1962

Vincent Scully

Louis I. Kahn

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Light again had much to do with Kahn's project for the American Consulate at Luanda, in Portuguese Angola, and caused the wall to take a further step into space ( plates 99 103 ). Here one has the feeling that the project has otherwise remained fairly close to the first Form stage--perhaps appropriately so in this official program. The residence and consulate are both rigidly symmetrical, but the spaces are organized lucidly within their blocks ( plates 100, 101 ). Pierced masonry piers outside them carry huge pre-cast beams which support a sun roof of heat-breaking tiles, entirely separate from the unbroken rain roof below ( plates 101, 102 ) and so recalling Paul Rudolph's project for Amman, of 195455. Next to the piers, in front of all the floor-to-ceiling windows, free-standing walls, cut with their own arched voids and slots like tremendous keyholes, break the shattering glare of the place ( plate 103 ). Kahn has explained how such walls seem to cut glare better than pierced screens do and at the same time permit one to look out. He might also have said that their effect is spatial and massive rather than cosmetic, like that of the thin screens used by Stone and others. The openings in such walls need no glazing; they can exploit the rare purity of solid and void. "So therefore," wrote Kahn in Perspecta, 7, "I thought of the beauty of ruins . . . the absence of frames . . . of things which nothing lives behind . . . and so I thought of wrapping ruins around buildings." The wall now takes on added layers in space and memory. One thinks again of Rome, but the planes are stiffly propped above their reflecting pools; it is a two-dimensional Rome, not a three.


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