The Design Museum’s new exhibition celebrates the work of Louis Kahn – the great American architect who is hugely respected within the architectural community but little known outside of it.
Kahn (1901-1974) was a visionary architect, an expert manipulator of form and light, a creator of uniquely dramatic buildings, and a highly complex individual. Described in his New York Times obituary as having been one of America’s foremost living architects, he nonetheless realised few buildings in his lifetime and died practically bankrupt.
Coming of age in the era of modernism, Kahn drew on a wide range of sources, from ancient ruins to the work of Le Corbusier. He used innovations in construction techniques to design modern buildings that also project an elemental, primitive power. He was a perfectionist and an artist, who also believed that architects have an important social responsibility.
In this time of ‘stararchitects’ and relentless globalisation, Kahn’s reputation is being redefined - his search for an architecture that grows out of a sense of place seems more important than ever.
Kahn was an influence on many architects who came after him – the Design Museum exhibition features interviews with Frank Gehry, Renzo Piano, Peter Zumthor and Sou Fujimoto amongst others. Also on show are architectural models, original drawings, travel sketches, photographs and films.
Kahn’s greatest masterpieces all take the form of inspiring institutions: The Salk Institute in La Jolla, California, designed to be ‘a facility worthy of a visit by Picasso’; the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas – a showcase for Kahn’s extraordinary ability to work with light; and the National Assembly Building in Dhaka, Bangladesh – testament to the incredible impact of his monumental style. Each project is fully represented in the exhibition, which aims to bring one of the twentieth century’s greatest master builders to a new audience.
Louis Kahn: The Power of Architecture is on show at the Design Museum until 12 October 2014.