Louis Kahn, 1901-1974: He Helped Define Modern Architecture

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Louis Kahn, 1901-1974: He Helped Define Modern Architecture

A southwest view of the Kimball Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas


 
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STEVE EMBER: I’m Steve Ember.

BARBARA KLEIN: And I’m Barbara Klein with the VOA Special English program PEOPLE IN AMERICA. Today, we tell about Louis Kahn. He is considered one of the most important American building designers of the twentieth century.

STEVE EMBER: Louis Kahn helped define modern architecture. Architecture is the art and science of designing and building structures such as houses, museums, and office buildings.  Kahn’s architecture has several defining qualities.

For example, Kahn was very interested in the look and feel of the materials he used. He used brick and concrete in new and special ways. Kahn also paid careful attention to the use of sunlight. He liked natural light to enter his buildings through interesting kinds of windows and openings. Kahn’s work can also be identified by his creative use of geometric shapes. Many of his buildings use squares, circles and three sided shapes called triangles.

Louis Kahn is famous for his modern architecture

BARBARA KLEIN: Louis Kahn was born in Estonia in nineteen-oh-one. When he was five years old his family moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  Even as a child, Louis Kahn showed excellence as an artist. When he was in school his pictures won several competitions organized by the city.  In high school, Kahn studied architecture briefly. He later went to the University of Pennsylvania and studied architecture full time. He graduated in nineteen twenty-four.

Louis Kahn’s buildings have many influences. Some experts say his trip to Rome, Italy in nineteen fifty-one influenced him the most. Kahn spent a few months as an architect with the American Academy in Rome. He also traveled through other parts of Italy, Greece and Egypt. There, he saw the ancient Greek and Roman ruins that also would influence his works. He was very affected by the size and design of these ruins. They helped influence him to develop an architecture that combines both modern and ancient designs.

Other experts believe Kahn was also influenced by the part of Philadelphia where he grew up.  There were many factory buildings with large windows. These brick structures were very solid.  This industrial design is apparent in several of Kahn’s early works.

STEVE EMBER: Kahn’s first projects involved building housing in Philadelphia. He later received government jobs to design housing during World War Two. In nineteen forty-two, he became a head architect of the Public Building Administration.  Kahn’s first important project was the Yale Art Gallery in New Haven, Connecticut in the early nineteen fifties. The outside of the building is very simple. The surface is made of brick and limestone.

The inside of the gallery shows Kahn’s great artistic sense. For example, he created a triangle-shaped walkway of steps that sits inside a rounded concrete shell. This building was very popular. Its completion represented an important step in Kahn’s professional life. He was now a famous architect.

BARBARA KLEIN: One of Kahn’s other important buildings is the Salk Institute, a research center in La Jolla, California. It was built in the nineteen sixties. This structure further shows how Kahn was able to unite form and function. This means his buildings were beautiful and also useful. The Salk Institute has two structures that surround a marble garden area or courtyard. This outdoor marble area is almost completely bare. The only detail is a small stream of water running through the middle of the square towards the Pacific Ocean. This simple design is very striking. Inside the building are many rooms for laboratories. Kahn was very careful to make sure they all received natural light and a view of the ocean.  He linked the indoor and outdoor spaces in a very beautiful way.

Inside the Kimball Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas

STEVE EMBER: The Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas is another famous building by Louis Kahn. Some say it is his best. Kahn built this museum in the early nineteen seventies. This large museum has long rooms with curved or vaulted ceilings. Inside, all of the walls can be moved to best fit the art collection.*Bảo tàng lớn này có những căn phòng dài với trần uốn cong hoặc hình mái vòm. Tất cả các bức tường bên trong có thể di chuyển được sao cho phù hợp nhất với các bộ sưu tập nghệ thuật. [/dich] Kahn was able to make the concrete material of the building look both solid and airy. He used sunlight and bodies of water to create a truly special building.

Kahn once said this about the Kimbell Art Museum: “The building feels…that I had nothing to do with it…that some other hand did it.” The architect seems to say that he was helped by some higher influence. Many people feel that his architecture has a very spiritual and timeless quality.

Kahn mostly created public buildings such as museums and libraries. However, he also designed a few houses. His most famous home is the Fisher house near Philadelphia. It is made of several box-shaped buildings. The house is made out of glass, wood and stone. Many windows provide a view of the nearby trees.

 

(To be continued …)

Grammar notes:

- pay (careful) attention to sth: (đặc biệt) chú ý đến

Kahn also paid careful attention to the use of sunlight.

- to be made of sth: làm bằng cái gì

The surface is made of brick and limestone.

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