1935-37

Louis I. Kahn

Congregation Ahavath Israel

1



George Howe, Maurice Speiser House (Philadelphia: 2005 Delancey Place, remodeled 1933).


Louis I. Kahn, Congregation Ahavath Israel now Grace Temple Church Inc. (Philadelphia: 6735 North 16th Street, 1935-37).
The simple, flat facade treatment of Howe's Speiser House renovation within a downtown residential block of Philadelphia may well be the precedent for Kahn's similar facade treatment of Congregation Ahavath Israel (1935-37) which is also within a residential block of upper north Philadelphia. Congregation Ahavath Israel was Kahn's first independent project.
"Louis I. Kahn, in many ways a spiritual successor to George Howe, seems to understand better than any architect alive today, the Beaux-Arts theories of architecture. These he learned from Paul Cret and from his years of association with Howe."
Robert A. M. Stern, "PSFS: Beaux-Arts Theory and Rational Expresion" in Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians (May 1962), p. 95.

1998.12.02 11:20
Re: def: AutoCAD Architecture
With regard to "flatness", take a look at Louis Kahn's first independent building commission--Ahavath Israel Synagogue, Philadelphia, 1935-7. My point being that "flatness" is an architectural aesthetic with a long history and very much independent of CAD. There are also some Venturi, Scott Brown and Associates buildings that absolutely revel in their flatness, e.g., any of the 1980s and 1990s university laboratory buildings. I also suggest you read Tom Wolfe's The Painted Word, within which you will find an analysis of the flatness of 1960s POP art.


2000.03.06
reenactment in Philadelphia
1. the Merchant Exchange and the choragic monument in Athens--this also relates to Schinkel's...
2. Strickland's Second Bank of the US and the Pantheon (and hence the model for many subsequent American banks).
3. Girard College as a "true" Corinthian temple.
4. B.F.Parkway as the Champs Elysee/Place de la Concorde.
5. the 2nd Street church tower reenacting City Hall tower--also the church on south 22nd street?
6. the Art Museum on Fairmont reenacting the Athenian acropolis.
7. Franklin Court.
8. Welcome Park.
10. cardo and decumanus.
11. Guild House reenacting Ahavath Synagogue.


2000.09.03
history of hypersurface architecture in Philadelphia
...plus maybe a "history of hypersurface architecture" in Philadelphia, e.g., the force-field of St. Francis de Sales Church; Institute for Scientific Information; Franklin Court; Welcome Park; and also the work of Kahn: Congregation Ahavath Israel, Alfred Newton Richards Medical Research Building and Biology Building, City Tower; [and also Giurgola's United Fund Headquarters;] and perhaps the best hypersurface of Philadelphia architecture, the work of Frank Furness, particularly the half castle bank facade (and this leads to Sullivan as a tangent).


2001.09.09 12:46
Re: Phila
Just five minutes north of Einstein is Louis I. Kahn's first executed building, which was in fact a local, neighborhood synagogue (1937), now... Then 10 minutes north of that is Beth Sholom (1955?), a Frank Lloyd Wright masterpiece.


2002.08.08 20:10
axis of synagogues
Ahavath Israel Synagogue [Kahn's first independent commission] was/is situated within a typical northern Philadelphia block of row homes where it is indeed atypical for a synagogue to be in the middle of the block. Nonetheless, Ahavath Israel is indicative of the large Jewish community living in northern Philadelphia, particularly along the North Broad Street corridor, during the first half of the 20th century. Although a large building within its immediate context, Ahavath Israel represents the smaller type of synagogue intended for more informal daily use by its neighbors.
By the 1950s, North Philadelphia Jews began moving out to the suburbs directly north of Philadelphia.


2002.08.08 20:10
axis of synagogues
[an excerpt from Somewhat Incompletely Louis I. Kahn:]
Ahavath Israel Synagogue [Kahn's first independent commission] was/is situated within a typical northern Philadelphia block of row homes where it is indeed atypical for a synagogue to be in the middle of the block. Nonetheless, Ahavath Israel is indicative of the large Jewish community living in northern Philadelphia, particularly along the North Broad Street corridor, during the first half of the 20th century. Although a large building within its immediate context, Ahavath Israel represents the smaller type of synagogue intended for more informal daily use by its neighbors.
By the 1950s, North Philadelphia Jews began moving out to the suburbs directly north of Philadelphia. In 1954-55, Kahn designed Adath Jeshurun Synagogue for a site along Old York Road about two miles directly north of Ahavath Israel. While ultimately not of Kahn's design, Adath Jeshurun is today on Old York Road, and it is worth noting that the Oser House by Kahn, 1939-43, is on Stetson Road directly across Old York Road from Adath Jeshurun. Furthermore, Beth Sholom Synagogue by Frank Lloyd Wright, 1954, is also on Old York Road about two miles north of Adath Jeshurun.
[Broad Street is the main north-south axis of Philadelphia, while Old York Road is a less rigid extension of Broad Street beyond Philadelphia's northern border. Both Broad Street and Old York Road are Route 611. There are many other/former Jewish institutions along North Broad Street and Old York Road, and their (remaining) architecture would make a very interesting study--hint, hint to those that like to take (full bodied) pictures of buildings.]


2002.08.08 22:33
Congregation or Synagogue ?
Question:
In Architecture in Philadelphia: A Guide Louis Kahn's Ahavath Israel listed as a Synagogue, yet, when built, the building's sign (which is now gone) stated:
CONGREGATION
(Star of David)
AHAVATH ISRAEL
Is there a difference between a Congregation (building) and a Synagogue? Is it proper to refer to the building as Congregation Ahavath Israel rather than Ahavath Israel Synagogue?


2002.08.09 15:20
Re: Congregation or Synagogue ?
I/Quondam already have a cad model of Hurva Synagogue, and indeed there is reason to believe that Kent Larson got the idea to construct computer models from me--I had submitted a grant proposal to the Graham Foundation in 1991 involving the building of computer models of unbuilt designs. I did not receive the grant, but Kent Larson did receive a grant from the Graham foundation the following year for the same type of proposal. Beyond that, also in 1991, I published slides and drawings of Le Corbusier's Palais des Congres (unbuilt 1964) and offered them for sale to academic architecture libraries. Harvard, U of Oregon, Berkeley and Miami U, Ohio bought the slides, and Harvard also bought the drawings. Is it just coincidence that www.greatbuildings.com began out of U. of Oregon?
I revisited Ahavath Israel today, and sadly the facade has been changed, I was told circa 2000. The whole portion of the facade above the recessed entry is no longer brick, but now a salmon colored, textured CMU. This is yet another building to have changed since I last took pictures of it. The curse of Quondam I guess.
It dawned on me last night that both Wright's Beth Sholom and Kahn's Adath Jeshurun are hugely triangular in plan. Wright mailed the preliminary drawings to Rabbi Mortimer Cohen on 15 March 1954. Kahn's design is dated 1954-55. Since Beth Sholom and Adath Jeshurun are (next-door) neighboring congregations, it wouldn't surprise me at all if architectural rivalry between the congregations was going on, and that Kahn even saw the Wright plans before he came up with his design. Has anyone heard of this possible connection before?
ps
I've been doing a lot of Kahn building photographing this week. I've never seen that Trenton Bath House before, and it was just wonderful to see it. Today I was at Bryn Mawn College to photograph the Kahn dormitory exterior. The building is in the final stages of a full overhaul/restoration. The place was/is crawling with workmen, so I went in and found my way up to the roof. and what a great Kahnscape that is. Mill Creek Housing Project, Philadelphia is now completely abandoned and boarded up. Richards Medical Buildings, U of P, still looks good, but is hard to photograph because of tight quarters and lots of surrounding vegetation.


2002.08.09 15:20
Re: Congregation or Synagogue ?
I revisited Ahavath Israel today, and sadly the facade has been changed, I was told circa 2000. The whole portion of the facade above the recessed entry is no longer brick, but now a salmon colored, textured CMU. This is yet another building to have changed since I last took pictures of it. The curse of Quondam I guess.



2002.08.11 13:23
Re: Kahn and Wright
Seeing the other day how Ahavath Israel Synagogue is now again changed was like a gift to me in that I was there looking because I'm working on Somewhat Incompletely Louis I. Kahn. I'm beginning to believe that the notion of incompleteness is exactly what's missing from design theory, teaching and practice, and, indeed, that an understanding of incompleteness could help remedy at least some of what you see as being so wrong today.


2002.08.11 13:23
Re: Kahn and Wright
Second, I agree with what you say about the nixing of Giurgola's design additions to Kahn's buildings (Kimbell and Salk). In reading the recent New Yorker article on Serra, I was reminded of how much I enjoyed the controversy over Tilted Arc as it unfolded. I am no advocate of the notion that so-called site specific art is somehow 'above it all.' Time and the changes it brings is one reality that I believe no one can prove or demonstrate to be otherwise. I rather enjoy seeing, documenting, and learning from the changes that come with time. In the early nineties I thought it would be fun to make a cad model of the Federal Building with Tilted Arc, an idea that fit well with what became Quondam.
Seeing the other day how Ahavath Israel Synagogue is now again changed was like a gift to me in that I was there looking because I'm working on Somewhat Incompletely Louis I. Kahn. I'm beginning to believe that the notion of incompleteness is exactly what's missing from design theory, teaching and practice, and, indeed, that an understanding of incompleteness could help remedy at least some of what you see as being so wrong today.
In the radio interview of Hani Rashid (that Brian told us about), just over 13 minutes into the interview Rashid said, "There is a famous adage by Louie Kahn that really one doesn't get to build until they're in their early fifties." I'm not sure where this adage comes from exactly, nor if that is indeed what Kahn really said, but the reality is that Kahn (who turned 50 in 1951) had already build a whole lot of buildings between 1935 and 1951. Kahn's work, however, did not receive wide recognition until the Yale Art Gallery (1950-53) and then (for the buildings) after. [Another thing Rashid said is that his firm never expected their Virtual New York Stock Exchange project to receive all the recognition it did, which completely contradicts what Rashid said at the Anything conference (June 2000 I think), that is, that he pretty much demanded the clients of the project to publicize it!)
If I am ever commissioned to design and execute a building that's not virtual, I know full well that I could never do it all on my own, thus I'd employ and justly acknowledge the work of others. I kind of do that already when I publish the letters of others at Quondam and Museumpeace. The point being that often what I write is indeed intertwined with what others have also written. The only dilemma in that is if I package these texts for commercial sale, then I might also be infringing the copyright of other's intellectual property. [I'm still working on figuring out a good design for remedying that.]
Seeing the Trenton Bath House for the first time last week while it was very much being used, more or less convinced me that Kahn indeed learned (and then knew) a whole lot about architecture, particularly architecture's osmotic potential--that place's integration of outside and inside is nothing less than a "breath of fresh air."


2002.08.12 15:45
recent observations
As I was driving down Spring Garden Street yesterday, a detail of Venturi and Rauch's Guild House caught my eye. The white brick wall either side of the recessed entrance (in contrast to the red brick of the rest of the building) immediately reminded me of the new two-tone masonry at Ahavath Israel. From the first time I saw Ahavath Israel in 1998, I got the sense that Guild House was somewhat of a faint reenactment of the synagogue. Now one could say that the original is reenacting its reenactment.



2002.08.12 15:45
recent observations
As I was driving down Spring Garden Street yesterday, a detail of Venturi and Rauch's Guild House caught my eye. The white brick wall either side of the recessed entrance (in contrast to the red brick of the rest of the building) immediately reminded me of the new two-tone masonry at Ahavath Israel. As RE can confirm, from the first time I saw Ahavath Israel in 1998, I got the sense that Guild House was somewhat of a faint reenactment of the synagogue. Now one could say that the original is reenacting its reenactment.
Later, while touring Manayunk with a friend that had never been there, I couldn't help but notice the storefront display of the Venturi, Scott Brown & Associates office on Main Street. On the window is a big sign that reads "Learning From Everything" and in the display area is a ladder and saw and a smaller sign hanging from the ladder that reads "under construction." Do you suppose that the message there delivered is indeed for they and us to now "learn from everything under construction?"
Tomorrow, if the window display is still the same, I'm going to take a picture of it and title the picture Learning from Everything Being Incomplete.



2002.08.12 18:08
more reenactment than I thought
In just comparing images of Ahavath Israel and Guild House, there are several features strikingly similar between the two building:
1. the 'main' facades projects out to the street and stand in contrast to the adjacent building (elements).
2. the entrances are ground level recesses within the main facade. (Interestingly, Ahavath Israel had three columns later installed within the recess to augment failing support of the wall above, columns that are now removed due to the new facade work, while Guild House always had an exaggerated column standing within the recess.)
3. the three individual windows symmetrically framing the center balconies of Guild House very much echo the three sole windows to one side of Ahavath Israel's otherwise facade.
4. the cornerstone setting/detailing of each building is virtual identical, except for the dates, of course--5698/1937 vs. 1965.
I am now reminded of an anecdote R. told me the day after I took R. and S. to see Ahavath Israel some Sunday morning October 2000. After our visit to the Kahn building, R. and S. went to have lunch with Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown. They told the famous architects about having just seen Kahn's first building. Venturi apparently acted in some kind of disbelief, as if the building didn't even exist. He said something like, "But it's not even in the catalogue!?!" I assume Venturi was referring the Louis I. Kahn: In The Realm of Architecture. R. told them to look up the (then) webpages at www.quondam.com that displayed images of the building.
I was immediately suspect of Venturi's apparent lack of knowledge of the building. Granted 1965 is a long time ago, and we all have incomplete memories. Nonetheless, Congregation Ahavath Israel (original sign and all) was very much featured within Vincent Scully's 1962 book Louis I. Kahn.
[Now imagine the computer screen you're looking at right now as an incomplete window display somewhere in Philadelphia, and repeat to yourself for the next 28 years, "Learning From Everything Venturi Forgot."]

2002.08.13 15:20
Kahn and Philadelphia Jewry
In doing all this recent research into Kahn's architecture of the early 1950s and prior, it becomes clear that most of Kahn's clients then were Jewish and/or Jewish institutions. Besides Ahavath Israel, Adath Jeshurun, and Philadelphia Psychiatric Hospital, about a dozen private houses, half of which were built, all appear to be for Jewish clients. It wouldn't surprise me if much of Kahn's 'networking' back then can actually be credited to his wife, Esther Israeli Kahn, a highly educated women, and a long-standing pillar of Philadelphia's Jewish community herself.
I'm mentioning all this because I believe it is indicative of how Kahn really began to achieve his greatness as an architect. Beyond the adage that "behind every great man there is a great woman," Kahn also had early exposure to great clients. So, before Kahn stepped up into the 'limelight' after the Yale Art Gallery, he was already at a nice, elevated place essentially created by Philadelphia's Jewry.


2002.08.16 13:49
Re: 1000 Kunstler
Interesting how Denise Scott Brown mentions "A small church or synagogue, set within a row of town houses or surrounded by office buildings, holds its own with dignity" in her editorial/op-ed piece on development of Lower Manhattan in today's NYTimes.


2005.12.23 15:51
What's good in your hood
The quondam Ahavath Israel Synagogue, Louis Kahn's first independent building (1935-7), on the 6700 block of N. 16th Street, Philadelphia. Note the salmon CMU of the facade is a 2000 renovation of Grace Temple Church.


2007.05.16 19:59
ever feel like you are just a shitty designer
Louis Kahn was 36 years old when his first (independently designed) building was completed construction. Now altered with pink CMU. Esther Israeli Kahn was probably the most instrumental in getting Kahn independent projects from 1935-1950. Esther was extremely well connected within Philadelphia'a Jewish community.


2007.10.12 11:17
Negative notes
In Goldhagen's Louis Kahn's Situated Modernism we read:
"In 1951, the [Adath Jeshurun] synagogue's leaders purchased a large polygonal site in Elkins Park, where many of its members were moving. The short end of the lot faced a major thoroughfare, and the remainder sloped back into a more pastoral setting that was bisected diagonally by a small stream (Fig. 4.1)."
And the caption of Fig. 4.1 reads: Sketch of the Elkins Park site for the Adath Jeshurun synagogue, 1954. From the Kahn Collection.
These citings convey misinformation. Kahn's design for Adath Jeshurun was sited on Old York Road within Philadelphia. Kahn's design was never executed, but Adath Jeshurun did ultimately build a new synagogue on a site (within a more pastoral setting) further north up Old York Road in Elkins Park. [This site misinformation is also conveyed within Louis I. Kahn: Complete Works 1935-1974.]
Goldhagen also mentions Wright's Beth Shalom [sic] synagogue. Beth Sholom is about a mile further north up Old York Road from the current Adath Jeshurun and about two miles north of Kahn's site for Adath Jeshurun.
Just coincidently, Kahn's first independent build work, the quondam Ahavath Israel synagogue, is about a half mile away from the Philadelphia site of Adath Jeshurun. And Kahn's Oser House is practically across the street from the bult Adath Jeshurun in Elkins Park. And Trumbauer built three Elkins' mansions for which Elkins Park is named. It's like a little architectural mecca along an ancient Indian trail.


2011.03.18 13:06
visited Kahn's grave today
Kahn is buried at Montefiore Cemetery. It's in Rockledge (with a Jenkingtown zip code, I think), and more or less in my neighborhood now. I learned that Kahn was buried there a couple years ago, but never pursued it further. Since Kahn's death day was yesterday, and it was a really nice day here, I decided to go find his grave. And that's what I did. Turns out the grave is within easy eyesight of a road I've driven down innumerable times over the last 30 years.
While on my walk through Pennypack Park this morning, I tried to think of what Kahn building is now closest to his grave, and I think it's the Oser House in Elkins Park. The next closest would be either Pennypack Woods housing and commons, Ahavath Israel, Esherick House, Korman House or Fisher House.

2015.06.19 10:33
Are diagrams in architecture bullshit and ditto for process?
"The Duck and the Decorated Shed" came within a year or two after the completed construction of Guild House (1961-66), coinciding with the marriage of Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown--23 July 1967.
Before Guild House there is George Howe's Maurice Speiser House (1933) and Louis Kahn's Congregation Ahavath Israel (1935-37) (Venturi's immediate Philadelphia architecture legacy) and Moretti's Casa "Il Girasole (1947-50) (effect of Venturi's study in Rome 1954-56).

««««

»»»»


3311c 3720z 3901 4032 4500z
www.quondam.com/40/4031.htm

Quondam © 2016.12.25