Louis I. Kahn: "Order Is," 1960

Design is form-making in order
Form emerges out of a system of construction
Growth is a construction – In order is creative force
In design is the means – where with what when with how much

The nature of space reflects what it wants to be
Is the auditorium a Stradivarius
or an ear
Is the auditorium a creative instrument
keyed to Bach or Bartók
played by the conductor
or is it a conventional hall

In the nature of space is the spirit and the will to exist in a certain way
Design must follow closely that will
Therefore a stripe-painted horse is not a zebra
Before a railroad station is a building
it wants to be a street
it grows out of the needs of the street
out of the order of movement
A meeting of contours englazed.

Through the nature – why
Through the order – what
Through the design – how

A form emerges from the structural elements inherent in the form.
A dome is not conceived when questions arise how to build it.
Nervi grows an arch
Fuller grows a dome

Mozart’s compositions are designs
They are exercises of order – intuitive
Design encourages more designs
Designs derive their imagery from order
Imagery is the memory – the form
Style is an adopted order

The same order created the elephant and created man
They are different designs
Begun from different aspirations
Shaped from different circumstances

Order does not imply Beauty
The same order created the dwarf and Adonis

Design is not making beauty
Beauty emerges from selection

Art is a form-making life in order – psychic

Order is intangible
It is a level of creative consciousness
forever becoming higher in level
The higher the order the more diversity in design

Order supports integration
From what the space wants to be the unfamiliar way may be revealed to the architect.
From order he will derive creative force and power of self-criticism to give form to this unfamiliar.
Beauty will evolve.

Image. Louis Kahn’s unbuilt Hurva Synagogue, as rendered by Kent Larson for the book Unbuilt Masterworks, a collection of digital constructions of Kahn’s proposals (Amazon).

American architect Louis I. Kahn left behind a legacy of great buildings: the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California; the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas; and the Indian Institute for Management in Ahmedabad. Yet he also left behind an equally important legacy of designs that were never realized. This exceptional volume unites those unbuilt projects with the most advanced computer-graphics technology—the first fundamentally new tool for studying space since the development of perspective in the Renaissance—to create a beautiful and poignant vision of what might have been.

Author Kent Larson has delved deep into Kahn's extensive archives to construct faithful computer models of a series of proposals the architect was not able to build: the U.S. Consulate in Luanda, Angola; the Meeting House of the Salk Institute in La Jolla; the Mikveh Israel Synagogue in Philadelphia; the Memorial to Six Million Jewish Martyrs in New York City; three proposals for the Hurva Synagogue in Jerusalem; and the Palazzo dei Congressi in Venice. The resulting computer-generated images present striking views of real buildings in real sites. Each detail is exquisitely rendered, from complex concrete textures to subtle interreflections and patterns of sunlight and shadow.

Kahn's famous statement—"I thought of wrapping ruins around buildings"—is borne out by the views of his unbuilt works; his rigorous exploration of tactility and sensation, light and form, is equally evident. Complementing the new computer images is extensive archival material—rough preliminary drawings, finely delineated plans, and beautiful travel sketches. Larson also presents fascinating documentation of each project, often including correspondence with the clients that shows not only the deep respect accorded the architect but the complicated circumstances that sometimes made it impossible to bring a design to fruition. Not only a historical study of Kahn's unbuilt works, this volume is in itself an intriguing alternative history of architecture.

A stunning act of digital cyber-architecture by architect Larson. Uncannily realistic. —Time Magazine.

Kent Larson used virtual reality to produce strikingly lifelike ... pictures. The product is a luminous representation of daylight. —The Chicago Tribune

Of applications to which the computer has been put in architecture, none is more intriguing. Startlingly convincing. —The New York Times Book Review

Rigorous scholarship, ... an important contribution to the history of architecture in general, and a deeper understanding of Louis Kahn's genius. —Architectural Record, December 2000

The Hurva simulations are astonishing and utterly convincing. —The New York Times, A Spiritual Quest Realized, but Not in Stone, Paul Goldberger, Sunday, Arts and Leisure.

The poetry in Larson’s images comes from his artistic interpretation of Kahn. —OPEN: The Electronic Magazine, Redefining Creativity in the Digital Age, Inside Virtual Walls.

See also: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8

Louis Kahn
Kahn's Hurva Plans
Rova Yehudi
Unbuilt Ruins
Unbuilt Masterworks
Hurva Synagogue, 2000-10

"So therefore I thought of the beauty of ruins... of things which nothing lives behind... and so I thought of wrapping ruins around buildings; you might say encasing a building in a ruin so that you look through the wall which has its apertures as if by accident... I felt this would be an answer to the glare problem." -Kahn, interview, Perspecta 7, 1961, 9-18.

Louis Kahn was born in Saarama, Estonia in 1901. His family emigrated to the U.S. in 1905. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a thorough grounding the the Beaux Art school of architecture. During the 1920s and 1930s he worked as a draughtsman and, later, as a head designer for several Philadelphia-based firms.
In 1925-26 Kahn acted as the Chief of Design for the Sesquincettennial Exhibition. During the Depression, he was active in the design of public assisted housing. Beginning in 1935 Kahn worked with a series of partners, but from 1948 until his death in 1974, Kahn worked alone. From 1947 to 1957 he was Design Critic and Professor of Architecture at Yale University, after which he was Dean at the University of Pennsylvania.
Among his many notable buildings are the Salk Institute (La Jolla, CA), the Phillips Exeter Academy Library, the Yale Center for British Art, the Kimbell Art Museum, Indian Institute of Management in Ahmedabad, India, and the National Capital of Bangladesh. Two of his unbuilt designs have also garnered considerable praise: the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial and the Hurva Synagogue in Jerusalem, Israel.
Kahn's architecture is notable for its simple, platonic forms and compositions. Through the use of brick and poured-in place concrete masonry, he developed a contemporary and monumental architecture that maintained a sympathy for the site. While rooted in the International Style, Kahn's architecture was an amalgam of his Beaux Arts education and a personal aesthetic impulse to develop his own architectural forms. Kahn wrote an essay entitled "Monumentality" already in 1944.
Considered one of the foremost architects of the late twentieth century, Kahn received the AIA Gold Medal in 1971 and the RIBA Gold Medal in 1972. He was elected a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1971.

Reinventing [?] Jerusalem, Documenta, 14.7.11
Hurva Synagogue: Kahn vs Meltzer?, Documenta, 21.7.2011
Tradition and Innovation
The Nature and Evolution of Art and Architecture as Structures of Consciousness, by Mariano Akerman

Counterpoint. For a series of remarkable images relating to memory poetically, while conveying notions such as ruin and reconstruction, see:

Painter of Opportune Questions

Why? Because "A good question is greater that the most brilliant answer." —Kahn, while teaching.


Libertad Vigo said...


Gab Stegmann said...

I am speechless.
Fascinating... stunning.

Nicole Myrand said...

Merci Mariano

Anonymous surfer said...

Wonderful article. Thank you!

Eric Hanson said...

Kahn always cuts to the core, thank you for posting.