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Louis Kahn Architect (1901-1974)

One of the most influential architects of the mid-20th century, Louis Kahn (1901-1974) Louis I. Kahn evolved an original theoretical and formal language that revitalized modern architecture. His best known works, located in the United States, India, and Bangladesh, were produced in the last two decades of his life. They reveal an integration of structure, a reverence for materials and light, a devotion to archetypal geometry, and a profound concern for humanistic values. The Indian Institute of Management in Ahmedabad and the Capital Complex of government buildings at Dhaka in Bangladesh, were not only Kahns most ambitious project, but among his architectural masterpieces. The few buildings that Louis Kahn did realize were so remarkable that they established him as one of the most important figures in 20th century architecture, Convinced that contemporary architects could and should produce buildings which were as monumental and as spiritually inspiring as the ancient ruins of Greece and Egypt, Kahn devoted his career to the uncompromising pursuit of formal perfection and emotional expression. Despite his familys poverty, Kahn received an excellent education and, inspired by a high school course in architectural history, won a scholarship to study architecture at the University of Pennsylvania. There he was taught by Paul Philippe Cret, a Frenchman schooled in the rigorous Beaux-Arts tradition. Our architecture is modern and cannot be anything else, cret decreed. Kahn excelled in his four years at the University of Pennsylvania and, after graduating in 1924, was employed by the Philadelphia architect John Molitor. Four years after graduating he had saved enough money to travel to Europe, where he saw his first modern movement buildings in Berlin. Back in Philadelphia, he found work with Paul Cret and married Esther Israeli, a research assistant at the University of Pennsylvania. The year 1947 was a turning point in Louis Isadore Kahn 's career. Kahn established an independent practice and began a distinguished teaching career, first at Yale University as Chief Critic in Architectural Design and Professor of Architecture (1947-1957) and then at the University of Pennsylvania as Professor of Architecture (1957-1974). During those years, his ideas about architecture and the city took shape.

Kahn sought to redefine the bases of architecture through a re examination of structure, form, space, and light. The powerful and evocative forms of ancient brick and stone ruins in Italy, Greece, and Egypt where Louis I. Kahn traveled in 1950-1951 while serving as Resident Architect at the American Academy in Rome were an inspiration in his search for what is timeless and essential. The effects of this European odyssey, the honest display of structure, a desire to create a sense of place, and a vocabulary of abstract forms rooted in Platonic geometry resonate in his later masterpieces of brick and concrete, his preferred materials. Louis IKahn reintroduced geometric, axial plans, centralized spaces, and a sense of solid mural strength, reflective of his beaux-arts training and eschewed by modern architects. As an architect Kahn was limited to modest local projects, until in 1951 he won his first major commission an extension to the Yale Art Gallery. The Yale commission also offered an opportunity for Kahn to experiment with the ideas he had developed since a trip to Greece, Rome and Egypt when he had become convinced that modern architecture lacked the monumental and spiritual qualities of ancient buildings. Our stuff looks so tiny compared to it, he wrote to his office colleagues in Philadelphia. Kahn was convinced that, as a modern architect, his responsibility was to create buildings with those qualities using contemporary materials and construction techniques. Working with simple materials, notably brick and concrete. Kahn applied his principles to create buildings instilled with the spiritual qualities for which he strove through a masterful sense of space and light. From the 1951-53 Yale Art Gallery extension, to subsequent projects Kahn combined visually compelling spaces with drama as the changing light transformed the sensory experience of being in the building at different times of the day and night. By the time he began the 1959-67 Salk Institute in La Jolla, California, Kahn had mastered this approach to create his first masterpiece, an extraordinarily inspiring sequence of buildings. Just as Anne Tyng made an important contribution to Kahns 1950s buildings, Pattison arose his interest in the relationship of architecture to its location and landscape during the 1960s. The addition to the Yale University Art Gallery (New Haven. Connecticut. 1951-1953) indicates his interest in experimental structural systems. The floor slabs of poured-in-place concrete were inspired by tetrahedral space frames. The raw texture of the concrete reveals his belief that the method of construction should not be concealed. The hollow, pyramidal spaces in the ceiling, which accommodate lighting and mechanical systems, anticipate his later idea of "served and servant spaces" the hierarchical definition of a buildings functions While Louis Isadore Kahn exhibited a compelling concern for structure, he sought to infuse his buildings with the symbolic meaning of the institutions they housed. Composed of austere

geometries, his spaces are intended to evoke an emotional, empathetic response. "Architecture," Kahn said, "is the thoughtful making of spaces" beyond its functional role. Louis Kahn believed architecture must also evoke the feeling and symbolism of timeless human values. Louis I. Kahn attempted to explain the relationship between the rational and romantic dichotomy in his "form-design" thesis, a theory of composition articulated in 1959. The union of form and design is realized in the final product, and the building's symbolic meaning is once again unmeasurable. In his search for a formal vocabulary symbolic of man's institutions, Louis Kahn consistently based his compositions on a centralized enclosed space surrounded by secondary spaces. Kahn created a cloistered, contemplative atmosphere within the walls. 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. 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. 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. 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.