All the other buildings I have covered of Kahn’s have been located in the United States, but the Jatiyo Sangshad Bhaban, located in present day Dhaka, Bangladesh, is perhaps one of his biggest and most complex commissions. The building of what is also known as the National Parliament House of Bangladesh began in 1961, when the country was still a part of Pakistan. As a part of his efforts to keep East Pakistan from seceding from West Pakistan, Kahn designed this building with the hopes that it could serve as a secondary capital for the country. The government originally brought in activist Muzharul Islam for the job, and he proceeded to recruit Kahn for help. Before the building could be completed, the Bangladesh Liberation War occurred and delayed construction starting in 1971 for ten years. Kahn died before it could be finished, but the job was overseen by one of Kahn’s employees.
This parliament house covers over two-hundred acres of building, parks, lakes, and residency for members of parliament. The complex itself looks simple, but is an intricate weaving of geometric shapes that make up windows and other openings breaking the plain facade. The main complex consisting of three plazas is surrounded on three sides by one of the many lakes on the grounds. Kahn designed it this way so it could represent the “riverine” beauty that can be seen throughout the country. He tried to adequately represent the heritage and culture of other aspects of the building design as well. Louis Kahn designed this building, just as he designed all the others, to utilize natural lighting with the porticoes on the outside of the building and columns within. I have never been to Bangladesh, but the intricacy yet simplicity that can be seen from photos is phenomenal, and I hope that someday I can visit it and the country it is meant to represent.
All the other posts regarding Louis Khan have been about his public structures, but his work with homes is equally as amazing. Although he only built nine houses, they are all studied in depth and regarded as exquisite pieces of architecture. The Margaret Esherick House is argued to be the most studied and highest caliber of those nine houses. Margaret Esherick commissioned Kahn to design the house in Philadelphia in 1959 and completed in 1961. The building won many awards and was listed in the Register of Historical Places for Philadelphia in 2009. This single-bedroom house may look simple from the outside, but the intricacy of geometry and, once again, natural lighting makes this another one of Kahn’s masterpieces.
As can be seen above, the front and back of the house are completely different. While the front is constructed of concrete and stucco, the backside is almost entirely made of glass panels. The way Kahn constructed the building to use geometry and space to his advantage is impressive. The entirety of the house from the front door right is a massive living space, with the dining space and living space the two floors opposite it. He uses what he refers to as “servant spaces” to connect the areas, and the sharpness of how they connect is fascinating to me. In my life I have always appreciated order, and this house would be perfect for me. It fits together like a Tetris puzzle. The balconies above the front and back doors of the house provide not only a space to enjoy outside, but also a break in the facade of the house. Each side of the house also has its own window and shutter configuration. With these four different methods of letting light into the house, Kahn has once again shown his mastery of natural lighting. The walls are designed in a way that allows for both openness and privacy, as well as protection from weather and a welcoming of fresh air. I may write this almost every post, but I love what Kahn is capable of doing when it comes to lighting. Artificial lighting is not pleasant or encouraging of happiness, so opening up homes to natural lighting is important to me.
Louis Kahn was given commission for the Phillips Exeter Academy Library in New Hampshire in 1965. The building was completed about six years later and the doors opened sometime in 1971, with classes on campus being suspended for a day so that the students and faculty could move all the books from the old library to the new. Kahn had a high regard for books, and already had library designs at his disposal when he was chosen for the job. In fact, he had only a few months before submitted proposals for a new library at Washington University. After about fifty drafts of proposals for the Academy’s library, the building committee and Kahn finally came up with a plan.
The Phillips Exeter Academy Library is the largest secondary school library in existence, with shelving space for over 250,000 volumes. My favorite part about this piece of architecture is that Kahn seemed to build it with a sense of drama. It is as if, to me, he wanted to build something that gave the patrons a sense of the adventures that were within the books it held. I get this feeling through descriptions and pictures, although I would love to some day visit it. Upon entering, you are greeted by a two circular staircases that lead you to a central hall. The central hall is lined with levels of circular openings that show stacks of books, almost like windows.
On the outside of the shelves toward the exterior of the building are small cubicles for studying. The library houses 210, and each have a desk, a chair, and a window view to let in natural lighting (there Kahn goes again). This structure and Kahn’s purpose behind different aspects has become a topic among experts. Every aspect of the building seems to have a purpose, from the large crossbeams in the central lobby to the cut offs of the corners on the exterior. Each of these facets reveals in some manner how Kahn expected or how he thought students should feel upon entering.
Louis Kahn has done a lot of work on buildings that house art, but the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas is argued to be one of the most notable pieces of architecture in recent times. Like the Church in Rochester, Kahn was up against many notable artists for the commission of this building. The founding director, Richard Brown, and Kahn had similar views on architecture, both agreeing that the buildings that house art should be works of art themselves. After being chosen, the director lined up a partnership with a local architectural/engineering firm so that the overages on cost and time that Kahn was known for could be avoided. Kahn was hired to begin construction in 1966 and the building opened six years later in 1972, with an expansion that went along the ideas of Kahn’s plans in 2006.
The complex is composed of sixteen vaults separated into three different groups. There are six 100 feet long and twenty feet wide vault to the north and six to the south, with the remaining four in the center. The western most vault acts as a sort of porch, open to the west as an entryway leading from a courtyard. Each building is twenty feet high with an arch. Kahn was instructed to build no higher than forty feet so as not to block the view from the nearby Carter Museum. The vaults are constructed of folded concrete with light slots on the top. Kahn had to fight to keep the vaulted structure, as the firm he was working with feared it would make costs too high, but won out with this design because he was able to avoid costs of support columns with impeccable engineering of the roofs. This shape allowed the galleries to have a more inviting, “room-like” feel.
Again, my favorite thing about the architecture of Louis Kahn is his use of natural lighting. He constructed the building so the art would be exhibited on the second floor, allowing for more natural light to come through with the skylights in the ceiling, as well as building some sides entirely of glass for the same effect. Although Kahn was not alive at the time of the expansion being built in 2006, his ideas and notion that any expanding should be its own work were fought for by his daughter and eventually respected.
Although the first church built for this congregation was done by a phenomenal architect and significant to the community, Louis Kahn was chosen by the First Unitarian Church of Rochester to replace the building with his own design. The church hoped to give the community a “notable example of contemporary architecture”. Just as with the Yale Art Gallery, this church was a modern piece stuck in the middle of a not-so modern area. He was in competition with many other notable architects for this job, but won because the search committee liked his philosophical approach. After a couple designs, with help of the congregation and surveys they completed, Kahn designed a building that met overwhelming approval.
The coolest part about this building is how Kahn constructed it to direct light. The exterior is brick, with many windows folded into the bricks that have ” light hoods” to generally prevent direct sunlight from reaching the interior. These light hoods create shadows on the outside that make the building appear to have columns, and make the building appear taller than it actually is. Another prominent characteristic of the church is the four “light towers”, as Kahn named them, that create the look of a building within the building. The four light towers create another square on the roof, but inside the building it makes the sanctuary. They are called light towers because they are designed to bring natural light into the sanctuary in a specific manner.
I picked this building because, while I’m not religious, the shape of this church really stood out to me. In contrast with grand buildings with spired towers protruding from multiple points and ornate crosses, this church was more subtle… As is popular with Kahn, and what makes me a fan of his work, is how he uses natural lighting to his, and the building dweller’s, advantage.
Louis Kahn’s first major project was this art gallery at Yale University. Being the first modern building on campus, this art gallery is surrounded by neo-Gothic structures. It was Kahn’s first commission, and is considered by many to be his first masterpiece. The building is constructed of masonry, concrete, glass and steel, and while this image shows a mostly glass window facade, its wall that is most viewed by the public is windowless, which can be seen in this image:My favorite part of this piece of architecture, after doing some research, however, is the inside. Kahn was extremely innovative for his time, using wide open spaces for students to have studios and geometric shapes that had not been used before. For example, the ceiling of the structure is composed completely of tetrahedral shapes.
Kahn varied greatly from the Gothic architecture that was popular at the time, and broke out with his own style. The use of geometric shapes, which can be seen above, really stood out to me and helps this building stand out among its neighbors. Along with the ceiling, Kahn included a spiraling staircase that also utilizes geometry. Kahn’s management of lighting also impressed me. I think the natural light coming from the many windows combined with the strategic placement of more natural bulbs in the ceiling really allows the viewer to take in the whole space while not being distracted from the art.
My favorite building of all time is the Palace of Westminster in London, England, and more specifically Elizabeth Tower (Big Ben). I don’t know what it was about it that struck me, but when I first saw it I had no words. When I visited London this summer, the first view I got of it was from the London Eye. I then immediately had to go take 800 pictures of it, without even realizing every picture was the exact same. I think what maybe stuck out to me the most was the Gothic revival architecture that I had never seen before. The way the arches, columns, and lines fit together, looking so detailed but simple at the same time, really impressed me. And maybe it was just seeing a piece of architecture that is the iconic symbol of a place I had always wanted to visit.
It also may have been the way it stuck out on the skyline and among all the buildings around it. Aside from the Westminster Abbey next door, none of the buildings in the immediate area really stood out to me. It was amazing to me how long this structure has been standing, and how much history happened within its walls. Elizabeth Tower and the Palace of Westminster have existed through world wars (although they were reconstructed after bombings in World War II), drastic leadership and government changes, and much more. A final idea is that the history of the outside of the building was as close as I was going to get to the history of the inside, and that may be why it stood out. Either way, I don’t see any other building taking over as my favorite anytime soon.
This summer I had the privilege to work a golf tournament in England, and upon its completion I traveled for a week. I got to visit an uncle just outside of Suffolk, and one evening after dinner we explored the St. Edmundsbury Cathedral and court yard, where he was getting married a few weeks later. There has been a church standing on these ground for over 950 years, but the cathedral currently standing has been around for just over 100 years, with renovations and additions happening every 20 or so years. This photo is one I took of one of the original structures on the grounds.
What really struck me about this was how casual everyone seemed about such a magnificent structure being essentially on their doorstep. The area was by no means touristy, and it didn’t seem like anyone really cared about how beautiful and grand the architecture was. I took plenty of pictures as joggers ran through the grounds and parents watched their kids play in the grass. It makes me wonder if there are buildings around me that I take for granted, but being there made me really think about architecture, and the age a grandeur of all the buildings in England. It is clear from the structure and detail how important religion has been, but it is amazing to me how much effort went into their construction, even back in times when resources to do these types of things were not as available.
The San Antonio missions were created by the Spanish in 1720 and were meant to serve as a cultural sanctuary for, at its highest capacity, over three-hundred Native Americans. In the 1980s, they were designated historical parks, with San Jose being the largest. This mission contain a large courtyard, bordered by what use to be living spaces, with a large chapel and smaller courtyard at the far end of the entrance. Most of the original structure still stands, but you can see deterioration, especially in what were the living spaces. The mission was originally made of straw and mud, but as that did not last very long, were quickly replaced by stone.
The San Jose Mission was interesting to me because it allowed me to see the history of the land and area. I’ve visited San Antonio many times, but last year was the first time I got to see these parks. Being able to walk into the places where people actually lived kind of gave me an idea of how life was, although I won’t ever fully understand the hardships. The missions showed how important religion was to the people in those times, and how their lives revolved around it (but actually because the dwelling were around the church). San Jose really showed me how architecture can show history, maybe better than a textbook.
Although not typical buildings, cruise ships have amazing architecture. The first time I went on a cruise was the Disney Magic Cruise ship, and from the first moment I stepped onto it I was amazed. It was a lot to take in, but I spent much of the first day just observing all the details that went into every aspect of its structure and design. It was amazing, and I’m sure I wasn’t even able to see everything. Disney is the master of subtle inferences (like hidden Mickeys) and gearing things to appeal to families, kids, and everyone in ways they may not consciously recognize. The lighting, size of rooms, height of ceilings, EVERYTHING was an important aspect of making guests feel welcome and at home. It also amazed me how much they were able to fit into not that large a space. Two theaters, over ten restaurants, teen and kids club, and lodging for over 2500 people and more on one ship.