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Architectural Theory Review


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Louis I Kahn @ 40s: Architecture in the


1950s
Gevork Hartoonian
Published online: 21 Jul 2008.

To cite this article: Gevork Hartoonian (2008) Louis I Kahn @ 40s: Architecture in the 1950s,
Architectural Theory Review, 13:1, 3-28, DOI: 10.1080/13264820801915096
To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13264820801915096

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ATR 13:1/08

Louis I Kahn @ 40s: Architecture in the


1950s

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GEVORK HARTOONIAN

Starting with the particularities of the postwar American architecture, this paper
aims to discuss Kahns recoding of what might be called the culture of building,
for example, themes internal to the formation of the disciplinary history of
architecture. Additional attention is given to Kahns discourse on monumentality
pronounced in 1944. Emphasis is also placed on Kahns concern with structure
and ornament, but also the tectonic. The paper then presents an historical
analysis of Kahns design for the Philadelphia City Tower and the Yale University
Art Gallery, arguing that in spite of, or rather because of postmodern conditions,
the project of modernity should be considered neither as a perfect past, nor a
phenomenon that is working towards its completion. Modernity should rather be
considered a project whose periodic crisis is endemic to architects ongoing
recoding of the culture of building.

Opening
The years following World War II unleashed unprecedented uncertainties for American architecture.
Victorious from war, America was desperately seeking to consolidate her image beyond the pride in
liberty and democracy espoused by the countrys constitution. Another sense of identity was experienced
by a nation whose military industries would soon open the door to a consumer culture that would react
to the durability essential to the art of building. Architecturally, the nation was divided, if not
confused, around the following dilemma: how to institutionalize the post-war victory. In other words,
the question was how to domesticate the political apparatus of the State, avoiding strategies used by the
left and right political camps of those decades. In 1944 Elizabeth Mock, then the director of the
Department of Architecture in the Museum of Modern Art, wrote: A totalitarian nation demands
buildings which still express the omnipresence of the State and the complete subordination of the
individual. She continued, But the problem is not quickly disposed of, as a democracy needs

Corresponding author: Gevork Hartoonian, e-mail: Gevork.Hartoonian@canberra.edu.au


ISSN 1326-4826 print/ISSN 1755-0475 online
2008 Taylor & Francis
DOI: 10.1080/13264820801915096

Hartoonian

monuments, even though its requirements are not those of a dictatorship.1 It took almost two decades
for the profession to unearth the causes of the implied confusion.

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It is not the intention of this essay to address the historical context of the post-war American
architectural discourse in its entirety. Presenting a critical reading of Louis I. Kahns famous piece on
monumentality, written in 1944, this essay discusses the singularity of his early work. The intention is
to historicize Kahn not only within the postwar situation of America, but also within the project of
modernism. This dual historical trajectory and its architectonic implications are mostly dismissed by
scholars who either discuss Kahns work in association with what he said and wrote, or attempt to map
Kahn within the discursive formation of postmodernism.
In a gathering whose aim was to discuss what was then called The Period of Chaoticism, the post-war
uncertainty was seen as in part due to emerging new technologies, including the speed of social and
cultural transformation unfolding in the 1950s, and the failure of the project of modern architecture.
That architecture was expected during the early two decades of the last century to play a decisive role in
the transformation of western society had lost its incentives by the post-war period. Alongside other
participants in the gathering organized by Progressive Architecture, Kahn emphasized the importance of
institutions. Others underlined the need for community and system. Buckminster Fullers
technological optimism, for instance, was balanced by Philip Johnsons emphasis on the principle of
uncertainty. Obviously, Fullers position mediated between Kahns and Johnsons. Kahn presented a
discourse of architecture that was centered on postmodern interest in mass-culture and communication.
Johnsons presentation, instead, anticipated the formalism that would be entertained by the New York
Five Architects. In retrospect, nothing short of the debate between the Whites and the Greys speaks
for the post-war demand for a different direction in architecture. The content of the debate underpinned
the thematic of the architecture of postmodernism, overshadowing the scope of American praxis for at
least another three decades.2
During the 1950s, however, the choices were few. One could either endorse the instrumental logic of the
Enlightenment, or recall the humanist aspiration for regionalism.3 This paradox was exemplified in the
debate running between a group of people gathered around Lewis Mumford, Clarence Stein and Henry
Wright, on the one hand, and the Haussmanian vision put forward by Robert Moses, on the other. In
this paradox, Frank Lloyd Wrights vision of democracy can be characterized as a bipartisan approach
(the term used in American political jargon), the thematic of which attained a new momentum in the
early work and writings of Kahn.

Historys Disquiet4
For the objectives of the argument presented here, it is necessary to remind the reader that contemporary
architectural historiography relies mostly on historicism.5 Even Sarah Williams Goldhagens timely
Coda does not do full justice to the issues that this essay will discuss. Rejecting the views that would
approach Kahns work from the postmodernisms presumed departure from modernity, the essays
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compiled in her book attempt to historicize a selected number of post-war architects, discussing
architecture in the historical context of events that shaped the years between 1930 and 1965. In her
contribution to the volume, Goldhagen discusses Kahn and Alvar Aalto in terms of situated
modernistsarchitects who, according to her, became ever more sceptical that architects could
significantly improve modern life by adapting their practices to the needs of industrial technology.6 The
final pages of her text do indeed provide a concise summary of the modernist ideas and idioms that
Kahn re-conceptualized in the socio-political and cultural field of post-war America, including the
problems caused by the emerging mass culture.7
Goldhagens text develops its argument at the threshold of a Foucauldian historicism. Criticizing the
myth of lone genius, she makes an attempt to situate Kahn not only in the intellectual life of post-war
America, but also in the architects personal experience of the era he lived through. To depart from the
traditional conventions of art history, which are mostly informed by the idea of style and periodization,
Goldhagens text draws primarily from Michel Foucaults discursive formation and Pierre Bourdieus
discourse on what is called the logic of Practice.8 Although the author acknowledges the importance of a
semi-autonomous understanding of architecture, her discussion of post-war architecture remains at a
discursive level. She is at best when the purpose of the text is to map the thematic of architectural
discourse along the socio-political and technological developments of the years ending with
postmodernism. A discursive approach to architecture, however, leaves questions of the following kind
unanswered. For example, why would a situated modernist like Kahn choose brick as the main
cladding material for most of his buildings? Or, what were the spatial and tectonic implications of this
choice? Was Kahns rejection of abstraction attuned to the modernists dislike of historicism, which in
his case means the whitewashed aesthetic of the international style architecture of the 1930s? Or, was it
a modernist indulgence with the Zeitgeist, though now seen through the fog surrounding the failure of
the project of modernity, and the postmodernist return to historical forms blended with stylistic and
tactile connotations? Goldhagen does address aspects of the issues raised here.9 Nevertheless, a sense of
in-betweeness10 is implied in these questions, which, if discussed in the context of what might be
called the culture of building, can produce a different understanding of Kahns architecture.
Elsewhere I have discussed the idea of the culture of building in terms of themes central to the
formation of the disciplinary history of architecture.11 One is reminded of the architectonics of the
inside/outside relationship: the dialogical rapport between column and wall, and the tectonic achieved
by poetic embellishment of a constructed form and that of the earth-work and the frame-work discussed
by the nineteenth-century German architect Gottfried Semper.12 Of interest here is the need to recode the
thematic of the culture of building when the overall scope of architectural praxis changes its form
according to socio-political and technological transformations endemic to the ongoing life of late
capitalism. What makes the presented paradigm useful is the emphasis it puts on the dialectics between
autonomy and semi-autonomy. While a discursive approach to contemporary architecture provides a
comprehensive understanding of how certain events and themes would influence the way an architect
thinks, or what motivates a critic to write on architecture, a discussion centred on the culture of
building highlights the tectonic implication of the same discursive formation. Instead of saying this or
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that concept was formative for an architects work, the suggested paradigm would rather underpin the
significance of the dialectics between autonomy and semi-autonomy for a critical understanding of the
complexity of horizon(s) that interweave the work of the architect with the text of the historian.
In discussing architecture in terms of the tectonics of the core-form and the art-form, for example, the
idea is to retain that which is internal to architecture. What this means is that architecture is not a
direct product of construction, and yet the core-form (the physical body of the building) inevitably puts
architecture in the track of technological transformations and scientific innovations. The same might be
said about the art-form: if the notion of beauty, centred on the subjective inner imagination, is
suspended, then the art-form remains the sole venue by which architecture is charged with aesthetic
sensibilities that are, interestingly enough, informed by perceptual horizons unleashed by technology.
The art-form also reveals the tactile and spatial sensibilities accumulated through the disciplinary
history of architecture. Therefore, while the core-form assures architectures rapport with the many
changes taking place in the structure of construction, the art-form remains the only domain where the
architect might choose to imbue the core-form with those aspects of the culture of building that might
side-track the formal and aesthetic consequences of commodification (a state of aesthetic exchange
fundamental to the cultural production of late capitalism) and yet avoid dismissing the positive aspects
of the latest technological developments.
This theorization of architecture is also useful for avoiding a linear or structuralist vision of history.
There are analytical moments in the historiography of architecture that suggest the reading of the
contemporaneity of architecture in a different light. Following Walter Benjamins idea of spectral
experience of history, Harry Harootunian writes, a history founded on the now of recognisability is
not a step in a continuous process, but, rather, a tableau, a presentation, a recovery of what was lost,
repressed, excluded.13 What does this statement suggest? Consider this: in 1929, Henry-Russell
Hitchcock coined the term the New Tradition,14 to discuss some buildings that would blend
modernisms architectural achievements with conventions the origins of which can be traced back to the
Arts and Craft movement. Recalling the work of early pioneers of modern architecture, Hitchcocks
vision seems less radical, so to speak, than, say, Sigfried Giedions. Nevertheless, the theoretical
dimension of Hitchcocks argument was alarming as far as the historicists investment in the Zeitgeist is
concerned. Hitchcocks position undermines Giedions, for whom the spirit of the time was the essential
driving force if architecture had to be modern. Obviously the urge to synchronize time and space was a
driving force during early decades of modernism. Alongside other thinkers, Giedion wholeheartedly
entertained the idea of Zeitgeist. Nevertheless, thinkers like Ernst Bloch held a different opinion. Bloch
argued that the present should be seen pregnant with ideas coming from both the past and the now of
the present. Thus, for Bloch there was no simultaneous understanding of architecture and time.15
Continuing along this track, one might expand the horizon of the culture of building to include the
materiality of the historical work on architecture (labeled either conservative or radical). If this last
proposition is accepted, then one might see in Kahns architecture the return of the new tradition, a
conservative turn of events perhaps, though blended with radical socio-political incentives such as the
claim for civic architecture and monumentality.
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The stakes are high for the current historiography of the architecture of the last fifty years.
Contemporary historians and critics are facing a body of well-crafted theories and buildings that were
not available to the architects and historians of the 1940s.16 This observation is an obvious one and
perhaps glosses over late seventeenth century literary debate between the ancients and moderns. But the
stakes are truly high if one suspends the linear vision of history and sees the apparition of the past,
which in this case means the presence of modernity, not only for post-war architecture, but also for the
architecture of postmodernism. What for the latter was intended to be a clear-cut departure from the
project of modernity turned out to be nothing but a deeper plunging of the cultural into that project.
Devaluation of all values and the prevailing gap between the language of architecture and the capitalist
forces of production and consumption are critical subjects for architectural praxis even today.17 The
modalities of this clash, however, change their form from one period to another.18
Consider Kahns famous aphorism, what the building wants to be. The phrase could be interpreted in
many ways.19 What needs to be added here is that What the building wants to be can also be discussed
in relation to Kahns obsession with the space-defining role he attributed to a structural system. Vincent
Scully suggests that, what the building wants to be as an ideal scheme is profoundly modified by how it
can be built and, perhaps most of all, by what all its specific functions want to be.20 What this means is
that, while the brick wanted to be an arch, Kahn tried to convince his imaginary interlocutor that an
arch is expensive to build, let alone the fact that by using a steel lintel the opening made in a brick wall
would be aesthetically more pleasing. While economic incentives could have also motivated Kahn to
formulate the idea of serve/service spaces, his earlier aphorism alludes to the dualistic nature of his
approach to architecture. Dualistic not only because his differentiation of House from a house is
peppered by the existential thinking in vogue in post-war years, but also because he wanted to re-think
the tectonic traditions anew. According to Arthur Danto, Kahns statement recalls the arche, the
beginnings on which true architecture rests.21 Kahns phrase is also suggestive of the split between sign
and signifier, discussed during the semiological phase of postmodernism. According to Kahn, House is
the form, in the mind of wonder it should be there without shape or dimension. A house is a conditional
interpretation of these spaces.22 Separated from its signifier, the building, an autonomous entity, gave
Kahn the chance to rethink the culture of building in conjunction with economic factors informing a
cost-effective construction system, whilst cashing in ideas and concepts that would justify his design
choicesthough mostly articulated in tectonic terms.
Having established the dialogical relationship between Kahns theorization of architecture and the
situation of the 50s, it is not farfetched to associate Kahns strategy with Hitchcocks ideas in the new
tradition. Similar to the latter, one can argue that Kahns was a transitional case, smoothing the way to
postmodern conditions (architecturally speaking). His was definitely a point of view moving against the
line of thinking that pushed the autonomy of the sign towards its formalistic endin both its historicist
and abstract manifestations.23 This much is clear from Kahns rumination on space and institutions,
and his belief that new spatial configurations will affirm a promise of life and will reveal new
availabilities and point to human support for their establishment.24 Kahns rapport with historical
typologies, his love affair with bricka mundane tactile and sensuous materialand finally, his
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recourse to monumentality, were indeed strategies resulting from the drive for the autonomy of
architecture, whilst at the same time addressing an historical necessity: Americas timely desire for
civic architecture, and the reconciliation of institutions with the demands of a mass-culture that was in
its formative years. Having briefly mapped the historicity of the post-war era, what should be asked is the
following: is it possible to expect a one-to-one correspondence between architectural form and the
architects theorization of his/her work? Thomas Leslie has convincingly demonstrated that in spite of
his inspiring words, Kahns architecture is entirely rooted in prosaic of practice and technique.25 His
observation demands channeling the discussion to the theme of monumentality and its tectonic
manifestation in Kahns early work.

Of Monumentality
In the classical treatises, the idea of monument is mostly associated with the memory of an event or a
person. During the Renaissance, for example, architecture was deeply connected with the culture of its
time. Even though the church authorities or monarchs were the principal patrons, architecture could
not but pursue its own language and thus was not totally sought after as a monument serving the state.
It was only after the nineteenth century and the rise of the bourgeois concept of nation and national
identity that the state came to terms with the idea of monument as an agent of power. Since then, even
the ruins of the past are charged with heritage value, establishing a different discourse of monument
that can be associated with the values of the art-work displayed in museums. According to Francoise
Choay, The historic monument has a different relationship to living memory and to the passage of
time. She writes, On the one hand, it is simply constituted as an object of knowledge and integrated
into a linear conception of time: in this case its cognitive value relegates it irrevocably to the past, or . . . .
to the history of art in particular; on the other hand, as a work of art it can address itself to our artistic
sensibility, to our artistic will.26 Thus we see the importance of nurturing the concept of
monumentality with visualitysomething to look at either in association with a historical event, or the
buildings admiration for its sublime beauty expressed in majesty and size. Such an appreciation of
architecture was unknown to the classical wisdom of building. Renaissance architecture, for example,
was comprehended in its similitude to the divine forces. This much is clear from the best churches and
villas built during the Renaissance where the image of cross and mathematical proportions, both
attributed to the body, would inform the buildings planimetric organization.
If the idea of monumentality was central to the nineteenth-century discourse on national identity,
during the post-war era the concept received a different currency. To rebuild the devastated citiesbut
also to camouflage the barbaric side of historyideas such as monument and civic values were called
to shore up the divide, but also to charge the emerging capitalism in America with a human face. The
point is not to discuss the socio-political history of the post-war era but to turn the discussion to the
ways architects, especially Kahn, internalized monumentality in theorizing architecture. Although Kahn
used the word monumentality occasionally,27 he was less concerned with the mere size of buildings. He
was rather keen for the message and the representational capacity of architecture. His generation, Kahn
claimed, is looking forward to its duty and benefits to build for the masses with its problems of housing
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and health . . . the nation has adopted the beginnings of social reform.28 But is it not one of the
characteristics of any institutional building to associate size with symbolism? And doesnt the
adjectival use of the word monumental open Kahns architecture to the discourse of excess, which is
attributable to a noun? Any response to these questions cannot but demand recourse to the historicity of
the concept of monument.
In the Lamp of Power, John Ruskin ponders the importance of mass, wall, and shadow, to discuss a
size that is associable with what he calls sublimity.29 The early modern architects, instead,
articulated monumentality in institutional buildings, which did not follow Ruskins interest in the
sublime beauty of architecture. The abstract and unadorned forms of modern architecture address
monumentality in the buildings aloof standing in the pre-modern context of European cities.30 Still a
different sense of monumentality was achieved by juxtaposing large-scale architectonic elements with
landscape, as noted in Luis Barragans work, for example.31
This rather brief comment on the subject reminds us of the idea of monumentality reformulated by
three prominent figures of modernism, Jose Luis Sert, Fernand Leger, and Giedion.32 Their argument
was based on a vision of monumentality that stands for the collectives ensuring a sense of totalization
that, as far as the architecture of symbolism is concerned, was not attainable by the abstract idiom of
early modern architecture. In retrospect, one might claim that the post-war discourse on civic
architecture and monumentality was suggestive of the rising idea of the collective implied in massculture, and the permeation of image as a visual means of institutionalizing the separation of sign from
signifier, if not monumentality from monument. Drawing conclusions from the ill fate of Le Corbusiers
1927 design for the Palace of the League of Nations, Giedion, for one, blamed politicians and
bureaucrats for the architects alienation from what he called the emotional life of the community.
The latter he believed to be the lost horizon seen from the humanist point of view.33 Comparing
Picassos Guernica of 1937 to Le Corbusiers project for the League of Nations, Giedion presented the
former as a work that responds to the emotional life of the community. He was also keen to remind his
readers that if architecture followed contemporary painting, then, rebirth of the lost sense of
monumentality could be announced.
As noted at the beginning of this essay, in the post-war years, the urge to return to the ethos of
humanism was strong. There were, however, exceptions to this generalization. James Ackerman, for
example, was of the belief that humanism is not attainable in modernity. To him, the appeal for
monumentality was a vain effort. In a forum on Monumentality and the City, held on December 12,
1981, drawing from Sigmund Freud, Ackerman made the argument that, we have severed links with
tradition and are forced to act without the benefit of the experience of the past. His position is
supportive of the claim that the classical monuments spoke to a collective value system that, since the
advent of modernization, has broken into pieces.34 Giedion and his colleagues, however, hold
functionalism responsible for architectures detachment from the common man, a popular phrase in
those days. In addition to the above-mentioned emerging mass-culture, the word collective acquired
special currency in the context of the new empiricism of the 1950s. J. M. Richards, the editor of
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Architectural Review, gave a new twist to the concept of collectivity and drew his readers attention to
modern architectures lack of appeal to, what he called, the man in the street. The collective also
acquired a new meaning through what many scholars have termed mass society or mass culture.
Hannah Arendt, for example, sees the rise of modern society with the decline of the family as a process
of annihilation that many groups have gone through as part of the formation of mass society.35
However, fundamental to Giedions vision of monumentality was the need to adorn the surface with
artificial lights, a design strategy that would provide for painters and sculptors the opportunity to play an
important role in the design of civic architecture. This last point resonates with the suggested post-war
eras turn to image and visuality, the communicative potentiality of which played a significant role in
the formation of mass-culture. Contrary to Ruskins esteem for the culture of stone, and the symbolism
associable with the products of handcraftsmanship, Giedion, rather, underlined the importance of
transparency and light for the surface.
Giedions vision of spectacle, and its capacity to express the emotional life of people, soon joined the
postmodernists interest in billboards. This much is again clear from Choay, who, while reminding her
readers of the importance of the idea of staging for Viollet le Ducs and Camillo Sittes vision of
national heritage, observes that artificial light, sound, and music do indeed divert ones attention from
building in favour of the spectator. Choay discusses these issues in light of the transformation of the
monuments with use-value into commodities that are packaged through the culture industry. She
writes, Pushed to its limits, animation becomes the exact inverse of the staging of monuments, which it
transforms into a theatre or stage. The building enters into competition with an autonomous show or an
event that is imposed upon it.36 Nothing short of her observation assesses Robert Venturis problematic
discourse on postmodernity. Following Las Vegass commercialized landscape, Venturi discussed
monumentality not in association with the cohesion of community, and big-scale volumetric spaces,
but in relation to a shift from spanning high volume to big, low spaces.37 Without wanting to exhaust
the contemporary discourse on monumentality further, it is timely to map Kahns ideas on the subject
in reference to Venturi, and aspects of the thematic of architectural discourse that go back to Viollet le
Duc.
Kahns theorization of architecture demonstrates his interest in the spiritual dimension of
monumentality achieved through investment in impressiveness, clarity of form, and logical scale.
These three categories frame an architecture that can be associated with the discourse of the
Enlightenment. He also emphasized the essentiality of scientific knowledge for the progression of art and
architecture, although galvanized by the aesthetic of the sublime. Interestingly enough, Kahns three
suggested categories recall the work of the nineteenth century rational positivists: Viollet le Ducs
discourse on methodology, for example, underlines the importance of material and techniques for the
emergence of a new architectural style. These tropes of the nineteenth century will find their
architectonic language in Kahns interest in history, and the modification of historical types using new
structural systems. Kahn soon realized, Leslie writes, that Economy, structural performance,
construction, and aesthetics could be intricately linked in an overall conception of building, if one
intends to attain monumentality.38
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Off Lightness
If one accepts the centrality of one or another kind of image for the formation of post-war cultural
discourse, is it not then convincing to associate Kahns architecture with the disciplinary history of
architecture, and his utilization of industrial building techniques? Of interest here is the separation of
the element of enclosure from the structure codified in the practice of contemporary architecture since
Le Corbusiers conceptualization of the Dom-ino frame. Of further interest is Kahns inclination to avoid
the perceptual lightness implied in early modernisms use of the frame structural system, whilst
developing a notion of monumentality that would aspire to heaviness (particularly in his later work)
and be even different from Le Corbusiers later work. This paradox not only recalls the architects Beaux
Arts training,39 but the fact that monumentality, both visually and formally, is primarily registered in
the traditions of masonry construction systems.
In raising these issues the intention is to discuss Kahns two important but diverse projects, the proposed
tower for the city of Philadelphia, and the Yale University Art Gallery.40 These two projects are important
because they demonstrate the American architects search for the language of monumentality at the
time when the postmodernist idea of both/and was not yet formalized. If there is any connotation of
both/and in the Yale Art Gallery, it has to do with Kahns interest in articulating the tectonic form, and
the need for ones aspiration for spatial comfort deeply rooted in the tactile and visual habits
accumulated in conjunction with conventional construction materials such as stone and brick.41
Now, if one considers Ann Tyngs project for an elementary school dated 1951 (Fig. 1), the same year
that Kahn received the commission for the Yale Art Gallery, then it is reasonable to agree with Leslies
claim that Kahn re-designed the ceiling of the latter building based on Tyngs advice at a time when

Figure 1 Ann Tyng, project for an elementary school, 1951, image from T. Leslie, Louis I. Kahn, 2005.

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most of the construction documents were prepared. Tyngs project demonstrates her interest in geometry
and the space-frame structural system beyond what Buckminster Fuller had already achieved. What
stands out in Tyngs proposed project, however, is the strong projection of a space-frame roof and its
simultaneous use as a support element: a tectonic configuration that has little to do with the tectonic
tradition of column and lintel. This observation is convincing when attention is given to Kahns design
for a tubular structure, Philadelphia city (Fig. 2). In addition to Fuller, references should be made to the
tubular structures used in the masonry roof of what seems to be an amphitheatre designed by Viollet le
Duc (Fig. 3).42 At this stage of his career, however, Kahn was interested in the nineteenth century
rational positivists search for architectural forms that were mostly motivated by new building
techniques. Likewise, Kahn was concerned with the craft of architecture and the poetic interpretation of
a chosen construction system. For Kahn, the tubular structure presented the natural growth of a
construction system. It had the potential to blend Greek knowledge of material and construction with the
modern I-beam system.
As far as the question of the tectonic is concerned, one might associate Kahns interest in spatial
potential of a given structure to that of Carl Botticher, the nineteenth century German architect. Unlike
Gottfried Sempers reservation concerning the monumental effects of iron structures, Botticher saw iron
as the most suitable construction material for covering space, rather than stone whose tectonic potential
was already exhausted.43 While some German architects designed iron structures whose members were
beefed up to provide a depth appropriate to the expected monumental effects, Kahns tubular structure
enjoys a sense of proportion that is analogous to the delicate relationship between a trees branches and
its trunk.

Figure 2 Louis I. Kahn, proposal for a welded tubular steel structure, Philadelphia,
1944. Image from K. Frampton, Studies in Tectonic Culture, MIT Press, 1995.

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Kahns design also recalls the classical debate


on the origin of architecture suggested in MarcAntoine Laugiers image of a wooden hut, or the
Vitruvian vision in which the Greek temple is
seen as the tectonic translation of a wooden hut
into a stone structure.44 There are two reasons
for Kahns esteem for tubular structures: the first
has to do with the availability of welding, a
technique that eliminates the problem of joint
in the I-beam structural system. According to
Kahn, in tubular structures the column becomes
part of the beam. The second reason has to do
with the analogy Kahn would make between
tubular structures and Gothic architecture. He
saw in tubular structures the potential for
improving the work of Gothic builders who
obviously did not have access to materials such
as steel and glass.45 Interestingly enough,
Kahns tectonic vision of space and construction
became more complex as he moved away from
the structural rationalist agenda. The suggested
departure is convincing if one accepts the
Figure 3 Eugen-Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc, project for
historical observation that Mies van der Rohes
a hall. Image from K. Frampton, Studies in Tectonic
later architecture had already exhausted tectonic
Culture, MIT Press, 1995.
forms available within the idiom of early
modernism. Also important to Mies of the
American period is the notion of repetition, and a tectonic that is centred on interlocking the element of
column to the lintel. Obviously this was an attempt to recode the classical notion of monumentality.46 If
Miess case was the monumentalization of technique,47 then, the following pages will demonstrate the
singularity of Kahns conceptualization of the paradoxical rapport between technology and
monumentality in his early work: dematerialization, lightness, but more importantly, modernisms
drive for volumetric composition against that of mass and heaviness.
Consider Kahns design for the City Tower, the Municipal Building dated 1952 (Fig. 4), whose triangular
plan recalls Miess 1921 glass skyscraper designed for Fredrichstrasse. Both architects wrap the final
form with a curtain-like glass membrane. The difference between these two projects is, nevertheless,
historical. Mies was less concerned with the placement of the vertical supports. His design stresses the
openness of floor space and its distinction from the placement of what Kahn would later call service
spaces. Still, a perspective drawing of the glass skyscraper shows the arrangement of floors and the
overall image of tower, the one that looks like a translucent mass cut out of an ice-cube. In Kahns
design, instead, the glass enclosure stops above the ground level showing its leg-like vertical supports
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Figure 4 City Tower, Philadelphia, 1952-57, image from K. Frampton, Studies in Tectonic Culture, the MIT
Press, 1995.

from which the buildings clothing is hung. Miess esteem for grafting the aesthetics of the new into the
traditional morphology of Berlin has no place in Kahns timely rapport with the post-war
experimentation, and the impact of new techniques on architecture. In Kahns hands the neoempiricism of the post-war era is molded with historical perspective. In Gothic times, Kahn claimed,
architects built in solid stones. Now we can build with hollow stones. The spaces defined by members of
a structure are as important as the members.48 Here he speaks for the spatial and formal potentialities
embedded in a triangular concrete space-frame structure, the members of which will be the main formgiving element of the final scheme. This much is clear from Kahns statement for the first scheme of the
tower, The tower is an experimental exercise in triangulation of structural members rising upward to
form themselves into a vertical truss against the forces of wind. The forces of gravity are secondary in a
tower rising high.49 The spatial and formal potentialities of a concrete triangular space frame played
also an important role for the final scheme of Kahns addition to the Yale Art Gallery (late March 1952)
although with a different end in view.
According to Thomas Leslie, Kahn abandoned the earlier scheme of the Yale Gallery (April 1951) where
the square structural grids system dominated the planimetric organization, leaving no room for a
structural system, which can harbor the mechanical needs of rooms and spaces and require no
covering.50 Kahns early rapport with modern architectures concern with form and structure made
him to realize that his own idea of monumentality demanded a tectonic configuration that would
respond to the complexity involved in knotting together the support and service elements. To this end, he
had to look for another historical precedent, the French connection, discussed by Kenneth Frampton.51
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Accordingly, Kahn approached the experimental work of Etienne-Louis Boullee and Claude-Nicholas
Ledoux for two ends: firstly, to explore the form-giving power of axes, hierarchy, and the importance
given to the composition of the processional spaces, circulation; secondly, to reinterpret the typological
work of the French Revolutionary architecture in reference to the culture of building, the nineteenth
century discourse on the tectonic in general, and the tectonic dialogue between the column and the wall
in particular.
In the Yale Art Gallery, Kahns design concerns a standstill space that is framed by the column and the
wall (Fig. 5). According to Vincent Scully,52 although Kahn had problems with the wall in his early
work, after his experience with tubular structures, he did not use the column as the sole architectonic
element dominating the space. Kahns departure from structural positivism opened the possibility for a
tectonic practice in which the wall emerged as the essential form-giving element. On this move, which
became the main language of his later architecture, Frampton has this to say: In one design after
another, Kahn constantly strove to reveal the structural skeleton, together with its cross-sectional
reduction in areas as the load diminished. For Frampton, the Washington University Library of 1956 is
Kahns last didactic tectonic essay, and thereafter, masonry would play a more decisive role in his
work, either rendered as a screen wall or treated as a kind of stressed-skin construction.53 There are two
reasons for the shift in Kahns tectonic thinking: firstly, the need to integrate mechanical elements
within a given structural system, a phenomenon new to architecture; and secondly, the need to

Figure 5 The Yale Gallery, plan, image from C. Wiseman, L. I. Kahn, 2007.

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articulate a flesh suitable to the expected image of civic


architecture and monumentality. After the Yale Art Gallery,
where the mechanical elements are hidden in the
structure of the ceiling (Fig. 6), Kahn decided to channel
those elements through vertical enclosures. The exaggerated volume of service spaces is charged with a
monumental effect, notable in Richard Medical Research
Laboratory, University of Pennsylvania (Fig. 7).
Secondly, the shift should be discussed in terms of what
civic architecture meant to Kahn. In the context of
American mass-culture of the 1950s, Kahn soon realized
that his idea of civic architecture is attainable not only in
the conventional socialist thinking he had embraced in
Philadelphia, but also in the institutions that could have
Figure 6 The Yale Gallery, detail of the
an impact beyond their immediate precincts.54 To this,
ceiling,
image from T. Leslie, Louis I. Kahn,
one should add the aesthetic side of Kahns understanding
2005.
of the role an institution played in the America of the postwar era. Even though the City Tower project expressed
monumentality through its exposed structural system, the time still was not ripe to blend
monumentality with the modernist aesthetic of abstraction. And yet the suggested aesthetic dimension
was in part a derivative of Kahns close experience with the abstract expressionism in painting, many
painters of which were his colleagues at Yale. The work of Willem de Kooning and Mark Rothkoto
mention the two most famous namesinvolved the employment of solid masses of unmixed colour,
fundamental geometries, and the expression of the act of making, but also light and darkness.55 This is
what Kahn thought a civic centre should look like. While lecturing at Tulane University Kahn declared:
At Yale, now, we are given a problem which is a civic center. Please forget the word civic and please
forget the word center. Thats important. If you think of civic, what do you think of? You think of the
city hall, you think of the firehouse, the post office, you think of other things that go into a civic
center.56 Underlining the ineffectiveness of holding on to the old idea and believing that the people
actually could participate in the politics of decision-making, Kahns position alludes to the power of
communication as the emblem of a civic centre. And this shift in conjunction to his simultaneous
esteem for room and the brick wall, though occasionally articulated in lacerated surfaces, necessarily
ended in taking two steps away from Mies.
Kahn had to abandon both the Miesian idea of large space with no identical function, and the tectonic
of steel and glass architecture. The result was an image of architecture in which the served space is
visibly framed by its frame-structure while the service spaces are clad in brick. Another consequence of
Kahns departure from Mies involves the architects juxtaposition of monumentality with the jargon of
authenticity, noted by Goldhagen.57 Kahns indulging work on these two themes distanced him from the
ethos of modernism, especially the idea of open space and its radical implication for reducing the barrier
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between the inside and the outside to sheer


glass. While Miess later work flattens the
conflict between monumentality and authenticity in favor of an existentialist vision of the
body, space, and landscape, for Kahn, instead,
it was important to situate the body within a
masonry enclosure. Goldhagen writes, It is all
but impossible to enter Kahns buildings and
not to notice it, not to inspect it or look
internally at it.58 Thus, central to Kahn was
the exploration of the tectonic enclosure of an
authentic monument, but also the need for a
particular inside/outside relationship, the many
architectonic manifestations of which are
suggestive of Kahns distance from the early
modernist infatuation with the aesthetic of
lightness, and the importance he gave to light.
What makes Kahn different from Mies, is that
in his case the tectonic figuration, and the
detailing of how different elements of the
building are put together had to be legible and
experienced through light, as if the latter had
a physical presence.59 The interlocking of
different constructed elements in the gaze of
light is what makes Kahns tectonic different
from that of Mies.

Figure 7 Louis I. Kahn, The Richard Medical


Research Laboratory, Philadelphia. Image Gevork
Hartoonian.

In the light of these considerations, the Yale Art Gallery (Fig. 8) should be considered a transitional work
in Kahns repertoire. The design still enjoys Miess concept of space, as well as the tectonic dialogue
between the element of wall and column. This is the first building where Kahn uses both the brick wall
and an articulated ceiling for monumental effects, such that the building itself becomes an ornament.
Juxtaposing a brick wall next to a Miesian curtain wall, Kahn did indeed anticipated the architectonic
language of both/and, which soon would be popularized by Venturi. The final planimetric
organization of the Yale Art Gallery (Fig. 5), however, is touched by the humanist discourse presented in
Colin Rowes Mathematics of the ideal Villas, first published in 1947. In the Yale Art Gallery, the plan
is informed by a pattern of a-b-a where the b section houses service spaces, including two stairways,
one for emergency exit, and the other wrapped in a concrete circular wall leading to the upper floors.
Part of the space between these two stairways is given to mechanical shafts. The two a stripes are
occupied by frozen spaces, one looking to the outside, and the other opening into another smaller
section of the planlike a jointconnecting the new gallery to the existing nineteenth century
building. Centered on the long side of the b stripe, this square-shaped space marks the main entrance
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to the gallery. The overall plan, however, is punctuated by the presence of concrete columns that endorse
the a-b-a spatial division, and establish a 2 to 1 proportional ratio between the a and b stripes.

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The mathematics of the plan is in part supportive of the ceilings triangulated structure (Fig. 9). The
plan is also informed by the dialogical relationship between the column and the wall. The
freestanding columns demarcate the two exhibition spaces, flanked by the central service space. They

Figure 8 The Yale Gallery, view of the main entrance, image from T. Leslie, Louis I. Kahn, 2005.

Figure 9 The Yale Gallery, reflected ceiling plan, image from T. Leslie, Louis I. Kahn, 2005.

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also weave the vertical and horizontal web of the window panels that cover the north and west sides
of the gallery. The north wall, mostly glass and elegant in mass and shadow (Fig. 10), recalls Miess
tectonic language in the Lake Shore-Drive apartments, Chicago. The shadow surfaces of this wall,
more visible at night, allude to the thickness of the concrete floor slab and its ceiling, which is made
of triangulated space frames. Seen from below, the triangulated space frames seem to be suspended
from the floor above. During construction, the concrete slab was poured after the electrical bars and
air conditioning ducts above had been laid and within members of the concrete space frame (Fig. 6).
The articulating of a tectonic form that integrates structural system with a space dedicated to
mechanical elements, which otherwise are mostly hidden behind a suspended ceiling, is credited to
Kahn. Here the tectonic shores up the dualistic vision implied in the nineteenth century debate that
saw ornament either as an addition to construction, or as an empirical result of the processes of
construction. The ceiling of the Yale Art Gallery also recalls Le Corbusiers tectonic articulation of the
wall at the Unite dhabitation in Marseilles, though rotated ninety degrees. Of interest here are both
architects attempt to thicken (excess) constructive elements, responding to a non-functional
requirement of the brief, sun and orientation in the case of the latter project, and the mechanical
conduits in Kahns case.
The ornamental quality of the thickened ceiling of the Yale Art Gallery resonates with the brick wall
of the south: the stone ledge placed at each floor level of this wall interrupts the continuity of the
brick coursing (Fig. 8). These limestone joints, the beginning of ornament, as Kahn would like to
say, express the way in which the concept of construction is made visible (Fig. 11). The stone ledge
both covers and reveals the intricate construction system of the floor structure. The top of the stone

Figure 10 The Yale Gallery, view from the garden, image from T. Leslie, Louis I. Kahn,
2005.

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Figure 11 The Yale Gallery, under construction, image from T. Leslie, Louis I. Kahn,
2005.

ledge is aligned with the floor slab, itself sitting on the top of the joists braced by the tetrahedral
elements of the ceiling (Fig. 12). The limestone appearing at all floor levels also extenuates the fact
that the brick wall is veneer. The wall attains a monumental sensibility not because of its brickwork,
but for its look: the brickwork appears to be an applied ornament. Kahn claimed that, there is no
reason why one cant apply it [ornament]. But one must apply it with humor, and know he is
applying it. But one must satisfy other things too. It isnt merely a question of saying I need
ornament, because these things are too bulky and I am going to put something on so that it has
more life to it. This is meaningless as we all know.60 The exaggerated limestone ledge charges the
south brick wall with a monumental quality, which, according to Kahn, gives the wall the chance to
be washed smoothly when it rains. Whatever other speculations one can make about this wall, it also
provides a sense of continuity and enclosure to the fabric of the campus. In addition, the wall
demonstrates a unique instance in Kahns tectonic of column and wall. In a conversation with
students, Kahn spoke of the relationship of the wall to the column not only in reference to Leon
Battista Albertis ideas, and the genealogy of these architectonic elements, but in reference to the
architects will to accommodate these elements in their design.61 Nevertheless, and unlike his later
workDhaka, for onethe brick wall of the Yale Art Gallery stands silent: it provides no opening
for looking into or out from; neither does it allude to the presence of the columns behind it. While
the columns speak for the way the space is made, the exterior wall says nothing except that it
remains anonymous. It stands there for an image of monumentality and a functionally needed
enclosure for the exhibition space.
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Figure 12 The Yale Gallery, reflected ceiling plan and section details, image from T. Leslie, Louis I. Kahn,
2005.

Off History
In the Yale Art Gallery, the placement of the stone ledge, and the freestanding gesture of the wall charge
the idea of anonymity with excess.62 This aspect of Kahns work recalls Miess suggestion that
architecture depends on facts, but its real field of activity lies in the realm of significance.63 How
different his realm of significance is from the realm of architecture that Kahn spoke of so
enthusiastically!64 Mies was reflecting on technology and how architecture should utilize technique, and
elevate facts to the level of significance. Was he recalling Semper, who saw monumentality in relation to
the transfiguration of material, technique and structure to the point that a constructed form turns into
self-illumination of technique?65 This may be so. But, Miess statement also anticipates Kahn in the
Yale Art Gallery, where structural techniques are integrated with the idea of a constructed space that is
appropriate for the display of artwork. And yet, if it is correct to characterize the brick wall and the
ceiling of the Yale Art Gallery as ornamental, then is not the building itself elevated into a monumental
ornament?
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The difference between Mies and Kahn remains historical. Kahns lamentation for civic architecture
should be regarded as one consequence when architectures interiority is compromised with values
extraneous to the culture of building. Interiority here refers to that historical moment in architecture
when the architects attention is focused on building as a constructive project.66 One might argue that
Kahns architecture was an attempt to domesticate the early modernist experience in two moments: first,
in the context of 1950s empiricism; and second, in reference to his metaphysical narratives of
monumentality and civic architecture. While the first instance addresses the tectonic rapport between
column and wall, exemplified in Miess architecture, the second moment necessitates a return to
geometries embedded in the French revolutionary architecture of the eighteenth century. These
geometries are clad in brick to ensure a romantic tactility accessible to the man in the street. Yet they
are charged with the formal achievements of modern architecture, including fragmentation and
decomposition. One might argue that the montage of fragments is the most singular tectonic figuration
permeating Kahns architecture. Paradoxically, the historical impossibility of achieving civic architecture
in the 1950s distilled the metaphysics of monumentality no matter how hard Kahn tried to charge his
design with new meanings such as the place for gathering, and the rhetoric of community, or
representing the tectonic of fragmentation with platonic geometries. One consequence of this
historicization of Kahn has to do with the fact that in late capitalism the idea of monumentality has
turned out to be nothing but ornamentation, if not spectacle. The fragmented and lacerated body of
Kahns later architecture is indeed ornamental and yet it is the tectonic language that differentiates his
work from postmodern decorated shed.
Kahns attempt to compromise the constructive dimension of architecture with the metaphysics of civic
architecture and monumentality has led Manfredo Tafuri to argue correctly that, In the operation of
overturning performed by Kahn and Venturi, it makes little difference whether the material of their
image-system is made up of dreams of nonexistent institutions or nightmares dominated by the
crowding together of the ephemeral icons of cosmic merchandization.67 Therefore, ideological delusion
might be one reason why the new generation of American architects is disenchanted with Kahn. Another
reason has to do with the periodic shift of architects theoretical interest. Architects have to theorize the
design process in order to create forms and spaces that operate on an imaginative plateau, free from the
given constraints. Kahns metaphysical speculation in differentiating form from design, for example,
fitted not only with the intellectual climate of the 1950s, but also stimulated him to generate rich
images. Still, his was a return to the ethos of the revolutionary architecture of Boullee and others who
formulated new typologies according to the institutional demands of the Enlightenment. Nevertheless,
subsequent and radical theoretical departures taking place since the 1960s have left no historical tunnel
to Kahns work.
To the mainstream of current architectural practice, Kahns work remains an enigma, if not the
ruins of a bygone era. This observation relies on the historicity of the post-war era: that Miess work
exhausted the tectonic question put on the table of architects since the late nineteenth century,
leaving postmodernists with no choice but to look back into the abyss of historical eclecticism. In this
development, Kahn occupies a sensitive position: he charged architecture with socio-political ethos, a
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point of view essential to the modernity of modern architecture. Ironically, this strategy distanced him
from his contemporaries as well as from the new generation of architects who also revisited the
experience of modern architecture, albeit from a different angle. The New York Five architects, for
example, attempted to discharge architecture from any communicative burden, civic or otherwise,
except for the process of the conceptualization of form. In addition, the cultural experience that
contemporary architects are framed by has pushed abstraction and formalism of the modern
experience one step further, to the point that, aesthetically, Kahns tactile sensibilities are not
accessible anymore.
Now what does the argument presented in this essay entail for architectural historiography? Firstly, the
work of an architect should be seen as a document in its own right, but also a project that re-presents
its own historicity. The suggested concept of project embodies both the architects meta-narratives, and
the body of work, that is, the culture of building whose themes and strategies differentiate architecture
from other artistic activities. This last point is fundamental to a semi-autonomous understanding of
architecture, and indeed for any critical reinterpretation of post-war architecture. Secondly, the idea of
the project should be understood as a failed attempt to present a totalized picture of diverse stories
involved in the process of its own realization. This demands contaminating the historicality of the work
with the problematic of the present architectural praxis. In addition to recent inclination for
hybridization,68 of interest is the concept of technification of architecture,69 and the level of abstraction
involved in the process of design as architects utilize telecommunication technologies. From this
perspective, Kahns rhetorical remarks on monumentality remain unattainable, regardless of how hard
architects try to juxtapose the ethos of modern architecture with the contemporaneity of the present
culture. Finally, the future that a project assigns to itself should be regarded as the architectonic
realization of a past whose traces can be recovered in the fleeting moments of the present. Kahn lived in
the post-war years, but his architecture re-presents the problematic of modernism. Seen from the
spectral experience of the present everydayness, the theatricality nurturing his later buildings resonate
the spectacle permeating the present commodified world.70 In spite of this latter development, and
perhaps because of contemporary drift into the digitalization of architecture, there are many recent
publications that re-approach Kahn with an eye on the tectonic dimension of his work,71 searching
perhaps a way out of the present infatuation with virtuality. Seemingly still there is room to learn from
Kahns early buildings, specially the idea of served/service spaces. The latter does indeed inform the
planimetric organization of every thoughtful design conceived today, even those produced by digital
techniques.

Endnotes
1

Quoted in Christiane C. and George Collins, Monumentality: A Critical Matter in Modern Architecture,
Harvard Architecture Review, 4 (1984): pp. 15-32, p. 17. George Howe was of the opinion that, The
monuments of democracy must be founded in the symbolism of democracy, they must return from the
arbitrary scale of vanity to the human scale, from the boastful show of plutocracy to the dignity of honest men
who wear felt hats to keep off rain instead of silk hats to show that they can afford to hire a valet. Christiane
and George Collins, Monumentality, p. 24.

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See The Sixties a P/A Symposium on the State of Architecture: part I, Progressive Architecture, 42 (March,
1961): pp. 122-133.

Joan Ockman contextualizes fifties architecture in Architecture Culture 1943-1968, New York: Rizolli,
1993. For detailed references on humanism and regionalism, see Sarah Ksiazek, Architectural Culture in
the Fifties: Louis Kahn and the National Assembly Complex in Dhaka, Journal of the Society of
Architectural Historians, 52, 4 (December, 1993): pp. 416-435.
The subtitle recalls Harry Harootunians Historys Disquiet: Modernity, Cultural Practice, and the Question
of Everyday Life, New York: Columbia University Press, 2000.

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5
6

On this subject see Gevork Hartoonian, Beyond Historicism: Manfredo Tafuris Flight, In the Making of
Architectures Past, 18th Annual SAHANZ Conference, (2003): pp. 33-40.
Sarah Williams Goldhagen, Coda: Reconceptualizing the Modern, in S. W. Goldhagen and Rejean Legault
(eds.), Anxious Modernisms, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2001, p. 313.

7
8

S.W. Goldhagen, Louis Kahns Situated Modernism, New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001, p. 201.
See S.W. Goldhagens introduction and the last chapter in Louis Kahns Situated Modernism.

To my knowledge she is the first scholar to stress the importance of art theories (as taught at the Yale
University of those days) for Louis Kahns architecture. According to Goldhagen, both Josef Alberss vision of
an aesthetic of abstraction that demanded honest use of everyday materials and geometric forms, and Willem
de Koonings abstract expressionism were influential for Kahns interest in the optical side of architecture.
Goldhagen, Louis Kahns Situated Modernism, p. 51.

10 As early as 1969, Robert Stern discusses Louis Kahns work in the theoretical divide separating what he calls
the third generation of American architects, Robert Venturi, Romaldo Giurgola, and Charles Moore, and the
second generation, that is Kevin Roche, Paul Rudolph, and Philip Johnson. See Stern, New Directions in
American Architecture, London: Studio Vista, 1969. Even when one reads Kenneth Framptons and Vittorio
Gregottis essays on Kahn, one cant avoid the sense of in-betweenness implied in the titles of their essays, the
French Connections, and the Modern Connections, respectively. See also this authors essay on Kahn in
Modernity and its Other, College Station: Texas A & M University Press, 1997.
11 Gevork Hartoonian, Two Textual Levels of Architecture, Modernity and its Other, pp. 121-140.
12 Gevork Hartoonian, Five Points: Unweaving the Old Cloth, Architectural Theory Review, 5, 1 (2000):
pp. 34-45.
13 Harootunian, Historys Disquiet, p. 16.
14 Henry-Russell Hitchcock, Modern Architecture, Romanticism and Reintegration, New York: Dacapo Press,
1993. At a certain point, the idea of new tradition operated as a general role: in Italy, for example, it was
suggested that, for architecture to become the monument of an age and of a nation, it must be intimately
connected with the past, and thus to become national rather personal. See Estter Da Costa Meyer, The Work of
Antonio Sant Elia, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995, p. 3. The author cements her observation by
presenting examples from Germany and England.
15 Fredric J. Schwartz, Ernst Bloch and Wilhelm Pinder: Out of Sync, Grey Room, 3 (2001): pp.
54-89.
16 Aspects of what makes architecture so different since 1968 are discussed in Gevork Hartoonian, Modernity and
its Other.

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17 I am thinking of the historical consciousness of autonomy at work since the eighteenth century French
architects, and its subsequent reformulation as architecture entered the capitalist system of production and
consumption. Most historians who entertain the critical theory of the Frankfurt School discuss this historical
vision. See, for example, Manfredo Tafuri, Architecture and Utopia: Design and Capitalist Development,
Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1976.

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18 Although Kenneth Framptons and Vittorio Gregottis reading of Kahn contain some historical truth, both
scholars shy away from demonstrating the architectonic choices that Kahn made in order to respond to the
historical clash between architectures desire for autonomy and the chaos of fragmentation and disorder that is
at the heart of the capitalist production system. On this subject see Kenneth Frampton, Architecture and the
State: Ideology and Representation 1914-43, Modern Architecture: A Critical History, London: Thames and
Hudson, 1980, pp. 210-223.
19 On this subject see, Gevork Hartoonian, Louis Kahn at the Salk Institute: What the Building wants to Be,
Modernity and its Other, pp. 81-102.
20 See, for example, my views on this subject in a previous footnote. Also see Vincent Scully, Louis I. Kahn, New
York: George Braziler, 1962, p. 33.
21 Arthur C. Danto, Louis Kahn as Archai-Tekt, in Philosophizing Art: Selected Essays, Los Angeles: University
of California Press, 1999, p. 193.
22 Louis Kahn, Form and Design, in Alessandra Latour (ed.), Louis I. Kahn Writings, Lectures, Interviews,
New York: Rizzoli, 1991, p. 113.
23 Here I am thinking about the New York Five architects and the debate running between the Grays and the
Whites.
24 Louis Kahn, Alessandra Latour, p. 267.
25 Thomas Leslie, Louis I. Kahn, Building Art, Building Science, New York: George Braziller, 2005, p. 4.
26 Francoise Choay, The Invention of the Historic Monument, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001,
p. 13. In this book, Choay pursues the development of the idea of the monument from its anthropological
dimension in pre-Renaissance times to Alberitis discourse on the monument as a work of art
until the nineteenth century, when the purpose of the Latin monumentum gave way to the historic
monument.
27 Louis I. Kahn, Monumentality, in Ockman, Architecture Culture, pp. 48-53. This and the following cited
article were originally published in Paul Zucker, New Architecture and City Planning, New York:
Philosophical Library, 1944. Sarah Williams Goldhagen provides two reasons for architects interest in
monumentality. One was in anticipation of the need for monumental memorials at the end of World War II,
and second, the fact that America felt left behind in the esteem for monumental buildings that had permeated
Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. Goldhagen, Louis Kahns Situated Modernism, pp. 25-26.
28 Louis I. Kahn, Monumentality, as footnote 27. Housing and the commitment of modern architects to mass
housing was a central issue throughout the years prior to the Second World War. The subject was broached in
America in part due to the massive immigration that took place after the war. For Kahns involvement in
social housing and detailed references about housing activists, see Sarah Williams Ksiazek, Critiques of
Liberal Individualism: Louis I. Kahns Civic Projects, 1947-57, Assemblage 31 (1997): pp. 57-79.
29 John Ruskin The Lamp of Power, in The Seven Lamps of Architecture, New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux,
1981, pp. 69-99.

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30 On this subject see Christiane and George Collins, Monumentality. The entire issue is dedicated to the
subject of monumentality. Although the editorial text is dated, the panelist discussions on the subject
(especially James Ackermans views) are interesting. The above article presents a succinct summary of the idea
of monumentality as discussed by modern architects.

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31 Kenneth Frampton, A Propos Barragan: Formation, Critique and Influence, in Fredrica Zanco (ed.), Luis
Barragan: the Quiet Revolution, New York: Abbeville Publishing Group, 2001, p. 14-27. Frampton here refers
to Giedions Nine Points of Monumentality, suggesting that the authors of that article anticipated Barragan
whose architecture mediates between the built and unbuilt (p. 27).
32 See J. L. Sert, F. Leger, and S. Giedion, Nine Points on Monumentality, in Joan Ockman, Architecture
Culture, pp. 29-30.
33 Sigfried Giedion, The Need for a New Monumentality, in Paul Zucker, New Architecture and City Planning,
pp. 547-604, p. 563.
34 James Ackerman, Monumentality and the City, Harvard Architectural Review, 4 (Spring, 1984): pp. 38-45.
35 Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition, New York: Anchor Books, 1959, pp. 37-38. Before Arendt and around
1944, Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno introduced the idea of mass culture, to speak for the
stratification and control of society based on a system of production and consumption in which the fusion of
culture and entertainment would take place. This leads not only to the deprivation of culture, but inevitably
to an intellectualization of amusement. Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno, Dialectic of Enlightenment,
New York: Continuum Publishing, 1972, p. 143. For a discussion of mass society in America and the
dissolution of the classic, eighteenth century concept of public into mass, see C. Wright Mills, The Power
Elite, New York: Oxford University Press, 1956, pp. 298-324. This last reference is cited in Ksiazek,
Architectural Culture in the Fifties.
36 Choay, Invention of the Historic Monument, p. 147.
37 Robert Venturi, Denise S. Brown, and Steven Izenour, Learning From Las Vegas, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press,
1972, p. 50.
38 Leslie, Louis I. Kahn, p. 32.
39 Robert McCarter goes further, suggesting that at the age of fifty, Kahn was perhaps unable to engage light
structural materials effectively. Robert McCarter, Louis I. Kahn, New York: Phaidon, 2005, p. 62.
40 For a close account of the academic environment at Yale University when Kahn started to teach architecture,
see Carter Wiseman, Louis I. Kahn, Beyond Time and Style, New York: W. W. Nortorn, 2007, pp. 54-81.
41 Leslie, Louis I. Kahn, p. 70. Leslie provides a detailed discussion of issues of diverse nature involved in the
design of the Yale University Art Gallery.
42 Kahn was also influenced by Ann Tyngs research with the structural potentialities present in geometry and
nature, discussed by DArcy Thompson. See DArcy Thompson, On Growth and Form, Cambridge, MA:
Cambridge University Press, 1961.
43 On this subject, see Mitchell Schwarzer, German Architectural Theory and the Search for Modern Identity,
Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press, 1995, pp. 167-214.
44 Kenneth Frampton has given a new twist to these analogies and discusses Kahns tubular structure in reference
to the tectonic of Gothic cathedrals. See Kenneth Frampton, Louis Kahn: Modernization and the New
Monumentality, in Studies in Tectonic Culture, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1995, p. 211.

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45 Kahn, Monumentality, pp. 49-51.


46 On this subject see Gevork Hartoonian, Mies van der Rohe: The Genealogy of Column and Wall, Ontology of
Construction, Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press, 1994, pp. 68-80.
47 Frampton, Modern Architecture, pp. 231-237.
48 Louis I. Kahn, Louis I. Kahn, Complete Works, 1935-1974, Colorado: Westview Press, 1977, p. 74.
49 Kahn, Complete Works, p. 73. His vision of tower extends to expressing some reservation on Mies van der
Rohes Seagram building. While praising the building as a really beautiful building of the world today,
Kahn nevertheless does not like the way Mies ends his tower, and does not count on the factor of wind for the
final form. See Latour, Louis I. Kahn Writings, pp. 95-96.

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50 Leslie, Louis I. Kahn, p. 58.


51 Kenneth Frampton, Louis Kahn and the French Connection, Oppositions, 22 (Fall 1980): pp. 21-53.
52 Scully, Louis I. Kahn, pp. 17, 23.
53 Frampton, Studies in Tectonic Culture, p. 231.
54 Wiseman, Louis I. Kahn, p. 68.
55 McCarter, Louis I. Kahn, p. 77.
56 Latour, Louis I Kahn, pp. 63-64.
57 Goldhagen, Louis Kahns Situated Modernism, p. 208.
58 Goldhagen, Louis Kahns Situated Modernism, p. 212.
59 Michael Cadwell, Strange Details, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2007, p. 142.
60 Latour, Louis I Kahn, pp. 63-64.
61 Latour, Louis I Kahn, p. 156. Also see my discussion of the subject in reference to Mies van der Rohes
architecture in Ontology of Construction, pp. 68-80.
62 On this subject, see Gevork Hartoonian, Modernity and its Other.
63 Quoted in Gevork Hartoonian, Modernity and its Other, p. 99.
64 According to Louis Kahn, the realm of architecture is a realm within which all other things are. In the realm
of architecture there is sculpture, there is painting, there is physics, there is nursingeverything is in it. But
the emphasis is on architecture. Architecture is the king of this realm. Latour, Louis I Kahn, p. 93.
65 Gottfried Semper, The Four Elements of Architecture and Other Writings, Harry F. Malgrave & Wolfgang
Herrmann (trans.), Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press, 1989, p. 255.
66 In his An Essay on Architecture, Marc-Antoine Laugier presents an understanding of architecture the thematic
of which is devoid of values rooted in the metaphysics of Christianity or nature, as was the case with
Renaissance architecture. Perceived in the middle of a natural setting, Laugiers wooden hut underlines the
importance of column, the roof and the space marked by these constructive elements. See Laugier, An Essay
on Architecture, W. Hermann (trans.), Los Angeles: Ingalls, 1977.
67 Manfredo Tafuri, The Sphere and Labyrinth, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1987, p. 295.
68 For a discussion of hybridization that involves the notion of contamination, see Farshid Moussavi, Hybrid
Identities: Mutating Type, Log, 10 (Summer/Fall, 2007): pp. 81-87. According to Mousavi, the architectural
potential of contamination is suggestive of a practice that is the coming together of the two reactions to

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Hartoonian

globalization: a practice that intersects with the specificities of given projects and a growth of new identities
that are unique to a situation, while benefiting and evolving from the expertise and knowledge gained in other
domains. p. 82.
69 On this subject see, Gevork Hartoonian, Notes on Critical Practice, Architectural Theory Review, 7, 1 (2002):
pp. 1-14.
70 This subject is discussed in Gevork Hartoonian, Crisis of the Object; the architecture of theatricality, London:
Routledge, 2006.

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71 I am thinking of the contribution of the following authors: Joseph Rykwert (2002), Robert McCarter (2005),
Thomas Leslie (2005), Carter Wiseman (2007), and Michael Cadwell, with his intelligent remarks on The Yale
Center for British Art (2007).

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