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

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

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BARBARA KLEIN: Louis Kahn also designed buildings in other countries, including India and Bangladesh. His largest project was a series of buildings that would become the government center ò Dhaka, Bangladesh. This structure includes the parliament, meeting rooms, offices, eating places and even a religious center.

This series of buildings looks like an ancient home for kings.  Huge rounded and box-like buildings have windows in the shape of circles and triangles. The structure is surrounded by water. From a distance, it appears to float on a lake. Kahn spent the last twelve years of his life on the project. It was completed in nineteen eighty-three, nine years after his death. Because of Kahn, experts say, one of the poorest countries in the world has one of the most beautiful public buildings on Earth.

All of Kahn’s buildings share a common solidity and heaviness. Experts say they are very different from the works of other famous architects of the period. These architects preferred light and airy buildings.

Their weightless-looking structures were mostly made of glass and metal. Kahn used stone and concrete to make monumental buildings. Many of his structures look more ancient than modern. STEVE EMBER: Louis Kahn was an artist who created beautiful works.  But he was not a very good businessman. He would change his designs many times. This would make each project take a great deal of time and cost more money. The majority of the projects he designed were never built. Also, he did not like to compromise his design ideas to satisfy a buyer’s wishes. For this reason and others, Kahn did not make many buildings. His design company did not always have many jobs or much money. In fact, when Kahn died, he was in great debt. This is especially unusual since he was considered one of the most important architects in the world.

Filmmaker Nathaniel Kahn at the 2003 premier  of his film "My Architect, "about his father

BARBARA KLEIN: In two thousand four, Mister Kahn’s son, Nathaniel Kahn, made a film about his father’s life. The film is called “My Architect.” It is interesting for many reasons. “My Architect” gives a history of Kahn’s life. The film presents the architect and his buildings. You can see Kahn working at his desk and talking with his builders. You can also see him teaching university students. You can tell that he had great energy.

The film also shows a great deal about Kahn’s private life.  Kahn had a wife and daughter. But he also had two other families. Kahn had a child with each of two other women that he was not married to. In the film, Nathaniel Kahn describes visits from his father.

He says that as a child he did not understand why his father did not live with him and his mother all of the time. NATHANIEL KAHN IN “MY ARCHITECT”: “I didn’t know my father very well.  He never married my mother and he never lived with us. I needed to know him. I needed to find out who he really was.  So I set out on a journey to see his buildings and to find whatever was left of him out there.”

STEVE EMBER: Many questions are left unanswered about Kahn. Yet, the film helps tell a very interesting story about a very important man. Louis Kahn died in nineteen seventy-four.  Yet his influence lives on. While teaching at the University of Pennsylvania, he trained many future builders. Some students have become important architects. And Kahn’s architecture has remained fresh and timeless.

BARBARA KLEIN: This program was written by Dana Demange. It was produced by Dana Demange and Lawan Davis.  I’m Barbara Klein.

STEVE EMBER: And I’m Steve Ember. Join us again next week for PEOPLE IN AMERICA in VOA Special English.



(The end.)

Grammar notes:

- to be in debt: nợ nần

In fact, when Kahn died, he was in great debt.

- set out sth/ set sth out: sắp xếp, thu xếp việc gì

So I set out on a journey to see his buildings and to find whatever was left of him out there.

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