out. The Dominican Motherhouse and the Patient Search for Architecture On the Thoughtful Making...