About this title:
US architect Louis Kahn (1901-74) was one of the greatest influences on world architecture during the second half of the twentieth century. This monograph focuses on Kahn's major designs - from the Yale Art Gallery in New Haven, Connecticut, the Salk Institute, La Jolla, California, the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas, Phillips Exeter Library, Exeter, New Hampshire to the National Capital of Bangladesh and the Indian Institute of Management in Ahmedabad - as well as a number of unfinished projects, in order to understand his work and philosophy
The considerable beauty of Robert McCarter's book about Louis Kahn, one of the titans of modern archtitecture, is akin to a Kahn building: squarish, monumental, monkish yet passionate and cunningly designed. The layout is exemplary, the straightforward chronological account of Kahn's career interspersed with conceptual histories of each of his important buildings, from the Yale Art Gallery to the Salk Institute to the National Capital of Bangladesh. The light splashes off the bright, thick pages in a way that would delight the master, and he would approve the clarity of the text and illustrations. Though the ample passages of Kahn's own prose are more poetical than McCarter's, in his soberly scholarly way, he's intellectually lively too, alert to Kahn's influences, from Frank Lloyd Wright to Buckminster Fuller, Barnett Newman to Noguchi. Fascinatingly, he traces the conceptual development of each major project--Kahn's masterpiece, La Jolla's Salk Institute, derives from the Acropolis plinth, Diocletian's palace, Hadrian's villa, the Alhambra, medieval monasteries, Renaissance churches, and Piranesi's plan to rebuild the ancient Roman Campus Martius (which also inspired the Bangladesh masterpiece). With exhilarated admiration, McCarter explains how Kahn coated the Salk project's concrete forms with polyurethane for perfect smoothness, added travertine stone and pozzuolana in the old Roman fashion to fashion textures and warm the tones, and fulfilled the master's ambition to fufill the material's potential: "Concrete really wants to be granite, but it can't manage." Wonderfully, McCarter provides computer renditions of masterpieces Kahn never created, including the stunning Hurva Synagogue in Jerusalem, which was to echo Wright's Johnson Wax Building. He gives a sense of Kahn the man, in his lifelong lover's quarrel with Wright and his hatred of the automobile. For a still deeper portrait, see Kahn's son's brilliant documentary My Architect. No serious student of modern architecture can afford to be without this landmark book, a great teaching tool about one of the great teachers of the 20th century. --Tim Appelo
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