The Design Museum is about to open an exhibition about the architect Louis Kahn.
I’m obsessed with his work.
Here are some of the models featured.
His unrealised City Tower for his hometown, Philadelphia.
The base of the tower.
Kahn himself with a model of the tower.
That’s Kahn on the right.
The Yale Center for British Art.
The Philips Exeter Academy Library.
Note the circle.
One of the buildings for the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California.
Kahn’s unrealised model for the Hurva synagogue, Jerusalem.
Model for the Fine Arts Center in Fort Wayne.
Model for the Jewish Community Center in the Ewing Township, New Jersey.
Sher-e-Bangla Nagar in Bangladesh, the seat of government and said to be Kahn’s greatest work.
The show is compact.
I found the most affecting work to be the simplest.
It shone through the clutter.
A detail model for Shar-e-Bangla Nagar.
Another. Apologies for the blurriness.
On the opposite wall, I found two small photos of work by Gordon Matta-Clark.
Such an enticing connection, but no more is made of it.
I wish there had been something – anything – on the power of the circle in his work.
It seems so elemental to the story.
To me, most affecting of all was the model of a house for Norman and Doris Fisher, built from 1960-67 in Hatboro, Pennsylvania.
The show makes no mention of Kahn’s personal fallibility.
His fallibility which is at the centre of the documentary My Architect, made by his illegitimate son Nathaniel in 2003.
Kahn died when Nathaniel was 11. Kahn apparently spent one day a week with Nathaniel, and had children with another woman other than his wife.
In the film, Nathaniel tries to get to know his father through his work.
The result is revelatory.
No such personal depth here.
Indeed, the Design Museum show opens with an image of Kahn’s wife, Esther.
It almost as if it is saying, we’re above such unpleasantries as personal tittle tattle. Here’s his wife. Forget the rest of the story.
No mention at the end (or at least none that I could see) that he died penniless.
He owed hundreds of thousands of dollars, even though he was then, and remains today, one of the 20th century’s most respected architects.
After I’d seen the show, I sat for a whole outside the Design Museum, looking out at the new London skyline.
Norman Foster’s unremarkable Cheesegrater.
Rafael Viñoly’s hated Walkie Talkie.
So much architecture built for profit rather than public good, for companies to take space inside in order to create more profit.
With Kahn, the personal is important because it delineates his work.
No matter how messy that personal life may be.
The restless man inadequate as a father because of his urge to travel, and to learn from elsewhere.
Here’s his suitcase, from his many travels.
The lauded architect who died bankrupt because his practice sought out community good rather than exploitation of capital.
By seeming to elevate itself above the personal, it ends up giving a partial view of his work.
The exhibition originated at the Vitra Design Museum, which was responsible for creating many of the models on show.
Perhaps that’s why there’s such a particular emphasis on model rather than research into the man himself.
But do go see the show.
It opens 9 July, is on until 12 October, click here etcetc.
Before you do, watch My Architect again.
Just googled it to find the trailer, and it turns out the whole film is on Vimeo.
No idea if this is legal or not, but it’s been online for four years, so…