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LOUIS ISADORE KAHN

BACKGROUND

Born in 1901 in Estonia, Russia, Louis Isadore Kahn is considered to be one of the most
influential architects of the second half of the twentieth century throughout the world. Louis
Kahn migrated to the U.S. along with his family in his early years (in 1905).

After completing his graduation from the University of Pennsylvania in 1924, Louis Kahn started
his career as a draughtsman and later worked as head designer in several other firms in
Philadelphia.

Kahn was also an educator and philosopher.

Until 1947, Kahn had worked with a series of partners, after which, Kahn set up his
independent/private practice.
It was during this year, that Kahn also began with his influential teaching career 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).

Kahn was bankrupt when he died at the age of 73, his small Philadelphia practice $500,000 in
debt.
INFLUENCES:

Kahn wanted to redefine the bases of architecture through a re-examination of structure, form, space, and light;
abstained from the international style modernism.

Kahn turned his back on this traditional approach and pursued innovation by redefining the use of structure, light,
form and space.

"Louis Kahn described his quest for meaningful form as a search for "beginnings," a spiritual resource from which
modern man could draw inspiration".

It is widely believed that Louis Kahn, who was then a Resident Architect at the American Academy in Rome, was
extremely impressed by the astonishing architectural feats of Greeks, Egyptians and the Romans and this triggered
the change in his approach of designing the buildings.

Kahn would describe his building sites as "ruins in reverse".

Drawn by Louis Kahn, Pyramid at Giza, 1951


Inspired by Geometry and Science: scientific discoveries of molecular structures

Louis Kahn (right) in front of a model of the City Tower Project in an exhibition at
Cornell University, New York, February 1958
Louis Kahn: the brick whisperer

Believed his materials had a stubborn sense of their own destiny , if you are ever stuck for
inspiration, ask your materials for advice.

"You say to a brick, 'What do you want, brick?' And brick says to you, 'I like an arch.' And
you say to brick, 'Look, I want one, too, but arches are expensive and I can use a concrete
lintel.' And then you say: 'What do you think of that, brick?' Brick says: 'I like an arch.'"

For Kahn, form did not necessarily follow function; nor did his projects celebrate all the new
possibilities of industrial materials.

Created from monolithic masonry, and drawing on primary geometries with great circles,
semi-circles and triangles sliced out of their weighty walls, his buildings exude a timeless
presence.
Silence
&
Light
Yale Art Gallery (1951-53),
Light joint-over triangular stairs
The more prominent features of this building include the hollow concrete tetrahedral
space-frame that allows for the omission of ductwork while also reducing the standard
requirements regarding floor-to-floor height.
Bottom section of metal formwork for the
concrete ceiling structure,
Yale University Art Gallery.
Philip Exeter Academy
The project was based on a
simple concept: library users
were invited to select a book and
then go to the windows to read in
the natural light. Based on this
idea, the building is divided into
three layers: at the centre is a
large entrance hall, as a site of
encounter and exchange, from
which the surrounding holdings
of 250,000 books can be seen.
They are housed within what
Kahn used to call a "concrete
donut" to protect them from the
sunlight. A 'brick donut' finally
surrounds that core, containing
more than 200 naturally lit library
carrels.
The Capital Complex at Dhaka
Geometry : measurable and immeasurable
The entire complex is
fabricated out of poured
in place concrete with
inlaid white marble,
which is not only a
modernist statement of
power and presence, but
is more of a testament to
the local materials and
values.
The National Assembly Building sits
as a massive entity in the Bengali
desert; there are eight halls that are
concentrically aligned around the
parliamentary grand chamber, which
is not only a metaphor for placing
the new democratic government at
the heart of the building.

It also is part of Kahn’s design


objectives to optimize spatial
configurations where the
supporting programs (offices,
hotels for parliamentary officials,
and a restaurant) project out of the
center volume.
layered shells were no
aesthetic folly or indulgent
fetish for the archaic.
The Dhaka building's
perforated walls are a vital
tool, protecting the interior
spaces from direct sunlight
and allowing passive
ventilation.
The sheer mass of the
monumentally scaled
National Assembly and the
artificial lake surrounding
the building act as a natural
insulator and cooling
system that also begin to
create interesting spatial
and lighting conditions.
light was an important
aspect in the design of a
building, not just as a way to
illuminate a space, but
rather conceptualizing light
as a creator of space.

The geometric shapes found on the different faces of the façade add a dramatic
impact to the overall composition of the building.
Kimbell Art Museum
Despite the complexity of this
process the design
development was more
section than plan-based.

This is documented by
numerous studies of semi-
elliptical, semi-circular or
even V-shaped vaults.
The starting point for Kahn's scheme
of concrete vaults was the idea to
bring the change of day, weather,
and seasons into the museum.
By a skylight slot at the apex of each
vault and wing-like aluminium
reflectors beneath, the gallery space
is animated with diffuse ever-
changing natural light in which
artworks are best viewed.
Gallery level plan

Semi-basement plan
Shadow joints occur between
the concrete structure and the
travertine infill, be- tween
steel window frames and the
concrete walls, between
interior door frames and their
panel infills. Light joints occur
between the cycloid curves of
the vaults and the beautifully
tensioned infill curves at the
wall ends of the vaults.
SALK INTITTUTE When the famous medical scientist and bacteriologist decided to build a
laboratory on a coastal cliff north of San Diego, a friend, after attending a lecture
by Kahn on 'Order in Science and Art,' recommended him as architect.
The design of the court with
its study towers facing the
sea remained undetermined
until the Mexican architect
Luis Barragán, having been
invited by Kahn to visit the
site, proposed keeping it as
an open plaza.

In the Salk Institute Louis


Kahn uses symmetry,
geometry and
transformation to create an
atmosphere of the place.
The open space plans allows
maximum flexibility and
constant flow of
communications and ideas
The final scheme consists
of two laboratory wings
with six floors. Service
floors are sandwiched
between the labs (another
and most successful
variation on the theme of
"servant" and "served"
spaces).
The Salk Institute is
an exposed
construction
of concrete, wood,
marble and water.
Louis Kahn
gives no further
finishing touches in
order to contain
the warm glow on
the concrete.

‘form’ evokes a tactile


pleasure of
transcendence.
Material assemblies
THEMES IN KAHN’S WORK
GEOMETRY AS GENERATOR OF FORM EXETER LIBRARY

YALE ART GALLERY


ASSEMBLY, DHAKA
LAYERING OF PLANES AND PUNCTURES

EXETER LIBRARY ASSEMBLE, DHAKA SALK INSTITUTE


STRUCTURE, GEOMETRY AND LIGHT
LIGHT AND SHADOW AS A FORM-GIVER

KIMBEL ART GALLERY ASSEMBLE, DHAKA


IIM,A
WHOLENESS OF BUILDINGS: MONUMENTATLITY

EXETER LIBRARY ASSEMBLY, DHAKA SALK INSTITUTE


ESSENCE OF MATERIALS: TIMELESS AND TACTILE QUALITIES

SALK INSTITUTE SALK INSTITUTE IIM-A


WHIOLISTIC DESIGN:

INTERGRATION OF STRUCTURE, SERVICES, GEOMETRY TO FINAL FORM

YALE ART GALLERY SALK INSTITTUTE

KIMBEL ART GALLERY


Louis Kahn is credited in re-defining modern architecture in more than one ways:

MATERIAL SENSIBILITY:

Kahn was known to appreciate the appearance and feel of different materials that he
used in his work.
Kahn is also known to have used brick and concrete extensively and his innovative usage
of these materials demonstrated his talent to the world.

demonstrating solid mural strength: structure determined by material qualities and


strengths

Kahn transformed imperfections to new concepts of perfection. In concrete work he


kept the bolt holes and the ridges between form work as the „marks of how it was
made.” To express the integrity of the edges of brick, stone and wood when they come
together, he recessed the mortar between bricks, between stone and stone, and
recessed the caulking between stone and wood.
ORDER AND GEOMETRY

" as far as architecture is concerned, the old systems of proportion belonged to a formal
order which is dead and buried at a time when the source of unity in architecture is in
the social sphere, in other words, in the architect's program. “

Louis Kahn must be credited for re-introducing various concepts which most of the
modern architects had deserted like:
centralized spaces, using extensive geometric principles : symmetry, balance, hierarchy,
harmony of forms
OF SILENCE AND LIGHT

Louis Kahn gave to architecture new and timeless concepts of shadow and light, texture,
structural solids and voids, and the expressive power of symbolic geometry from minimal to
monumental scales.

Light and shade:


Kahn realised the importance of sunlight and was highly impressed by its usage in
Egyptians and Greek works. Hence Kahn's works demonstrates wide-scale implementation
of sunlight through different kinds of interesting windows and openings.

Kahn said, The joint is the beginning of ornament.”

Kahn’s concept of the shadow joint later evolved into the light joint
IIM, Ahmedabad