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Docomomo Journal 58

Louis I. Kahn, The Permanence
(100 pages)

INDEX

EDITORIAL

Transcendence
and permanence

BY
ANA TOSTÕES

INTRODUCTION 

Kahn´s
Modernism and its Renewal 

BY DAVID
N. FIXLER 

ESSAYS

What
Decides “Heritage”? Lessons from a Comparison of Louis Kahn´s
Commercial and Institutional Projects 

BY
LLOYD L. DESBRISAY 

The
Trenton Bath House Restoration: Challenges in Sustainability 

BY
MICHAEL MILLS AND ANNE WEBER 

Managing
Expectations — Contemporary Design Culture, Conservation and the Transformation
of The Richards Laboratories 

BY
DAVID FIXLER 

Conserving
the Teak Window Wall Assemblies at the Salk Institute for Biological
Studies 

BY
SARA LARDINOIS AND KYLE NORMANDIN 

With
the Help of Nature: Kahn, the Wood House and the Culture of Stewardship

ANDREW
FEARON 

The
Yale Center for British Art: a Building Conservation 

BY
GEORGE KNIGHT 

INTERVIEWS 

David
B. Brownlee interviewed by Ana Tostões

William
Whitaker interviewed by Ana Tostões

DOCUMENTATION
ISSUES 

Preservation,
Restoration and Upgrade of the Indian Institute of Management in Ahmedabad,
India 

BY
BRINDA SOMAYA 

Louis
Kahn in Tel-Aviv 

BY
JEREMIE HOFFMANN AND HADAS NEVO-GOLDBERST 

Post-War
Modern Architecture in Tunisia 

BY
ELISA PEGORIN AND LUCA EULA 

Lawn
Road Flats (The Isokon) — A New Vision of Urban Living 

JOHN
ALLAN 

Isokon
Furniture — Modernist Dreams in Plywood 

BY
MAGNUS ENGLUND 

Conservation
or Change for Works of the Modern Movement 

BY
JAMES DUNNETT 

NEWS 

BOOK
REVIEWS 

APPENDIX

EDITORIAL

Transcendence
and permanence

"You
can never learn anything that is not a part of yourself."

Louis
Kahn, "Silence and Light", 1969

"The
Mediterranean is full of wonder and beauty. The parts I saw around Italy I
shall never forget."

Louis
Kahn letter to Anne Tyng, 1953

"Louis
I. Kahn fascinate us all with his passion for Mediterranean culture. Precisely
at the moment when the centre of the dominant culture moved from Europe to
North America, he was able to immerse himself in the Roman brick structures of
the great classical buildings, interpreting the timeless forms of antiquity.
When the glass curtain of the bureaucratic International Style became
trivialized, he turned to the archaic sources of architecture to discover
light, matter and desire, in the pyramids of Gis. or in the ruins of the
Caracalla Baths. Kahn is a unique case in the history of 20th-century
architecture: he introduced the question of monumentality, a matter heretical
to the Modern Movement, and emphasized the value of permanence, and the
tectonic character and materiality of constructive elements. He was able to
read History creatively, interpreting the permanent value of the monuments for
the community and rescuing their public sense of place. Posing questions such
as “what do you want, brick?” or “does the inside of a column contain a
promise?”, he produced an impressive body of work and a doctrine with
originality, often appearing philosophical, poetic or even mystical. Moving
away from dogmas, but never losing the functional and constructive sense of
modulation, he broke the systematic use of fluid space and reintroduced a sense
of ritual and the value of solemnity, while achieving the most suggestive
syntheses between modernity and tradition, as Otávio Paz recognized, between
the use of technique and memory. 

Louis
Isadore Kahn was born on 1901 on the Baltic island of Osel which, at that time,
was part of Russia (now Saarema, Estonia). He grew up in the bosom of a Jewish
family who emigrated in 1905 to the USA, settling in Philadelphia. When he was
3, an accident disfigured his face and hands. At 5, scarlet fever changed his
voice, delaying his starting school, and determining a special destiny in a
precarious family context. Kahn chose to be a painter, but his fascination for
architectural history led him to enrol in architecture. In 1928, 4 years after
graduating, he travelled for a year in Europe, drawing the temples of
Antiquity. In 1950 he returned to Italy, beginning what would become a new
cycle in his life: the period of growing glory that nurtured him until 1974,
the year of his death. In fact, he had lived for 50 years and worked for
about 25 when he finally found fame, with the Yale Center for British Art.

This
DJ reveals the cross-section of subjects that restoration raises in Kahn works.
From houses to facilities, from public authorities to private owners, from
America to Israel or India, written contributions demonstrate how his buildings
have proven their resilience and character.

I
wish to thank David Fixler for being such a dedicated and committed guest
editor, the authors for having shared their remarkable experiences in the
restoration work, and William Whitaker and David Brownlee for the interviews
that complete this Journal with their unique insights. Very special thanks must
be given to the Architectural Archives of the University of Pennsylvania, for
having graciously shared precious iconography and, in that context, once again
to William Whitaker who daily “watches over” the Louis I. Kahn Collection, with
more than 200 projects, 6,363 drawings, 29,813 working drawings, 100 models,
12,140 photographs, correspondence, a personal library and awards. In fact, the
essential revision of Kahn’s work and theories was made two decades ago, when
the investigation carried out from this monumental archive resulted in the
exhibition that travelled between 1991 and 1994 to 7 museums in America, Europe
and Asia, and the magnificent In the Realm of Architecture that constitutes the
work of reference to understand the work and the man, that has been completed
since then (see exhibitions and book reviews section). Finally, a special
thanks to GCI, for their support to this journal, to Yale Center for British
Art directors’ Amy Meyers and Cecie Clement, and to docomomo US/Philadelphia
and friends who conducted visits on Kahn buildings: Bianca Sforni, Bryn Mawr,
Charles Firmin-Didot, Dan Macey, Larry Korman, Maureen Ward and Paul Savidge.

After
more than a half-century of use, it is deeply gratifying that society is still
able to testify to Kahn’s knowledge and built heritage, renovated by some of
the most skilled architectural offices, and can still rediscover the intensity
of its poetics, where the transcendence of architecture is perpetuated with
power, beauty and plenitude."

By
Ana Tostões

Chair
of Docomomo International

References

KAHN,
Louis, “Silence and Light, 1969", in Alessandra Latour (ed.), Louis I.
Kahn, writings, lectures, Interviews, New York, Rizzoli, 1991. 

BROWNLEE,
David B., DE LONG, David G. Louis I. Kahn: In the Realm of Architecture, Los
Angeles, Museum of Contemporary Art/New York, Rizzoli, 1991.

PAZ,
Octávio, Los Hijos del Limo, Barcelona, Biblioteca de Bolsillo, 1998 [1974].

KAHN,
Louis, “Louis Kahn Letter to Anne Tyng, 22 November 1953”, in Anne Griswold
Tyng (ed.), Louis Kahn to Anne Tyng: The Rome Letters 1953-1954, New York,
Rizzoli, 1997.


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