Louis Isadore Kahn born as Itze-Leib Schmuilowsky (February 20, 1901 or 1902 – March 17, 1974) was a world-renowned architect of Estonian origin based in Philadelphia, United States.
Training and influences
He trained in a rigorous Beaux-Arts tradition, with its emphasis on drawing, at the University of Pennsylvania. After completing his Bachelor of Architecture in 1924, Kahn worked as senior draftsman in the office of City Architect John Molitor. In this capacity, he worked on the design for the 1926 Sesquicentennial Exposition.
In 1928, Kahn made a European tour and took a particular interest in the medieval walled city of Carcassonne, France and the castles of Scotland rather than any of the strongholds of classicism or modernism. After returning to the States in 1929, Kahn worked in the offices of Paul Philippe Cret, his former studio critic at the University of Pennsylvania, and in the offices of Zantzinger, Borie and Medary in Philadelphia.
In 1932, Kahn and Dominique Berninger founded the Architectural Research Group, whose members were interested in the populist social agenda and new aesthetics of the European avant-gardes. Among the projects Kahn worked on during this collaboration are unbuilt schemes for public housing that had originally been presented to the Public Works Administration.
Among the more important of Kahn's early collaborations was with George Howe. Kahn worked with Howe in late 1930s on projects for the Philadelphia Housing Authority and again in 1940, along with German-born architect Oscar Stonorov for the design of housing developments in other parts of Pennsylvania.
Kahn did not find his distinctive architectural style until he was in his fifties. Initially working in a fairly orthodox version of the International Style, a stay at the American Academy in Rome in the early 1950s marked a turning point in Kahn's career. The back-to-the-basics approach he adopted after visiting the ruins of ancient buildings in Italy, Greece, and Egypt helped him to develop his own style of architecture influenced by earlier modern movements but not limited by their sometimes dogmatic ideologies.
After working in various capacities for several companies in Philadelphia, he founded his own atelier in 1935.
In 1961 he received a grant from the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts to study traffic movement in Philadelphia and create a proposal for a viaduct system.
Influenced by ancient ruins, Kahn's style tends to the monumental and monolithic, his heavy buildings don't hide their weight, their materials, or the way they are assembled.
Tuition and awards
Kahn's teaching career began at Yale University in 1947, and he was eventually named Albert F. Bemis Professor of Architecture and Planning at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1962 and Paul Philippe Cret Professor of Architecture at the University of Pennsylvania in 1966 and was also a Visiting Lecturer at Princeton University from 1961 to 1967. Kahn was elected a Fellow in the American Institute of Architects (AIA) in 1953. He was made a member of the National Institute of Arts and Letters in 1964. He was awarded the Frank P. Brown Medal in 1964. He was made a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1968 and awarded the AIA Gold Medal, the highest award given by the AIA, in 1971 and the Royal Gold Medal by the RIBA in 1972.
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