1962

Vincent Scully

Louis I. Kahn

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Market Street East is clearly still in the realm of Form, of the broad conception of Order and of Burnham's "Make no little plans." Without this large frame of reference nothing meaningful can be done in the small. It now remains to be seen how Kahn, if given the opportunity, might Design specific buildings and spaces within the area and so conceive new forms thereby. He is now seeking out such in his most recent drawings ( plates 129, 130 ). On Independence Mall, however, at the intersection of the proposed Greenway to the Delaware, Edmund Bacon, Executive Director of the Philadelphia City Planning Commission, has already made Kahn's projected Mikveh Israel Synagogue the pivotal building of an urban space where two long axes, one vehicular, the other pedestrian, will have their joining. Design for the Synagogue has only begun. It constitutes an opportunity for Kahn long due, long awaited, and an appropriate one, since this was the proud Sephardic congregation of Haym Salomon: patriot, partisan, spy, condemned to death for the Revolution and, totally unrecompensed, one of its major financiers to the utter limit of his personal fortune. A financial genius, he died in 1785, no richer than Kahn was born.

In his visits to the University of Virginia, for whose new Chemistry Building his drawings are well under way, Kahn sleeps in Stanford White's Colonnade Club, behind the intricately articulated Units of Jefferson's splendid Lawn. Above, to the southeast, that same compelled and devoted intelligence is physically palpable again in the house that surmounts the dome of its little mountain. If Kahn's building continues the general movement of his design, its brick walls and heroically scaled members, no less than its structural integration of "served" and "servant" spaces, should bring it closer in form and intention to Jefferson's works at Charlottesville than any of the buildings constructed there since that time. The University is to be congratulated upon the precision of its choice.


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