Architect Louis Kahn’s gift for form and light is explored at London’s Design Museum

Architect Louis Kahn’s gift for form and light is explored at London’s Design Museum

Travelling all the way from the Vitra Design Museum, a new show at London’s Design Museum celebrates influential 20th century architect Louis Kahn (1901-1974), the great American known for his expert moulding of building forms and unparalleled use of light. 

Louis Kahn: The Power of Architecture is a thorough exploration of the visionary architect’s work through a wealth of architectural models, original drawings, sketches, photographs and films; in fact the several clips on display, showing interviews with prominent contemporary architects - including Sou Fujimoto, Renzo Piano, Frank Gehry and Peter Zumthor, and Kahn’s former collaborators, like Balkrishna Doshi - attest to Kahn’s lasting global reach, weight and legacy. 

Kahn’s masterpieces are spread across the globe, from California, USA to Exeter, UK and Dhaka, Bangladesh. His buildings come in all shapes and scales, from the relatively bijou Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas - next to which a new addition by Renzo Piano opened last year - to the grand and iconic Salk Institute in La Jolla, California. His influences similarly range from historical references and ancient ruins, to more contemporary, modern work. Yet all his buildings share a sense of place and represent their creator’s strive of perfection and architectural exploration. 

The show looks at the prominent architect’s rich body of work through several angles, arranged in broad themes and respective sections. ’Landscape’ examines the architect’s work in relation to nature and water, and the importance the environment had to his work; ’community’ explores Kahn’s approach to the social significance of architecture and to spatial hierarchies; and ’science’ looks into Kahn’s search for new forms in architecture. Other sections of the show highlight the architect’s early life and travels, his approach towards the city and the house. The exhibition closes with the acclaimed Franklin D Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park - posthumously completed in October 2012.

A rich program of events is planned around the show to last through its conclusion, while a separate film installation on show on the museum’s second floor, created by Alice Masters and produced by Pete Collard, presents Kahn’s work in a contemporary context.

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