The pursuit of the bold silhouette has led many architects astray. So many mature architects have been tempted, as Frank Lloyd Wright was tempted in his later days, to invent dazzlingly photogenic shells, often achieving sculptural effects by neglecting the functions they were meant to serve. This tends to be the weakness of any great building.
The opportunity for Louis Kahn to give his philosophy of form and function full expression was offered by the Salk Institute for Biology at Torrey Pines, on a cliff overlooking the Pacific near San Diego. The assignment came to Kahn unexpectedly. Jonas Salk heard Kahn speak to a medical group at Pittsburgh and then visited him in Philadelphia, where he saw Kahn’s Richards Medical Building and decided it was what his new medical research building needed.
Kahn’s proposal was in effect, an academic village consisting of a residential community, laboratories and studies, and a meeting house, all connected by arcades, tree-shaded walks, gardens, and a cloister for meditation, poised on the cliff:
( see link at end) …This opening into the Pacific Ocean is explained as a uniquely American architectural gesture by Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown, in “A Protest Concerning the Extension of the Salk Center,” in Robert Venturi’s Iconography and Electronics Upon a Generic Architecture: A View from the Drafting Room (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1996):
Our great American cities do not conform to the European urban ideal, where a whole is defined within confining borders and axial terminations, but acknowledge rather an order that is incomplete–fragmented–as it accommodates inherent expansion and progress toward eternal frontiers….
…Louis Kahn designed the Salk Center in La Jolla…as an eloquent composition that is spatially and symbolically incomplete, with its two richly rhythmical buildings…[which] define a powerful axis that is open at each end and that constitutes thereby a significant gesture within an American landscape. The composition of this common space…is perceptually, physically, poignantly American as it frames the sea and the land where the old western frontier ends and the new eastern frontier begins. Read More:http://www.galinsky.com/buildings/salk/
Kahn’s plans for the Salk Center brought Kahn closer to his greatest ambition, to design a city so wonderful that people will quit the
rbs in order to live in it. His would be a city fashioned like a Roman forum, somewhat inspired by some of Robert Adam’s work and create an environment where the automobile would not win out over the pedestrian.
Kind of like this cutting through all the pretension and baloney surrounding the deified gods of our urban environment:
( see link at end):Dacca? It looks to me like a lot of geometric shapes chopped out of a herd of grain silos. Which is an idea, of course, if more a sculptural idea than a traditional architectural idea, and not one that sounds promising for a building that’s intended to be made use of. And I write as someone who really likes looking at and exploring grain silos. In a word? Kahn’s creations seem to me like little buildings so preoccupied with dreams of being great buildings that they can’t bring themselves to be decent little buildings….
…As far as I can tell, Kahn aspired to be a prophet. The “natural” light he so insists on is the architectural version of the light that glows through many mystical works, such as Chagall’s paintings and “Call It Sleep.” This is (or at least wants to be) the light of divine illumination, irradiating the earth as it carries the Word to us; it’s God letting his presence be known through the earthbound materials that this life is made of. And through Kahn, His chosen vehicle. To be fair, some of Kahn’s glowing-light-on-raw-concrete effects are lovely. But they also leave me wondering, as I so often do when playing the let’s-appreciate-modernist-architecture game, why the architect didn’t simply work as a sculptor instead.
I should shut up about the buildings I haven’t visited, I know. But I can’t seem to help myself today. The Kimbell, for instance. Perhaps it’s a nice place to look at art — friends have told me that it is. But from overhead it looks like a shed where spare subway parts are warehoused, and it seems as divorced from its context and its surroundings as any other look-at-me modernist building.Read More:http://www.2blowhards.com/archives/001216.html