February 20, 1901
|Died||March 17, 1974 73) (aged|
|Awards|| AIA Gold Medal |
RIBA Gold Medal
|Buildings|| Jatiyo Sangshad Bhaban |
Yale University Art Gallery
Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad
Phillips Exeter Academy Library
Kimbell Art Museum
|Projects||Center of Philadelphia, Urban and Traffic Study|
Louis Isadore Kahn (born Itze-Leib Schmuilowsky; March 5 [ O.S. February 20] 1901 – March 17, 1974) was an American architect, based in Philadelphia. After working in various capacities for several firms in Philadelphia, he founded his own atelier 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.
Kahn created a style that was monumental and monolithic; his heavy buildings for the most part do not hide their weight, their materials, or the way they are assembled. Famous for his meticulously built works, his provocative proposals that remained unbuilt, and his teaching, Kahn was one of the most influential architects of the twentieth century. He was awarded the AIA Gold Medal and the RIBA Gold Medal. At the time of his death he was considered by some as "America's foremost living architect."
Louis Kahn, whose original name was Itze-Leib (Leiser-Itze) Schmuilowsky (Schmalowski), was born into a poor Jewish family in Pärnu,formerly in the Russian Empire, but now in Estonia. He spent his early childhood in Kuressaare on the island of Saaremaa, then part of the Russian Empire's Livonian Governorate. At the age of three, he saw coals in the stove and was captivated by the light of the coal. He put the coal in his apron, which caught on fire and burned his face. He carried these scars for the rest of his life.
In 1906, his family emigrated to the United States, as they feared that his father would be recalled into the military during the Russo-Japanese War. His birth year may have been inaccurately recorded in the process of immigration. According to his son's 2003 documentary film, the family could not afford pencils. They made their own charcoal sticks from burnt twigs so that Louis could earn a little money from drawings.Later he earned money by playing piano to accompany silent movies in theaters. He became a naturalized citizen on May 15, 1914. His father changed their name to Kahn in 1915.
Kahn excelled in art from a young age, repeatedly winning the annual award for the best watercolor by a Philadelphia high school student. He was an unenthusiastic and undistinguished student at Philadelphia Central High School until he took a course in architecture in his senior year, which convinced him to become an architect. He turned down an offer to go to the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts to study art under a full scholarship, instead working at a variety of jobs to pay his own tuition for a degree in architecture at the University of Pennsylvania School of Fine Arts. There, he studied under Paul Philippe Cret in a version of the Beaux-Arts tradition, one that discouraged excessive ornamentation.
After completing his Bachelor of Architecture in 1924, Kahn worked as senior draftsman in the office of the city architect, John Molitor. He worked on the designs for the 1926 Sesquicentennial Exposition.
In 1928, Kahn made a European tour. He was interested particularly 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 United States in 1929, Kahn worked in the offices of Paul Philippe Cret, his former studio critic at the University of Pennsylvania, and then with 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 schemes for public housing that he had presented to the Public Works Administration, which supported some similar projects during the Great Depression.They remained unbuilt.
Among the more important of Kahn's early collaborations was one with George Howe.Kahn worked with Howe in the 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. A formal architectural office partnership between Kahn and Oscar Stonorov began in February 1942 and ended in March 1947, which produced fifty-four documented projects and buildings.
Kahn did not arrive at his distinctive architectural style until he was in his fifties. Initially working in a fairly orthodox version of the International Style, he was influenced vitally by a stay as Architect in Residence at the American Academy in Rome during 1950, which marked a turning point in his career. After visiting the ruins of ancient buildings in Italy, Greece, and Egypt, he adopted a back-to-the-basics approach. He developed his own style as influenced by earlier modern movements, but not limited by their sometimes-dogmatic ideologies. In the 1950s and 1960s as a consultant architect for the Philadelphia City Planning Commission Kahn developed several plans for the center of Philadelphia that were never executed.
In 1961 he received a grant from the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts to study traffic movement in Philadelphia and to create a proposal for a viaduct system.
He described 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 began at Yale University in 1947. He eventually was named as the Albert F. Bemis Professor of Architecture and Planning at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1956. Kahn then returned to Philadelphia to teach at the University of Pennsylvania from 1957 until his death, becoming the Paul Philippe Cret Professor of Architecture. He also was a visiting lecturer at Princeton University School of Architecture 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 awarded the Frank P. Brown Medal in 1964. In 1965 he was elected into the National Academy of Design as an Associate Academician. 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 Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), in 1972.
In 1974, Kahn died of a heart attack in a restroom at Penn Station in Manhattan.He had just returned from a work trip to India. Owing to police miscommunications in both New York City and Philadelphia, his wife and his office were not notified until two days after his death. After his long career, he was in debt when he died.
Kahn had three children with three women. With his wife, Esther (1905-1996), whom he married in 1930, he had a daughter, Sue Ann. With Anne Tyng, who began her working collaboration and personal relationship with Kahn in 1945, he also had a daughter, Alexandra. When Tyng became pregnant in 1953, to mitigate the scandal, she went to Rome, Italy, for the birth of their daughter. [ citation needed ] Anne Tyng was an extremely talented architect and teacher, while Harriet Pattison was a pioneering landscape architect.With Harriet Pattison, he had a son, Nathaniel Kahn. Most biographical works on Kahn fail to describe the profound impact his female partners had on his designs.
Kahn's obituary in the New York Times written by Paul Goldberger mentions only Esther and his daughter by her as survivors. All of his children and their mothers attended the funeral. In 2003 Nathaniel Kahn released a documentary about his father, entitled, My Architect: A Son's Journey. The Oscar-nominated film provides views and insights into the architecture of Kahn while exploring him personally through people who knew him: family, friends, and colleagues. It includes interviews with such renowned architectural contemporaries as Shamshul Wares, B. V. Doshi, Frank Gehry, Ed Bacon, Philip Johnson, I. M. Pei, Vincent J. Scully, and Robert A. M. Stern. It also provides insights into Kahn's unusual and complicated family arrangements.
Google Map - location of Louis Kahn's Buildings
All dates refer to the year project commenced
Louis Kahn's work infused the International style with a fastidious, highly personal taste, a poetry of light. His few projects reflect his deep personal involvement with each. Isamu Noguchi called him "a philosopher among architects." He was known for his ability to create monumental architecture that responded to the human scale. He also was concerned with creating strong formal distinctions between served spaces and servant spaces. What he meant by servant spaces was not spaces for servants, but rather spaces that serve other spaces, such as stairwells, corridors, restrooms, or any other back-of-house function such as storage space or mechanical rooms. His palette of materials tended toward heavily textured brick and bare concrete, the textures often reinforced by juxtaposition to highly refined surfaces such as travertine marble. He is often well remembered for his deliberation about the use of brick, on how it can be more than the basic building material:
If you think of Brick, you say to Brick, 'What do you want, Brick?' And Brick says to you, 'I like an Arch.' And if you say to Brick, 'Look, arches are expensive, and I can use a concrete lintel over you. What do you think of that, Brick?' Brick says, 'I like an Arch.' And it's important, you see, that you honor the material that you use. ... You can only do it if you honor the brick and glorify the brick instead of shortchanging it.
While widely known for the poetic sensibilities of his spaces, Kahn also worked closely with engineers and contractors on his buildings. The results often were technically innovative and highly refined. In addition to the influence Kahn's more well-known work has on contemporary architects (such as Muzharul Islam, Tadao Ando), some of his work (especially the unbuilt City Tower Project) became very influential among the high-tech architects of the late twentieth century (such as Renzo Piano, who worked in Kahn's office, Richard Rogers, and Norman Foster). His prominent apprentices include Muzharul Islam, Moshe Safdie, Robert Venturi, Jack Diamond, and Charles Dagit.
Many years after his death, Kahn continues to provoke controversy. Before his Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park at the southern tip of Roosevelt Island was built,a 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 City'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.
A group spearheaded by William J. vanden Heuvel raised over $50 million in public and private funds between 2005 and 2012 to establish the memorial. Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park officially opened to the public on October 24, 2012.
Kahn was the subject of the 2003 Oscar-nominated documentary film My Architect: A Son's Journey , presented by Nathaniel Kahn, his son. 127 Kahn's complicated family life inspired the "Undaunted Mettle" episode of Law & Order: Criminal Intent .:
In the 1993 film Indecent Proposal , character David Murphy (played by Woody Harrelson), referenced Kahn during a lecture to architecture students, attributing the quote "Even a brick wants to be something" to Kahn.
Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Lewis Spratlan, with collaborators Jenny Kallick and John Downey (Amherst College, class of 2003), composed the chamber opera Architect as a character study of Kahn. The premiere recording was due to be released in 2012 by Navona Records.
In Showtime's Billions (Season 4, Episode 6), Taylor Mason and Wendy Rhoades meet at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park and discussed Kahn's genius and his relationship with his estranged son.
The Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas, hosts an art collection as well as traveling art exhibitions, educational programs and an extensive research library. Its initial artwork came from the private collection of Kay and Velma Kimbell, who also provided funds for a new building to house it.
Paul Philippe Cret was a French-born Philadelphia architect and industrial designer. For more than thirty years, he taught a design studio in the Department of Architecture at the University of Pennsylvania.
Phillips Exeter Academy Library is a library that serves Phillips Exeter Academy, an independent boarding school located in Exeter, New Hampshire. It is the largest secondary school library in the world, containing 160,000 volumes over nine levels with a shelf capacity of 250,000 volumes.
The Yale University Art Gallery, the oldest university art museum in the Western Hemisphere, houses a significant and encyclopedic collection of art in several buildings on the campus of Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. Although it embraces all cultures and periods, the gallery emphasizes early Italian painting, African sculpture, and modern art. The museum is a member of the North American Reciprocal Museums program.
The Esherick House in Philadelphia, is one of the most studied of the nine built houses designed by American architect Louis Kahn. Commissioned by Margaret Esherick, it was completed in 1961.
Anne Griswold Tyng was an architect and professor. She is best known for having collaborated with Louis I. Kahn at his practice in Philadelphia, for 29 years. She served as a professor at the University of Pennsylvania for 27 years, teaching classes in morphology. She was a fellow of the American Institute of Architects, and Academician of the National Academy of Design.
The architecture of Philadelphia is a mix of historic and modern styles that reflect the city's history. The first European settlements appeared within the present day borders of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in the 17th century with most structures being built from logs. By the 18th century brick structures had become common. Georgian and later Federal style buildings dominated much of the cityscape. In the first half of the 19th century, Greek revival appeared and flourished with architects such as William Strickland, John Haviland, and Thomas U. Walter. In the second half of the 19th century, Victorian architecture became popular with the city's most notable Victorian architect being Frank Furness.
Zantzinger, Borie and Medary was an American architecture firm that operated from 1905 to 1950 in Philadelphia. It specialized in institutional and civic projects.
George Howe (1886–1955) was an American architect and educator, and an early convert to the International style. His personal residence, High Hollow (1914-1917), established the standard for house design in the Philadelphia region through the early 20th century. His partnership with William Lescaze yielded the design of Philadelphia's PSFS Building (1930–32), considered the first International style skyscraper built in the United States.
Oscar Gregory Stonorov was a modernist architect and architectural writer, historian and archivist who emigrated to the United States from Germany in 1929. His first name is often spelled "Oskar".
Galen Schlosser was an architect who lived in the East Falls and Mount Airy areas of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, US. He received his master's degree in architecture in 1936 from the University of Pennsylvania. He died in 2002 at the age of 90.
The Richards Medical Research Laboratories, located on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, were designed by architect Louis Kahn and are considered to have been a breakthrough in his career. The building is configured as a group of laboratory towers with a central service tower. Brick shafts on the periphery hold stairwells and air ducts, producing an effect reminiscent of the ancient Italian towers that Kahn had painted several years earlier.
The Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park is a four-acre (1.6 ha) memorial to Franklin D. Roosevelt that celebrates the Four Freedoms he articulated in his 1941 State of the Union address. It is located adjacent to the historic Smallpox Hospital in New York City at the southernmost point of Roosevelt Island, in the East River between Manhattan Island and Queens. It was designed by the architect Louis Kahn.
August Eduard Komendant was an Estonian and American structural engineer and a pioneer in the field of prestressed concrete, which can be used to build stronger and more graceful structures than normal concrete. He was born in Estonia and educated in engineering in Germany. After World War II he immigrated to the United States, where he wrote several books on structural engineering and served as a professor of architecture at the University of Pennsylvania.
The Vanna Venturi House, one of the first prominent works of the postmodern architecture movement, is located in the neighborhood of Chestnut Hill in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It was designed by architect Robert Venturi for his mother, Vanna Venturi, and constructed between 1962 and 1964.
The Tribune Review Publishing Company Building was designed by architect Louis Kahn as the office and printing plant for the Tribune-Review newspaper in Greensburg, Pennsylvania, about 35 miles southeast of Pittsburgh. Although not in his usual line of work, Kahn accepted the commission at the request of William Huff, an architect on his staff who was related to the newspaper's owner. The building is considered to be one of Kahn's relatively minor works, but it has some interesting features nonetheless. Kahn began work on the design in 1958 and the building was completed in 1962.
The Architectural Research Group (ARG) was an association of mostly young architects in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, established in 1932 by Louis Kahn and Dominique Berninger "for the group study of Housing and Slum Clearance." Berninger acted as its president during the whole of the group's brief existence, 1932 to 1935. Until 1932, both founders were employed by the Philadelphia firm of Zantzinger, Borie & Medary, with Kahn working on their U.S. Department of Justice Building in Washington, D.C..
Kazi Khaleed Ashraf is a Bangladeshi architect, urbanist and architectural historian. Writing from the intersection of architecture, landscape and the city, Ashraf has authored books and essays on architecture in India and Bangladesh, the work of Louis Kahn, and the city of Dhaka. His various writings on the architecture of Bangladesh have provided a theoretical ground for understanding both the historical and contemporary forms of architecture, while his written and design work on Dhaka advances that city as a "theorem" for understanding urbanism in a deltaic geography. Ashraf and contributing team received the Pierre Vago Journalism Award from the International Committee of Architectural Critics for the Architectural Design publication Made in India. He has also co-authored a number of publications with the architect Saif Ul Haque. Ashraf has recently established an international publication series called Locations: Anthology of Architecture and Urbanism that will present works and features from around the globe.
Charles E. Dagit Jr. is a contemporary American architect, artist, writer and professor. He is a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects residing in suburban Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.
The First Unitarian Church of Rochester is a building that was designed by Louis Kahn and completed in 1962. It is located at 220 Winton Road South in Rochester, New York, U.S. The congregation it houses is a member of the Unitarian Universalist Association.
The Estonian-born architect Kahn (1901–1974), who immigrated with his family to Philadelphia in 1906
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