I remember pulling this thin book (Louis Kahn: Conversations with Students) off of the shelves of the architectural library at Georgia Tech. I was immediately attracted to this book because of its size and the simple and poetic title of the first chapter – White Light, Black Shadow. Once I began to read, I was intrigued by the book being laid out like the structure of a poem.
I loved the simple but poignant question being asked in that chapter:
“What is the shadow of white light?”
Within seconds and without seeing a single building, I immediately became a fan of Louis Isadore Kahn.
Now, mind you this “discovery” was totally new to me, but not to any of my professors or some classmates. My discovery was kind of like when you first start dating someone and things are new, fresh and exciting. During this critical and precious time, it pains you to hear anyone speak ill of the person you’re interested in. I remember having one of the Kahn books (Between Silence and Light) at my studio desk and a studio professor jokingly telling the story of how Kahn’s body was discovered at his death or how another professor slyly remarked on how “Louis loved the ladies…“.
Well, what I loved was how poetically he expressed space. The forms he used were mostly platonic, but the manner in which he “softened” these often thought of rigid shapes was spectacular. Below are some of the projects (and quotes) that solidified Kahn as one of my favorite architects…
“A room is not a room without natural light” – Fisher House (1960-67).
“I asked the brick, ‘What do you like, brick?’ And brick said, ‘I like an arch.” – IIMA Building (1960’s).
“A great building must begin with the unmeasurable, must go through measurable means when it is being designed and in the end must be unmeasurable.”
(Note: I know this is an iconic image that has been seen often, but it still holds a considerable amount of poetic power!). Salk Institute for Biological Studies (1960’s)
“Architecture appears for the first time when the sunlight hits a wall.
The sunlight did not know what it was before it hit a wall.” – National Assembly Building of Bangladesh (2 images; 1963) & Kimball Art Museum (1 image; 1972).