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March 17: “A Philosopher Among Architects”

March 16, 2015

42ea2156ce8f3017c0c7e2c84332ebedAmerican architect and professor of architecture Louis I. Kahn (Itze-Leib Schmuilowsky) died in New York at 73 on this date in 1974. Based in Philadelphia, he serve as professor of architecture at Yale from 1947 to 1957 and at the University of Pennsylvania from 1957 until his demise. Kahn was perhaps better known for his architectural vision — architecture as the “thoughtful creation of space,” with undisguised bulk and weight and materials — than for his actual buildings, yet he is considered to be one of the most influential architects of the twentieth century. Among the masterworks he did create are the Yale University Art Gallery; the First Unitarian Church of Rochester, New York (shown above); the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas; and the National Assembly building in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Isamu Noguchi called Kahn “a philosopher among architects,” and others have referred to him as “a poet of light.” Kahn grew up in extreme poverty, and was in debt when he died.

“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.’ ” —Louis Kahn