1962

Vincent Scully

Louis I. Kahn

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More directly, the shapes used by Kahn can be found not only in Choisy but also infinitely repeated in the composite photostat of Giovanni Battista Piranesi's map of Rome, drawn by him for his book on the Campus Martius, probably of 1762, which now hangs in front of Kahn's desk.
Vincent Scully, Jr., Louis I. Kahn (New York: George Braziller, Inc., 1962). p. 37.



Viaduct architecture for Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 1962. Louis I. Kahn. Plan drawn over Piranesi's plan of the Campus Martius.


2002.08.11 10:44
Kahn and Wright
Here is excerpt from Louis I. Kahn: In The Realm of Architecture (1997) with some commentary following:
on pages 79-80: Documented evidence of ties between Wright and Kahn is slight. His connection with Henry Klumb (1904-1985), a former associate of Wright's and a staunch supporter of his ideals, is noted in chapter 1. In 1952 Kahn and Wright both attended a convention of the American Institute of Architects, in 1955 (as previously noted) Kahn praised Wright's early work, and when Wright died in 1959 Kahn wrote in tribute [published in Architecture Record], "Wright gives insight to learn / that nature has no style / that nature is the greatest teacher of all / The ideas of Wright are the facets of his single thought." Scully recalls that later that same year Kahn made his first visit to a Wright building, the S.C. Johnson and Son Administration Building (1936-39), where, "to the depths of his soul, [he] was overwhelmed."
It is curious in that the Scully quotation (from Scully's book Louis I. Kahn (1962)) seems to harbor a mistake, a distancing, and/or perhaps even an intentional fabrication. I, for one, find it hard to believe that Louis Kahn never visited Beth Sholom prior to late 1959, thus I doubt very much that it is true that the first Wright building Kahn visited was the S.C. Johnson building in Wisconsin. Now I have to wonder about Scully and Brownlee/DeLong (authors of Louis I. Kahn: In The Realm of Architecture). Was Scully or even Kahn(!) fabricating a false history that would distance Kahn safely away from being suspected of having ever been really influenced by Wight? And why did Brownlee/DeLong not notice and/or correct what appears to be just plain false? The only real reason I'm pointing all this out is that I believe it is much more valuable to know how designs really came about rather than how they really didn't come about.
This leads me to bring up the anecdote R. shared here as to what Wright said to Venturi about Kahn, i.e., "Beware an architect with one idea." If Wright said this to Venturi circa 1955 (date of Beth Sholom construction), then the "one idea" Wright was speaking of may well be the Yale Art Gallery (1950-53). The Yale building is the first to get Kahn wide recognition, particularly for its triangulated ceiling structures, a structure, moreover, that Kahn further investigated in the second scheme of Adath Jeshurun. Furthermore, the second scheme of Adath Jeshurun is remarkably similar diagrammatically to the stairwell plan within the Yale Art Gallery, i.e., a triangle within a circle.
Could it be that Venturi told Kahn what Wright said, and that is perhaps why Kahn wrote "The ideas of Wright are the facets of his single thought"?


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 RE told me the day after I took R and SB to see Ahavath Israel some Saturday morning October 2000 (I think). After our visit to the Kahn building, R and S went to have lunch with Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown. The guys 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 (you know, the incomplete publication I'm reading these days). Ron told them to look up the (then) webpages at wqc 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."]


2002.08.24 12:42
Kahn and the New Testament
Kahn's upbringing was wholly Jewish, though not strictly Orthodox, but as a boy he discovered and read the New Testament on his own. He has since said it was as if a sword had pierced him. "They've got us now," he said, and buried it in the snow.
Vincent Scully, Jr., Louis I. Kahn (New York: George Brazillier, 1962), pp. 11-12.


2012.03.24 09:20
Re: Traditional Architecture
In preparation for a forthcoming Quondam exhibition of "The Philadelphia School," just yesterday I began (re)reading Scully's Louis I. Kahn (1962) where we see Kahn's early 1920s Beaux Arts architectural education being somewhat of a hindrance during the 1930s and 1940s, but then significantly informing the beginnings of his mature design work from the 1950s onward. And, by the late 1950s we begin to see the influence of Piranesi's Ichnographia Campus Martius, e.g. First Unitarian Church, scheme 1, 1959; Salk Institute Meeting House, 1959; Bristol Town Hall, 1960.


2012.07.18 15:45
The Philadelphia School, deterritorialized
As I found out yesterday, Architecture on the Edge of Post Modernism: Collected Essays 1964-1988 (2009) is one of the very few books (if not the only book) on architecture where the term 'Philadelphia School' is used on more than a few separate occasions--six times to be precise, but further reference to the architects of the so-called Philadelphia School implicitly expands the number of citations. In one sense, this shows the relative obscurity of the notion of a Philadelphia School, yet, at the same time, it is not surprising that Stern is the one to have often written about it. As the editor of Perspecta 9/10--a book I often heard referred to as "the Bible" while I attended architecture school in Philadelphia in the mid-1970s--Stern did much to expand the distinction of the Philadelphia School. For example, without Perspecta 9/10 in early 1965 there very likely would not have been Zodiac 17 in 1967.
It may well be that the first time the name Robert Stern appeared within a published architectural text is on the first two pages and the second to last page of Vincent Scully's Louis I. Kahn (1962):
"Much material for them was gathered by Thomas R. Vreeland, Jr., of Philadelphia, a graduate of Yale, who was employed in Kahn's office for a number of years, and they have been completed and rearranged under my direction by Robert A. M. Stern, a graduate student at Yale, whose developing study of the life and times of George Howe, a close associate of Kahn's, has aided me immeasurably in this book."
"But the researches of Banham and, more recently, of Stern, now force us to recognize the tenacious solidity of much of its academic theory, as distilled from Viollet-le-Duc and others by Choisy, Guadet, and Moore."
Auguste Choisy, Histoire de l'Architecture, Paris, 1899. We are indebted to Reyner Banham, in his Theory and Design in the First Machine Age, New York, 1960, for insisting upon the general significance of Choisy in modern architectural theory. A related theme has been treated by Robert Stern in his article on George Howe's academic background, "P.S.F.S.: Beaux-Arts Theory and Rational Expressionism," to be published in the Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians in 1962, along with William Jordy's discussion of the same building as a monument of the International Style.
The last paragraph of "P.S.F.S.: Beaux-Arts Theory and Rational Expressionism" reads:
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 [It was Esther Israeli Kahn who surprisingly told us in 1975 that our architecture school was actually within a 1920s office building designed by Paul Cret.] and from his years of association with Howe. In his actual building Kahn has not always been able to find suitable expressions for his theoretical convictions, and his growth has been slow. But it seems fitting that today it is Kahn who speaks for an architecture of 'meaningful form' and 'meaningful spaces', an architecture which seeks to use what Howe called 'imaginative gifts', for what he also called a 'penetration of the meaning of things.' Furness, Cret, Howe, and Kahn perhaps constitute a Philadelphia School, one based upon principles other than those of simple parochialism or regionalism. In their architecture of imagination and intellect PSFS will always hold a central and honorable place.55
55. Jan C. Rowan's application of the term 'Philadelphia School' to the architects currently practicing and studying in that city seems to me a bit premature. See Progressive Architecture XLII (April 1961).
Apparently, what happened between 1962 and early 1965 is that Venturi and Giurgola, specifically, accumulated a body of both theory and design work which Stern featured prominently within Perspecta 9/10.

2014.03.17 13:22
17 March
It's becoming more and more clear that lots of the fuel that burned Tafuri's contemporary-architecture-critique fire came from Scully's early 1960s writings. And, judging from a comment I once saw/heard Scully make about Tafuri, I think he [Scully] already knew it.


So Koolhass is a recreational traditional architect?
2014.03.20 17:24
17 March
Perhaps it's more actually an echo of something Kahn did 53 years ago.



2014.03.20 19:48
17 March
Koolhaas was 17 years old and in the Netherlands when the picture was taken at Kahn's office in Philadelphia. The picture was then featured within Scully's book, Louis I. Kahn (1961). Marshall Meyers took the picture. (Meyers was in charge of completing the Yale Center for British Art after Kahn's death; I met Meyers briefly one evening, Fall 1981, in Yale's A&A building, and again the next morning in the Center for British Art. That's also the second and last time I saw 'Teeny', the mosquito embedded within one of the large window panes of the fourth floor corner-toward-the-Green gallery. The co-worker I showed Teeny to was astounded that I actually knew that tiny remnant of an insect was indeed there.
My guess is that Koolhaas/OMA came to Piranesi's Ichnographia Campus Martius via Tafuri, who, in any case, came to the Ichnographia within contemporary architecture via Scully/Kahn.
ECHO ECHo ECho Echo echo e c h o


2014.09.12 19:25
How to read like an architect.
I'm still in the process of reworking Vincent Scully's Louis I. Kahn (1962), and it's a real pleasure and learning experience having the images along side the text (instead of all the images at the back of the book. --4076b-4076e (so far).


2015.05.24 13:33
Stop the presses: Paul Goldberger's take on critical relevance in the social media age
The "lineage" goes back even more. Among the critics on Venturi's 1950 Princeton thesis are George Howe and Louis Kahn. George Howe was Chair of the Architectural Department at Yale from 1950 to 1954. That's when Louis Kahn (a sometimes partner with Howe during the 1940s) also taught at Yale. Scully writes Louis I. Kahn (1962) wherein he twice cites student Robert Stern whose thesis is on George Howe. Spring 1963 Venturi is a visiting critic at Yale, overseeing a master's class studio on precast concrete, which he teaches with the chair of the department, Paul Rudolph.
(Rounding out the "Philadelphia School" theme) Goldberger wrote a nice piece on "Works of Mitchell/Giurgola" in a+u 75:12.
One of these days I'll computer model the Brant House Addition, a Venturi addition to a Venturi house. Not too dissimilar to Mom goes eclectic.
And regarding Paul Goldberger's take on critical relevance in the social media age, I'm thinking somewhere between "In the future everything (critical) will be an advertisement" and "In the future everything (critical) will be self-published." Yikes, does that mean in the present/future everything critical will be a self-published advertisement?!


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