Louis I. Kahn: Light, Pastel, Eternity
Louis I. Kahn: Light, Pastel, Eternity

– Good evening, and welcome. I’m Nancy Edwards, curator of European art, head of academic services here at the Kimbell. I’m sure everyone in this audience has been enjoying the rich and extremely rewarding exhibition, “The Power of Architecture: Louis Kahn,” which was organized by the Vitra Design Museum, on view in the Kahn Building until June 25th. As you know, there is also a small and glorious exhibition of Kahn’s pastels that were lent by Kahn’s three children, but if you haven’t had the opportunity to bask in the color and the poetry of these works, better yet displayed in a Kahn space, I’m sure you will after hearing tonight’s talk. I’m delighted to introduce our speaker tonight, Michael Lewis, who’s the ideal person to talk about the role of Kahn’s travel sketches. Michael’s written an essay for the Vitra exhibition catalog, and he also contributed to a catalog for the 1996 exhibition:
“The Travel Drawings of Louis I. Kahn” that was at Williams College Museum of Art. Michael is the Faison-Pierson-Stoddard Professor of Art History
at Williams College, which is in Williamstown, Massachusetts, where he has taught American art and architecture since 1993. He received a BA from Haverford College in Pennsylvania, was awarded a Fulbright fellowship and a DAAD fellowship—- that’s from the German academic exchange student, to spend two years at the University of Hannover in Germany in the ‘80s, and then he received his PhD from the University of Pennsylvania in ’89. As a scholar and critic of architecture, he has a very full portfolio, writing and speaking on a very
wide range of topics. His books include “Frank Furness: Architecture in the Violent Mind”; “The Gothic Revival,” which has been translated into Japanese; “American Art and Architecture”; and “August Reichensperger: The Politics of the German Gothic Revival,” for which he won the Hitchcock Book Award from the Society of Architectural Historians in 1995. In 2008, he received a Guggenheim fellowship to support the completion of “City of Refuge: The Other Utopia,” a study of millennial town planning. In addition, he’s written many essays and reviews for publications, including the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and Architectural Record. Please join me in welcoming Michael Lewis, who tonight is speaking on “Louis I. Kahn: Light, Pastel, Eternity.” (audience applauds) – Thank you, Nancy, and thanks for coming. I guess I don’t have to stand by this thing. I’ve got one. I’ve never worn one of these before. Feels peculiar. Twice Louis I. Kahn traveled to Europe to draw the great buildings of the past. Once as a young man, 1928, part of a year-long forensic investigation of European architecture conducted by means of pencil, watercolor, and pen-and-ink drawings. The drawings are tentative, restless, and more than a bit impatient. Here Kahn is grappling searchingly with volume and form, the essence of architecture. Then comes a second trip in 1951. This time the drawings are bolder, furiously ambitious. One after another, Kahn confronts the central monuments of antiquity: the Parthenon, the Temple of Apollo at Corinth there, the Great Pyramid of Cheops, this time working confidently in radiantly vibrant pastel. Again he is studying architecture, but not in the customary way, in terms of solids and voids, but rather in terms of color and light. Such, in a nutshell, is the graphic legacy of Kahn. And our question is what, if anything, does this have to do
with the architecture? Fifty years ago, Kahn designed your splendid building. This is Kahn at the top of his game, creating with the kind
of unshackled freedom that we normally associate with poetry or music, where we’re not troubled by such trifling matters as gravity or the strengths of materials. And the Kimbell looks like
nothing else Kahn did. It is a unicum, and it is startling to
recall that this is the work of a man in his late 60s, long past the age where most of us start
repeating ourselves. Now, I believe that the qualities we cherish in the Kimbell cannot be understood without reference to Kahn’s drawings. Would not even have been possible without the drawings. Because Kahn’s travel sketches are not a tangent, a digression, a divagation. They are fundamental to the development of his architecture. Let me explain. To look at the Kimbell is to look … There? No. To look at the Kimbell is to look at an architect working with self-assurance and quiet mastery, who knows exactly what he’s doing, but the truth is until
recently, Kahn was not at all sure what he was doing. Just five years earlier, we find him struggling mightily. In May of 1961, he was commissioned to design a dormitory
for Bryn Mawr College, just outside Philadelphia. A women’s college which is graced with perhaps America’s loveliest
dormitory buildings, each one with its own dining hall, this one suspended right above the campus entrance and guarded by four delightfully preposterous turrets, gorgeously illuminated by those leaded glass windows. Kahn’s task was to design a modern version of this building for a hundred and thirty modern women, a dining hall, living room, various smoking rooms, tea rooms. Now watch how he handled it. First, he made a block diagram so he could see graphically all the spaces he needed clearly laid out. Next, he worked to shape all those spaces into a coherent design. And look at him struggle. Does he want to line the dorm rooms up on an axis? (Down here as on the lower left.) But the problem is, an axis is unmodern. It’s classical. So does he bend the axis? Or does he dispense with
the axis all together and make the rooms fit together like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, as up here? Kahn has no idea. That’s what this drawing tells me. And it is in this indecisiveness, which made it only natural that he turned for assistance to his
co-designer, Anne Tyng. Not merely because she was a woman, the only one in his
office who had actually lived in a women’s dormitory, but because she was the great champion of modular geometry, which was so important to Kahn in these years. And so for Bryn Mawr, Anne Tyng produced a design that was as modular as can be, with octagonal dorm rooms, each one nesting in the other, as snugly interlocked as
the cells of a beehive. Now as an exercise in three-dimensional geometry, this is very timely. This comes just seven years after Watson and Crick had discovered the double helix of DNA. And yet, Kahn was dubious. He seems to have found Tyng’s design too additive, too shapeless, too sprawling. Behind her back, he mocked it cruelly, calling it algae. So at the very last minute, he inserted his own design, where he struggled to give expression to those big spaces of the living room and dining hall wrapped in a cocoon of the dorm rooms. It was a very undistinguished,
blocky affair. I believe it was a space holder. It put his foot in the
door to give him time to come up with a solution on his own. And so he continued to work. Here trying to segregate
the big public spaces of dining and recreation from the small private
spaces of the dorm rooms. This one’s from early 1961. Here’s one from later that year, October. Yet another rambling essay with separate pods of dorm rooms in pavilions. Little episodes of flickering geometry in the rooms, but no resolution of
overall order or coherence. None of these projects satisfied Kahn. And so he continued to fidget, preparing plans, taking them to the monthly job meeting, only to discard them and
start all over again. Sisyphus in a bowtie, rolling the stone up the hill, only to watch it roll down again. And this went on for 18 months, right up through December 1961, and at the end of it, Kahn was no closer to a solution than when he started. And we can see the nature of his struggle. He had a great many small spaces, and a very few big spaces. And he wants to bring them together into a harmonious order that has the quality of one single elegant thought. Now why was this so hard to do? After all, this was what
he was trained to do. He spent four years at the University of Pennsylvania, studying architecture according to the system of the École des Beaux-Arts. The whole brunt of that system was to teach you how to organize large and small spaces into a
logical, unified whole. He was quite nimble at it. Here is his plan for an army post for an entire regiment. Headquarters, hospital, barracks for some 4,000 men, designed at the end of his senior year. All of them brought together into elusive, collective, single expression. It showed he was talented
enough to find … It proved to his teachers he was talented enough to give him an instant job upon graduation designing the exhibition buildings
for Philadelphia’s sesquicentennial exhibition of 1926, right after graduation. In fact, Kahn’s own teacher, Paul Cret, recognized his gifts
and offered him a job, but before Kahn took it, he embarked on his fateful one-year
study trip of Europe in 1928-29. When he returned, Cret
would put him to work, helping him on the design of the great Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington. This is the modern classicism that Kahn learned from Cret. Classical but modern. The forms refined and decanted into abstraction. Symmetrical. The ornament simplified, reduced to simple incised linear bands. And you can imagine if
things had not changed, Kahn would have poured forth a steady stream of such buildings, but things did change, and change catastrophically. Just five months after Kahn returned from Europe into Cret’s office came the stock market
crash of October 1929, the Great Depression, as we see here in Dorothea Lange’s emblematic breadline. Kahn didn’t fall quite this far, but he came close. Cret let Kahn go, and for much of the next decade, he
would be out of work. And it wasn’t only that
he couldn’t find work. The whole architectural terrain had shifted beneath his feet. Everything he had learned
about architecture was no longer true. He had been trained to make monumental civic buildings, such as museums and libraries, in a classical style, but what society now demanded was functional buildings such as social housing blocks designed in a modern style, such as the famous Weissenhofsiedlung in Stuttgart, with its model apartments by the leading modernists of Europe. The building is flat-roofed, radiantly, gleamingly white, purged of all ornament, purged of all history. Now this was the functional architecture promulgated by the Bauhaus, whose innovative buildings would have been just two years old in 1928, when Kahn first set foot in Europe. Now any American architect in 1928 curious about European modernism would have made his way to Dessau to look at this. And of course this is
the exact same moment, 1928, that Le Corbusier was building his own essay in purity——geometric purity, chromatic purity——the Villa Savoye in the suburban town of Poissy, just outside of Paris. This is the apogee of the modern villa, the same way Palladio’s Villa Rotunda is the apogee of the Renaissance villa. It would make perfect sense that Kahn would make Paris the first destination in Europe. In fact, it was his last. Kahn’s study trip of 1928, 1929 traced a long clockwise arc through Europe, up, down, and around. Up through northern Europe, up through the Baltics to his birthplace in Estonia (he emigrated at the age of three to Philadelphia), and then down to Italy where he spent the winter. He would not see Paris till the final days of that study year. Instead what he did was to make a beeline for northern Europe, for Holland, Germany, and Sweden. What he wanted to see first was the agitated architecture of Expressionism, with its passionate angularity, nearly medieval in the tenseness of rhythm and silhouette. This is the Chilehaus in Hamburg by that master of brick construction, Fritz Höger. Alas, a Nazi, but there we go. This building could not be farther removed from the immaculate clarity of the Villa Savoye, but this is the architecture
that excited Kahn, and he drew it, carefully and in detail. These are the brick moldings here that he’s enlarging in his drawing. He drew it carefully, just as he drew the Expressionist housing blocks of Rotterdam and Amsterdam, studying how the brick was bonded, the specifics of moldings and profile. And he wasn’t sketching
for his own pleasure. He was drawing the details as a professional might draw details, to purloin for reuse in his own work. Kahn continued to the northeast, visiting Stockholm, Helsinki, then down to Riga, and as we saw, Estonia. But then we have another surprise. Kahn passes through Berlin, Prague, and Vienna, those cauldrons of modernity. And he spends only a few days in each. It is Italy that summons him. And here, he’ll spend five months. Why so long? We get a sense in an enigmatic postcard that he wrote to two friends known only to history as Laura and Goldie, and which he never sent. That’s why we have it. It is an excited and
strangely garbled postcard. “Compared to other countries “this is to the architect – artist – “Italy certainly stands alone …” That’s a run-on sentence. There’s no grammar check in 1928. But he goes on. “Up until now I arranged
my trip to take in “those countries that are going in “for the modern – “Now I am in the land
that is the source of …” And the postcard stops right there in mid-sentence. The land that is the source of what? Was Italy the source of the great architecture of the past? Is Italy the source of
the great architecture that’s to come? He could not end the sentence. And in any event, two decades would pass, I think, before he could end the sentence, because the striking
fact is while in Italy, Kahn never drew any of the major classical monuments, such as the Pantheon or Trajan’s forum, any of the classical columns. Four years of studying classicism under Paul Cret seem to have been more than enough. Why should he bother to measure the capitals and the moldings? After all, Cret was vigorously dispensing with such detail, making an abstractly
contemporary classicism. So Kahn had no interest in detail. Archaeological detail, that is. The buildings that fascinated him were the buildings that had no detail whatsoever, such as the fortified tower houses of San Gimignano, that lovely Tuscan hill town. Kahn drew these again and again. He drew them in watercolor. This is a lovely drawing that’s part of the collection of Williams College. After drawing it in watercolor, though, he drew it again in pencil with an extraordinary technique. On the way down to Rome, passing through Bologna, he acquired a carpenter’s pencil with a very broad lead that he could turn sideways to make a long, flat, emphatic stroke, giving contour lines that look as if whittled with a knife. And I think because of the forceful, physical nature of the drawing act, this technique invites
a kind of intuitive, kinetic identification of the object being drawn. No wonder Kahn called it his magic pencil. It liberated him from
the tight illustrations he made at the start of the trip when he landed in England. This one with its luxuriant, staffage of vegetation. Drawings like this were merely the scenic recreation of a view, but the magic pencil didn’t just describe; it analyzed. And with a glorious economy of means, all by simply changing the degree of pressure and the angle of the stroke, such as this extraordinary room in the Villa Rufolo in Ravello. Kahn was so ravenous to soak up as much of this architecture as he could that he sometimes cheated. In 1996, we held an exhibition of Kahn’s drawings at the Williams College Museum of Art where we showed this drawing of the communal palace in Piacenza. And we had the crazy idea to send a photographer to Europe to recreate Kahn’s trip,
to take a photograph of every building he drew to try to find the angle where he sat. And our friend Ralph Lieberman was already en route when we got a rather chagrined phone call from Sue Ann Kahn, the
architect’s daughter, who told us that she had found a shoebox full of old postcards, including this one. In fact, out of that shoebox came quite a number of postcards that showed Kahn was merely drawing postcards in his hotel room at night. Now this is revealing. Kahn is not a lazy man. It tells us he’s not there to make your conventional pretty
pictures on a Grand Tour. His purpose, his agenda
was more purposeful. He wanted to enrich his own professional repertoire by studying the accumulated . . . accumulated, concentrated product of two millennia of European architecture, however he could do it. And he did it in curious ways. Here are the famous
Twin Towers of Bologna, the Torre degli Asinelli on the right. I forget the name of the one on the left. Two upright prisms, slightly cockeyed. The one to the left has leaned a bit. And you could see why Kahn would want to subject them to the magic pencil, but look how he simplified the detail. He gives the crenulated balcony here the quality of a quasi-Art Deco zigzag, which reminds us that 1929, after all, is the year that the Chrysler Building began construction. So any American architect, looking at the towers in Bologna, might have looked at them sentimentally as proto-skyscrapers, but few would have done what Kahn did, which is to consummate the process and turn the drawings into actual skyscraper designs, right down to the rusticated base of the one on the left and that crenulated balcony of the other, now turned into a Jazz Age cornice. Weirdly, he even paraphrased the shadowy band in the corner, making it into something
that may be a boat on the East River in New York. I can’t quite tell. So even while Kahn is looking at Italy, he is thinking of America. He never got to build this, but he did make one curious design shortly after he returned, which tells us how he could apply the lessons of the past to the problems of the present. And the project is a shocking one. In 1932, he submitted to the Soviet Union a proposal for a monument
to Vladimir Lenin to be built in Leningrad. It would have consisted of two glass brick towers. Not just brick but glass bricks. So they could have been illuminated from within at night, blazing red over the harbor of the Neva River. A blazing beacon of revolution, which is, I think, what Kahn wanted to offer them. The whole thing a promenade for the public to watch aerial shows, nautical displays, in a kind of sublimated hammer and sickle there. But at another level it invokes the most celebrated work of art to come from the revolution. Look at that wedge. Look at that circle. You’re looking at a
quotation of Lissitzky’s “The Red Wedge Beats the White.” This is the most revolutionary bit of political art ever to come from Kahn. No wonder he kept it secret, beginning in about 1939. Something we discovered only in the 1990s, but this is actually a pathetic sign. It tells you that Kahn is looking anywhere in the world for someone who might hire him. I said the terrain has changed underneath his feet, and this is the year it happens. 1932 is the year of the famous “Exhibition of Modern Architecture” at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, which gives us the word the International Style. It’s there that you see this model of the Villa Savoye, right in the center. It is this exhibit that
gave us the manifesto of the International Style, written by the architect Philip Johnson and the historian Henry Russell Hitchcock. The burden of the show was to tell you that the world had changed and architecture must change. And above all, in a time of international
economic crisis, what was needed were not sentimental displays of the past, but buildings that could solve the problems of the present, particularly social housing. And this is what Kahn did. This soon became the
mainstay of his career. Throughout the Depression, throughout World War II, the making of efficient,
intelligently laid out social housing projects, these here at Mill Creek and these at Carver Court, Coatesville, Pennsylvania, middle of nowhere, where Kahn took the forms, the ideological forms of European social housing and rather gently Americanized them. Now these things are highly idealistic. They take for granted that the provision of humane housing is a high calling, but if they humanely house the human body, they did not stir the human heart. Not the way suggested by Kahn’s drawing, say of Positano. Strange image that he left unfinished. I’m not sure what that black arc is behind the highest towers. Is that a starry night sky? Whatever it is, it
tells us that for Kahn, the city is a mystical thing where nature and architectural forms swirl together in rapturous unison. And the point is this. Kahn had thoughts he wished to utter that exceeded the expressive range of the buildings he was assigned. This is the nature of architecture, unlike any other art. The novelist, the poet, the composer, the painter can go home right now and write the novel or make the painting. The architect, the architectural project is always the return of a serve. First the client, then the building. So architects are at the mercy of whatever commissions they receive. An architect cannot create autonomously. And this was a source of great frustration to Kahn, but it made Kahn restless
in a creative way. And that trait, I propose, was there from the beginning. This is Paul Cret, that elegant and jaunty French architect, that prodigy of the Beaux-Arts, star of the École who taught Kahn and who hired him and formed him. Towards the end of Kahn’s life, he attended an exhibit of the late Cret’s drawings, where he gave an off-the-cuff talk about Cret’s importance as an inspirational teacher. And Kahn reminisced
about the first project he was ever given to design, which was nothing more than a niche in a garden wall. I don’t know if it was
this Kahn student project. We only have a few. Might have been, but I think it would have been simpler. At any rate, Kahn was assigned a niche in a garden wall. Very basic elementary one. An opening projecting into space. But Kahn at this off-the-cuff talk said something curious. He said it was difficult to design the niche, quote, “because we had no courses before. “We had no great courses in philosophy.” Now this should strike you as strange. Why do you need a course in philosophy to design a niche? Do Plato and Aristotle tell you about the plan and section of a niche? We had no courses in philosophy. What a revealing statement. What it reveals is insecurity. Kahn’s acute, burning awareness of his outsider status: a Jewish émigré into waspish Quaker Philadelphia. A poor Estonian émigré whose birth name, that was very quickly changed, wasn’t Louis Kahn. It was Itze-Leib Schmuilowsky. He felt at Penn he was designing in a cultural background. He did not have behind
him the cultural roots that would have underpinned even the simple making of a garden niche. He needed to fill that vacuum. As it happened, modernism gave him a philosophy. And Kahn embraced it for a time. He learned to compose like Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier. He learned to think like them. He even learned to draw like them, as here, in his project for the Jersey homesteads in Hightstown, New Jersey, 1935. And here you see the scorn with which modernists held the pretty picture that Beaux-Arts architects had made. This was the modernist
attack on the École. Students at the École des Beaux-Arts spent all their time making ravishing ink-wash drawings when they should have been planning. The modern architect makes a blunt drawing that is empirical, parched of any chromatic pleasure. Now Kahn learned to do this fairly well. He was a gifted renderer. He even learned to imitate Le Corbusier’s squiggly trees. All the tricks of modernism. Still, it must have required an act of tremendous will to make such pragmatic drawings when we know of his intense love of color. Here’s a painting made at the same time. And he made paintings like this throughout the 1930s, exhibiting them regularly at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. I love these blazing red, agonized trees. What we see happening
right before our eyes is Kahn’s artistic mind
splitting violently into two lobes: a poetic mystic sensibility,
highly emotional, that lives only in the paintings, and a rational objectivity that flourishes only in the architecture. This was Kahn in his Buckminster Fuller phase of the early 1950s, when when he had high hopes for a geometric architecture that would be as pure, as elegant and spare as, say, the architecture of a spiderweb or of a rock crystal or of a strand of DNA. Incidentally, forms that are not at all especially emotional. It is at this moment that
Kahn returns to Europe for his second trip. Once again, he looks for an emotional means of expression, not the magic pencil now, but pastel, where he can work
decisively and forcefully. Kahn no longer feels insecure about not having studied philosophy. This time, he doesn’t avoid the major monuments. He seeks them out, and he draws them carefully. The Parthenon, the Acropolis, Corinth. Pushing back from Rome to Greece and then finally to Egypt, where he looks at the mortuary monuments of Hatshepsut and Ramesses, drawing them. The mighty masonry, blazing in sunlight. Robust, big, hefty,
bulky forms of masonry. The buildings are confident, but we see a confident Kahn drawing them, mano-a-mano, eyeball to eyeball. What you see is Kahn who no longer feels he needs to defer to the modernism of his European peers. Kahn returns in 1951
after his three months at the American Academy in Rome and goes to work. Now doing two things. He will now bring together his two architectural pedigrees, the classical and the modernist, and make a productive synthesis out of them. And he will take back
into his architectural production that separate channel of artistic thought that had become a tributary into painting. It will all pour back
now into the mainstream of a unified architecture. The breakthrough building is the first Yale Art Gallery of 1953. Still a bit troubled by Buckminster Fuller in that roof, but you see that Kahn is looking for, is looking yearningly for tragic space. A few years later, he
added another element, and that is something that modernism up to now had banished authoritatively: the skyline, the
expressive poetic skyline. The dynamic calligraphic signature of a building against
the sky, which tells you about its huddled energy and forces. The whole conception of
the Richards Laboratory at Penn is pictorial. And it’s an uncanny reminiscence of what he drew at Bologna and San Gimignano. So here Kahn is at the threshold, but he hasn’t crossed yet. We have an architect with a strong sense of pictorial form, a predilection for mathematical order of some sort, and an as yet unrealized feeling for the poetic potential of space, but he hasn’t integrated them yet. This is why I believe
the Bryn Mawr project was filled with so many false starts. Kahn was so perplexed by this commission he did something he never did throughout the rest of his career, that is he showed up at every successive job meeting with two projects: his own and the geometric project of Anne Tyng. His addressing concerns
of human gathering, hers addressing Platonic geometry, the order of the universe. Heaven and earth, above and below. No wonder Kahn was perplexed. And then Anne Tyng inadvertently made a design that
caught Kahn’s attention. It was the idea of wrapping the big monumental spaces within a surrounding mantle of dorm rooms. For the first time, the lively rhythm of the little spaces is reciprocated in the bold rhythm of
the big public rooms. Kahn saw this as having potential, but I think he was put
off by the nervous walls, with their faceted intricacy. It was just too fussy. But what he loved was that alignment of a trio of three heroic spaces. So he took those three spaces, reshaped them as cubes, and swiveled them 45 degrees. And now, for the first
time, the geometric order of the parts resonates persuasively with the order of the whole. Three detached cubes touching lightly, only at their corners, and each concealing within a great space of immense
ceremonial gravity with light wells, little
monitors in the corner that peak above the roof like a periscope to bring in the sun. This is the Kahn we know and value. This is the Kahn we know from the Kimbell. But the question is why it took him so long to do it, until 1961. Here, Kahn knew he had done something remarkable. He was euphoric. Now much is made in the scholarship of Kahn, of his achievement in restoring to architecture the power of the axis. This is the Salk Institute in La Jolla. And that’s true. But I want to leave you with this thought. This is not really Kahn’s
great accomplishment in bringing life back to a modernism that had become formulaic. Here’s what his achievement was. If you think of what
modern architecture did, it was to conceive of a new kind of space. Classic example is IIT, Illinois Institute of Technology. Mies van der Rohe at Crown Hall creates a heroic roof truss, a kind of exoskeleton above the building
hoisting the roof aloft. So the interior has no
partitions whatsoever. We, we don’t have rooms. All we have is space. Flowing space. No walls, but a plane. No room, but space. Mies had abolished two
elements of architecture that had been there from the dawn of time: the enclosed room and the solid wall. And Kahn brought them back. He brought back the room as the fundamental unit of architectural expression, not flowing space without shape or boundaries, but a fixed and definite poetic enclosure. And of course it was
there from the beginning. It was there in 1928, when he drew these mournful little chambers in Italy. It was there when he went to Ostia, Antica, and drew the brick wall, chunky brick walls with relieving arches here. Uncommonly deep reveals. He drew them, taking pleasure in the thickness of
walls, which he stresses here by the the black shadow. This is the source of the expressive brick architecture that blossomed in his final decade, as here at the Indian Institute of Management of Ahmedabad. So for Kahn, the main lesson was this. That a building is not merely the solution to a problem, but it’s the expression of a feeling. Throughout his graphic career, he is haunted by the idea of a glowing white shrine in a town. It could be a white church in New England. It could be a gothic
church in central Italy. It could even be a mute stair hall in the center of a Yale gallery. It doesn’t matter, but each of these is a surrogate for the sacred. As cryptic and as
implacable as that obelisk in the movie 2001. So the truth of the matter is Kahn’s buildings look nothing like his drawings and paintings, but the lessons he learned are imbedded in a building like this. For thirty years of his career, Kahn struggled and tried to suppress an entire lobe of his identity, driving it underground, where it
lived a shadow existence in the drawings. But that idea was there all along, the idea of the room as the vaulted unit. The idea that it could be 200 years old or 2,000 years old, but
the solid walled room is a noble and beautiful thing, the creation of sculpture and space, and the dignified locus of human action. This elusive quality,
purged from modernism, comes thundering back in the tragic dignity of the poignant late works of Kahn, of
which this is as splendid an example as we have. Thank you. (audience applauds)

1 thought on “Louis I. Kahn: Light, Pastel, Eternity”

  1. Can Weng says:


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