Louis Kahn
(1901 - 1974)
Died at age 73 Birthday: Feb 20 Sign: Pisces
As a child he peered into a household coal fire leaving his face permanently scarred.
Louis I. Kahn was a master of natural light, materials, and innovative and powerful forms embracing modernism and ancient ruins. He was a charismatic architect, educator, and philosopher who was a poet with natural light, form, and function. He searched for wonder, joy, intelligence, and intuition in the process of creating his buildings.
Louis Kahn Quotes

  • “Form follows function”
  • “The creation of art is not the fulfillment of a need but the creation of a need. The world never needed Beethoven's Fifth Symphony until he created it. Now we could not live without it.”
  • “Architecture is the reaching out for the truth.”
  • “All material in nature, the mountains and the streams and the air and we, are made of Light which has been spent, and this crumpled mass called material casts a shadow, and the shadow belongs to Light.”
  • “Design is not making beauty, beauty emerges from selection, affinities, integration, love.”
  • “A great building...must begin with the unmeasurable, must go through measurable means when it is being designed and in the end must be unmeasurable.”
  • “Consider the momentous event in architecture when the wall parted and the column became.”
  • “I asked the brick, ‘What do you like, brick?’ And brick said, ‘I like an arch.”
  • “How accidental our existences are, really, and how full of influence by circumstance.”

Born in 1901 on the Isle of Osel, Pärnu, in Estonia, which was at the time a part of Russia. The family immigrated to Philadelphia in 1905, where he lived in poverty.

He was a musician in high school and won a first place prize every year for drawing and painting contests at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts.

He was a good friend of Norman Rice. In 1928 he went to Paris to visit his friend who at the time was working for Le Corbusier.

In 1964 he began working on the National Assembly building, in Dhaka, Bangladesh. It was completed in 1982, nine years after Kahn’s death. The building does not have a single column.

For a man who was scarred from a household coal fire as a young man he had plenty of families. He had three children (Sue Ann born in 1940, Alexandria born in 1954, and Nathanial born in 1962), one wife (Esther Israeli) and two mistresses (Anne Tyng and Harriet Pattison.)

He received three honorary degrees; a Doctor of Architecture from the Polytechnic Institute of Milan, Italy, a (Doctor of Humanities) from the North Carolina School of Design, University of North Carolina, and a honorary doctorate of Fine Arts from Yale University.

He started working on the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California in 1959 which was completed in 1966. The Salk Institute was created by Dr. Jonas Salk who developed the polio vaccine. His goal was to create an institute as a "crucible for creativity" for biological sciences.

I.M. Pei had a great deal of respect for Kahn and said "It's quality, not quantity that counts." I.M. Pei in an acceptance speech for 1983 International Pritzker Architecture Prize quoted Leonardo da Vinci with “strength is born of constraint and dies in freedom."

He was also into urban-planning and was concerned about the not wasting natural resources. In his designed he proposed geodesic skyscrapers. Geodesic domes were invented by R. Buckminster Fuller.

Moshe Safdie, a contemporary architect, apprenticed under Kahn.

March 17, 1974: On St Patrick's Day while returning from a trip to India he had a heart attack in the men’s room of Penn Station, New York while on his way to Philadelphia. He was deeply in debt, was not identified for three days, and had scratched out his home address in his passport.