See More Images 

Nature and Design
Kahn’s elemental research toward a renewal of architecture was rooted in his conviction that the concepts of nature and design are fundamentally intertwined. If biophysics understood the microscopic building blocks of life as being based on geometry, why couldn’t architecture do the same? 

Yale University
While teaching at Yale University, Kahn, fascinated by the work of R. Buckminster Fuller and inspired by architect Anne Tyng, became increasingly interested in space frames. The ceiling of the Yale Art Gallery (1951–53) was a first breakthrough in this regard. At Yale, Kahn was intermittently teaching together with Josef Albers. With its basic geometric shapes and the interplay between figure and ground, surface and space, the art of Albers challenged human cognition and became an important influence on Kahn’s architectural compositions of light and shadow, solids and voids. 

At the age of almost sixty, Kahn reached an entirely novel synthesis of engineering and architecture in the Richards Medical Laboratories at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia (1957–65), earning him international fame. Like the Richards Towers, all of Kahn’s subsequent public buildings were the result of an intensive collaboration with engineers, including Robert Le Ricolais (1894–1977), a colleague at the University of Pennsylvania, and August E. Komendant (1906–1992), a fellow Estonian immigrant. Le Ricolais’s fascination with structures of maximum span and minimum weight and his scientific structural stress tests became a key element of Kahn’s architectural thinking. Komendant helped Kahn develop new ways of building with concrete.

City Hall Tower and DNA Formula
Kahn’s “structuralist” approach reached its most radical form in his project for a six-hundred-foot-high office tower next to Philadelphia’s City Hall (1952–57; designed in collaboration with Anne Tyng). The double helix that underlies its space-frame structure directly evokes the DNA formula discovered by the American biologist James D. Watson and the British physicist Francis Crick in 1953.