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History of Architecture (AP313) | Essay | 2014

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Comparison of the five Principles of Le Corbusier and
Monumentality and servant and served- space concepts
of Louis Kahn

Essay for History of Architecture (AP131)

Garima Bansal
Roll Number: 41
Sushant School of Art and Architecture

Le Corbusier
Architect Le Corbusier will be forever known as an icon of Modernism. His
outstanding achievements, his vision of machine civilization, his drawings,
sculpture, architecture, city planning, and writing together compose a portrait of
the architect as protein creator(1). He aimed to create a modern architectural
aesthetic based upon science and reason, utilizing technology and industry. With
support of his technical expertise, he rationalized house design through scientific
investigation of new materials and their potential, particularly re-enforced concrete.
The theoretical considerations are based on many years of practical experience on
building sites. These theories formulated and culminated in Le Corbusiers
manifesto Five Points towards a New Architecture.

The pilotis. The research work achieved new perspectives in architecture and
urbanism. Previously, the house had been buried in the earth and the rooms
are often dark and damp. Reinforced concrete gave the pilotis, the house in
air, far from the soil, gardens stretching beneath the house as well as on the
The roof garden. It was then possible to make roof flat using reinforced
concrete rather than inclined. The flat roof demands in the first place
systematic utilization for domestic purposes: roof terrace, roof garden. The
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water drainage occurs via interior of the building. The roof garden displays
luxuriant vegetation.
The free plan. In the past, the plan had been the slave of the structural wall.
Reinforced concrete brought the innovation of free plan in which the interiors
are no longer rigidly determined by the structural wall. They have become
The elongated window. The window is one of the essential characteristics of
the house. Reinforced concrete revolutionised the window. It is possible to
place window along the whole faade from support to support, thus becomes
horizontal window. Also, experiment has shown that a room thus lit has an
eight times stronger illumination than the same room lit by vertical windows
with the same window area.
The free faade. The pillars retreated from the faades to the inside the
house. The floors project beyond the supporting pillars, like the balcony
around the building. The whole faade is free and extended beyond the
supporting construction. (2)

Figure 1: Le Corbusier Comparative sketches to show the advantages of the 'Five Points'

Le Corbusier assured himself of the 'Five Points' in the design the Cook House in
Boulogne-sur-Seine and the Villa Stein. Le Corbusier felt fully justified in making
2Houses Weissenhof Siedlung in Stuttgart (1927), a kind of summary of all his
convictions concerning an industrialized architecture. The first Weissenhof building
was a precise and beautifully proportioned version of his Citrohan project of 1922.
It repeated the clearly defined roof garden on top, and free facade glazed by large
rectangles of glass, like an abstract painting. The second building was an actual
apartment house. The building had single-level apartments on the second floor,
and a roof garden on top. The stair towers were treated as separate elements,
projecting out from the 'pure prism' of the apartment block. A ribbon of glass
consisting of horizontally sliding windows extended across the full length of the
building. All partitions inside consisted of prefabricated storage walls.
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Louis Isadore Kahn
Architect Louis Kahn is known for combining Modernism with the weight and
dignity of ancient monuments. He influenced the development of modern
architecture in poetic way of light and by his theories of form, monumentality and
division of spaces as served and servant and measurable and unmeasurable forms.

According to LIK, monumentality in architecture may be defined as a spiritual
quality inherent in a structure which conveys the feeling of its eternity, that it
cannot be added to or changed. We feel that quality in the Parthenon, the
recognized architectural symbol of Greek civilization. Architectural monuments
indicate structural perfection which has contributed in great part to their
impressiveness, clarity of form, and logical scale. Masters of building design
indicated the direction an architect may take to translate into simple terms the
complexity of interrelation in space by a wall, a post, a beam, a roof and a window.
Efforts developed in refining the meaning of these elements. A wall dividing interior
space is not the same wall dividing the outside from the interior. Masonry functions
as retaining and garden wall. The surfacing of the domes, vaults, and arches appear
as part of exterior of building may be an integral part of the structural design. From
experiments, the architect will eventually learn to choose appropriate
embellishments for his structures. His judgments lead him to free-standing forms
in space. (3)

Kahn Invented the idea servant and served spaces, i.e. which
spaces would help him to use structural elements to not only to carry loads and
give identity to his building but also to make them functional. Kahn differentiates
between desire and need. He distinguished a space for people and space for service
or servicing needs. He claims It is disgraceful not to supply needs, and it goes
without saying that if you are brought into this world, your need must be supplied.
But desire is infinitely more important than need. (Kahn, 1973) Therefore, he
discovers a hierarchy of spaces, and made what he called servant and served
spaces. The servant spaces only belong to the MEP spaces (the Mechanical,
Electrical, Plumbing needs), which also includes the circulation and structure, while
the served spaces belong to people who experience the space as a derived quality
of form. This distinction was made explicit by Kahn and added a more meaningful
exploration of experience than had been present in Modern architecture.(4)

LIK designed a residential building Weiss House in Pennsylvania, 1950. He plans it
with a clear functional division: the living room with central sitting area the fire
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place and the adjoining kitchen create an independent volume, connected to the
bedroom area by a narrow corridor zone. In this way Kahn creates a central track of
service rooms as an axis and spine, for the first time establishing as a principle the
distinction between servant and served. (5)

Modern architecture emerges as monolithic and stresses on modern technology.
The transformation of classical le Corbusiers villas of 1920s to physiological
sculpture of Louis kahn to realise that the best modern work based on theories.
However the aim is to compare works of these two architects based on the theories
they proposed.

Villa Savoye designed by le Corbusier shows the purity in its form as it culminates
the five five points of new architecture. On the other hand, Salk Institute for
biological Studies constructed by Louis Kahn that applies monumental stature to
modern architecture.

Figure 4: Villa savoye, 1929

In Villa Savoye, the pilotis are elevated the mass off the ground and both the
structural and non-structural elements are distinguished. Whereas, in Salk
institute the structural pattern and joints of the formwork and the metal form
ties (rods) that were used to hold the formwork in place are left visible.

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The villa Savoye has roof garden at top likewise Kahn included a garden to
add to the natural elements of light, water, and trees and to further address
the human needs of those who would inhabit the space. I separated the
studies from the laboratory and placed them over gardens, he said.

Kahn called the laboratories the served spaces and the towers the servant
spaces, and kept the two separate in his design whereas Le Corbusier the
spatial interplay between public and private spaces, he situates the living
spaces around a communal, outdoor terraced that is separated from the
living area by a sliding glass wall that privatized areas within a larger
communal setting.

Also, Corbusiers point of free designing of spaces has modified by Kahn in
same project as he designed new style of truss that could support the floor
above and give lift to the ceiling below without any additional support
system. Therefore laboratory spaces are flexible enough to be customized
for the needs of incoming scientists. The laboratories are designed as wide-
open horizontal spaces, with their mechanical facilities stored above in the
trussing, leaving more room in the laboratories themselves for people and

Villa Savoye has clean white faade cut only by distinctive horizontal windows
thereby these strip windows form rectangular openings in the faade
through which light and air enter copiously. The institutional building
reflected Another integral part of Kahns design -the incorporation of natural
light. He believed that natural light was a basic human need that should be
considered in the design of buildings.

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Figure 4: Salk Institute, 1960

Consequently, Le Corbusiers design, ideas and structural expression influenced
Kahn. He studied Le Corbs domino type structure and achieved a Free-plan by
placing the grid column beneath covering roof. He always wanted for Corbusier. The
influence of Le Corbusier on Kahn was considerable as he said Every man has a
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figure in his work who he feels answerable to. I often say to myself, Howm I doing,
Le Corbusier? kahn was also inspired by Corbusiers five points of architecture.

Figure 4: Le Corbusiers Dom-ino form-structure, 1914
Corbusier stated in his book Towards a New Architecture about materials and
form, you employ stone, wood and concrete, and with these materials you build
houses and places; that is construction. Ingenuity is at work
It was Le Corbusiers use of concrete that influenced Kahn, since he used concrete
for most of his building. The influence can be seen in Kahns designs for a
combined school and community centre. Kahns influence from Corbusiers design
attitude between historicism and modernism, since all Kahns work is related to
monumentality. (6)

Figure 5: Contemporary city
Ref : Le Corbusier The City of Tomorrow and its Planning. (p.2001, p.12)
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Figure 6: Louis Kahn public square
Ref : Louis kahns Situated Modernism (p.2001, p.37)

It was in 1961, when Kahn realized that he didnt have to work for anybody and his
concept of the servant and served spaces gave him enough confidence to say
when I realized there were servant areas and there were areas served, that
difference, I realized I didnt have to work for Corbusier anymore. At that moment I
realized I dont have to work for him at all.

This is seen in Kahns monumental and historical designs that he used modern
materials and structural system sympathetic to modern need and functions had
been influenced from Le Corbusier and other modernist architects Paul Cret, Frank
Lloyd Wright, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Robert Venturi. Kahn in turn influenced
contemporary architects such as Tadao Ando, Moshe Safdie, Mario Botta, Renzo
Piano and Norman Foster.

1. Charles, Jencks. Le Corbusier, Monacelli Press, 2000. ISBN: 1580930778, 9781580930772
2. Corbusier, Le. Le Corbusier: Elements of a Synthesis, 010 Publishers, 2009 . ISBN
9064506426, 9789064506420
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3. Kahn, Louuis. Louis I. Kahn: writings, lectures, interviews. Rizzoli international
publication, 1991. ISBN 0-8478-1331-2.
4. Kahn, Louuis. Louis I. Kahn: writings, lectures, interviews. Rizzoli international
publication, 1991. ISBN 0-8478-1331-2.
5. Heinz Ronner. Louis I. Kahn: Complete Work 1935-1974. reprint. Birkhaeuser,
1994. ISBN: 0521002540, 9780521002547
6.. Milad Rabifard. The Integration of Form and Structure in The Work of Louis