The Philadelphia School, deterritorialized


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Louis I. Kahn

Kimbell Art Museum

"Losing Face"
k. I think it is wrong to call the Stirling rotunda dead, but rather much more alive than the traditional interior dome. I will here present my old argument of the outside and the inside having to be different, yet some of the best buildings in architectural history achieve their greatness by bringing the outside inside. The Pantheon is my foremost example and Kahn's Kimbell Art Museum will be the second example, and along with the skylight slit, there is also the "unnecessary" porches which are also a non-facade. The "dome" of Stuttgart is placed by the actual dome of the sky itself.

1999.06.27 19:23
Today, I remembered that the inside-outside coexistence in some architectures also falls under what I consider osmotic architecture--the equal exchange of inside and outside, e.g., the Pantheon, Kahn's Kimbell Art Museum, porch/stair hall of Schinkel's Altes Museum. In light of this, I think the inside/outside distinction of limbo architecture needs some further consideration. I like limbo architecture's notion of becoming, and I also think the notions of restraint and neglect should be added to the definition. Since I see osmotic architecture as the manifestation of something sacred, perhaps limbo architecture is the profane counterpart of osmotic architecture, or maybe (even better) limbo architecture exists within the thin realm between profane and sacred. Osmotic architecture is 'uplifting' whereas limbo architecture is striving?

osmotic wholeness

1999.07.23 09:32
German doors?
Your parenthetical reference to osmotic has not escaped me. Indeed it surprised me, especially since you point out a very interesting example of that inside/outside, permeable space that manifests the osmotic in architecture. I know that I from time to time have posted (vague?) ideas about the osmotic (metabolic, etc.) in architecture, but I didn't think any of it was much considered by others. Seeking out the osmotic in architecture is a rewarding experience. So far, the best gauge I can come up with is to see the Pantheon in Rome and Kahn's Kimbell Art Gallery and Schinkel's stair hall (German doors?) of the Altes Museum as osmotic at the high end, and an open bus stop at the low end. There's lots of in-between stuff out there, and, of course, it would be great if architects began to consciously create osmotic spaces.

1999.09.11 16:24
architecture in cyberspace?
As to electromagnetic (radiation) architecture, i.e., architecture of light, the two best examples currently on this planet are the Pantheon in Rome and Kahn's Kimbell Art Museum.

2000.02.16 16:27
Re: Theory dynamics; what theories?
Saul writes:
Stephen Lauf proposed a different sort of dynamic as governing architectural theories, based on metabolism (!) I don't see how that view could be anything other than metaphorical, but it is intriguing if only because it raises one sort of alternative view (and thus introduces the notion that there could well be various competing accounts of architectural theory dynamics--hence one important task is to first grasp what those candidates are).
Steve replies:
I am not proposing "a different sort of dynamic as governing architectural theories, based on metabolism." Rather I am working out a theory (chronosomatics) whereby human imagination reenacts corporal physiology and/or morphology. The metabolic imagination is just one of the human imaginations; the others include the extreme imagination, the fertile imagination, the pregnant imagination, the assimilating imagination, the osmotic imagination, the high-frequencies imagination. I then further theorize that these various operative modes of imagination in turn are reenacted in architecture.
For example, I see the Pantheon and Kahn's Kimbell Art Museum as both prime example of an architecture that reenacts the osmotic imagination, which is an imagination that reenacts the physiological process of osmosis, which is the equalizing diffusion of concentrations either side of a semipermeable membrane. Both the Pantheon and Kimball are semipermeable (each in its own way) and both buildings work towards 'equalizing' the outside and the inside (again each in its own way). Furthermore, osmotic architecture seems to often capture a 'sacred' quality.

Re: Osmosis /Electromagnatism /(An)Architecture
The definition of osmosis you supplied is indeed the first definition of osmosis, but there are several others:
a process of absorption, interaction, or diffusion suggestive of the flow of osmotic action: as an interaction or interchange (as of cultural groups of traits) by mutual penetration esp. through a separating medium : a usually effortless often unconscious absorption or assimilation (as of ideas or influences) by seemingly general permeation< br> These subsequent definitions of osmosis relate rather well to architecture, as I've already mentioned, particularly to the architectural notions of transition from outside to inside and vice versa. I see the Pantheon in Rome and Kahn's Kimbell Art Museum as extremely fine examples of osmotic architecture. Furthermore, the Pantheon and the Kimbell are also extremely fine examples of electromagnetic architecture because they are both consummate examples of an architecture of light (i.e., electromagnetic radiation).
I am not here proposing that the above interpretations are the only correct interpretations of these buildings and the definitions under discussion, but I'm rather making connections between corporal physiological processes and architectures that for the most part haven't been made before.

museum collecting
04. Arts and Crafts Museum
07. Kimbell (barely)
14. Ryerss Museum
15. Franklin Court
16. Philadelphia as a museum of architecture

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."

2005.08.16 11:28
the agnostic design of spiritual space
I have some ideas about how to design sacred space, and they have to do with making it osmotic and electromagnetic. Some of Kahn's best architecture is osmotic and electromagnetic.

2005.08.16 11:41
the agnostic design of spiritual space
Kimbell Art Museum is the prime example. The common spaces of Erdman Hall also have a sacred quality. As to osmotic and electromagnetic, that's literal and figurative both, very much like the medium being the message.

2005.08.16 12:57
the agnostic design of spiritual space
You say "my focus has always been on light" and what is light but electromagnetic radiation? And osmosis is equalization either side of a semipermeable membrane. The architecture of Kimbell Art Museum is a semipermeable membrane that "equalizes" electromagnetic radiation.



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