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 Seeing Things | Louis Kahn’s Italian Idyll

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PostSubject: Seeing Things | Louis Kahn’s Italian Idyll   Mon Feb 28, 2011 2:48 pm

Courtesy of the Sue Ann Kahn CollectionLouis
Kahn’s 1951 pastel sketch of the Basilica of San Marco in Venice is one
of the highlights of the “Kahn in Venice” exhibition.

“Kahn in Venice,”
an exhibition at the Italian Cultural Institute in Los Angeles,
celebrates the architect Louis I. Kahn’s special relationship with
Italy. His unbuilt 1968 project for a congress hall in Venice is the
centerpiece of the show, which was organized in collaboration with the
Architectural Archives of the University of Pennsylvania, and which also
includes many of Kahn’s lush, expressive travel sketches of buildings,
gardens, bridges and street scenes in Venice, Rome and the hill towns of
Tuscany. (The exhibition, which is on view through March 19, was
curated and designed by the Los Angeles architects Barton Myers and
David Karp, both of whom were Kahn’s students and apprentices.)
Kahn (1901-1974), whose best known buildings include the Salk Institute in La Jolla, Calif., and the Kimbell Art Museum
in Fort Worth, Tex., spent time in Italy in 1928 and 1950, and its
architecture informed his own work. After a stint as the architect in
residence at the American Academy in Rome, Kahn declared, “The
architecture of Italy will remain as the inspirational source of the
works of the future.” His triple-domed Congress Hall project, a
bridge-like structure that was to be built of reinforced concrete,
recalled the domes of the Venetian Basilica of San Marco, seen above in
his animated 1951 sketch. Kahn loved Venice’s built environment —
calling it “an architecture of joy” — and when he was working on his
projects there said, “I was constantly thinking as if I was asking each
building I love so much in Venice whether they would accept me in their
company.” No doubt Venice and its buildings would have embraced Kahn’s
Congress Hall, which the architect worked hard to place sensitively in
the fabric of one of the world’s most unusual cities.
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