Overview

     

   Louis I. Kahn (1901–1974) was one of the most influential architects of the twentieth century. With complex spatial compositions and a choreographic mastery of light, Kahn created buildings of archaic beauty and powerful universal symbolism. His work impacted many of his contemporaries and still serves today as a model and measure among architects.

     Kahn’s acclaim is based on a small number of buildings that were erected over a period of just twenty-five years. While his early work focused on housing and urban planning in his home city of Philadelphia, he started to gain a worldwide reputation toward the end of the 1950s as an architect of public buildings. Kahn designed museums, laboratories, schools, churches, synagogues, and even a national parliament building. For a long time, he was exclusively active in the United States, yet his later work took on an increasingly global dimension. Consequently, two of his most important projects were executed in India and Bangladesh—the Indian Institute of Management in Ahmedabad (1962–74) and the National Assembly Building in Dhaka (1962–83)

     This exhibition presents Kahn’s work within the framework of six central themes, which also illustrate the chronological development of his oeuvre: from his pioneering role in the exploration of science and engineering to his reinterpretation of architectural history; from his designs for houses in Pennsylvania to his inclusion of nature and landscape as fundamental elements of architecture; and from his beginnings as an urban planner in Philadelphia to his interest in the public role and social responsibility of architecture, which culminated in Dhaka. 

     Kahn regarded himself as part of a tradition that understood architecture not only as a means of satisfying utilitarian needs, but as an instrument of creative speculation and a way of contemplating nature, history, and human community. In today’s world, where the act of building is increasingly subordinated to marketing strategies and financial speculation, Kahn reminds us of the age-old significance of architecture as the universal conscience of humanity.