Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Spirit of Kahn

The following is an excerpt from a series of essays by Emerging Architect, Maryam Eskandari Director of Assoc. AIA, on the influence of Louis I. Kahn and the future generation.

The first day of 2005, I decided to visit the Jonas Salk Institute to find inspiration from Louis Kahn, the master of monumentality. I was provoked by the vision that Kahn had executed in the Salk. It is truly an architecture that has manifested a profound feeling for the human senses.

I approached the site through the groves of trees, which filters the path to the building. My eyes launched towards the infinite Pacific horizon, framed perfectly by concrete masses that adhere light into the space. The exterior apertures of the building contained teak wooden panels set in bare concrete walls. The concrete finishes refined. The joints and incisions elegantly enhance the shadows on the building. As I absorbed the spirit of Kahn, it was very evident that he knew how to combine modern construction with traditional means.

Weeks later, I learned that Kahn’s vision of the Salk Institute was a prototype of monasteries. The scheme that was executed was the canyon terrain that ran across the Southern California coast. Using nature as a design concept, he thus laid out the research institute horizontally rather than vertically, divergent to his other projects. Even though nature was a concept, there are no trees in the courtyard. Kahn celebrated the complete void space with low benches, reflecting pools, and thin translucent lines of water that point to the sky.

After his passing, Kahn left a lasting effect on earth that reflects nature and the heavens. Kahn’s projects are legacies and are precedents for future generations. His understanding and philosophy of life and architecture are most evident in his buildings. The Salk Institute is a project that has significantly shaped my career.