A Legendary Kahn
“Design is not making beauty, beauty emerges from selection, affinities, integration, love.” - Louis Kahn
Rarely do I get overly joyous when I visit famous architecture sites, but after two decades, one rare moment still remains fixed in my memory. Walking into an enclosed water garden, vastly covered with concrete and travertine, I felt as if I was being vacuumed into a rapid force of poetic experiences. I stood in the center and faced West, looking into the vast blue canyon of the Pacific Ocean, which was brought back into the garden via a thin linear fountain that appears to reach for the horizon.
The place is the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California, built and designed by the legendary Louis Kahn from 1959 to 1965. I am always inspired through Kahn’s work and his story, recently popularized in a documentary, “My Architect: A Son’s Journey.” A product of immigrant parents, Kahn studied architecture at the University of Pennsylvania. Soon after his graduation, he worked steadily with numerous powerhouses of architecture, and among the more notable early collaborations was with George Howe, who worked with Kahn in late 1930’s on projects for the Philadelphia Housing Authority and again in 1940. Kahn did not find his distinctive architectural style until he was in his 50’s.
Initially working in the strict version of International Style, Kahn stayed at the American Academy in Rome in the early 1950’s, which marked a turning point in his career. The back-to-the-basics approach he adopted after visiting the ruins of ancient buildings in Italy, Greece, and Egypt helped him to develop his own style of architecture influenced by earlier modern movements.
I highly recommend a simple short stop when you’re in the neighborhood of La Jolla for a viewing of a supreme example of classic, modern American architecture and a view of beautiful natural landscape.
Photos by D.B. Kim.