Louis Kahn's Situated Modernism

Sarah Williams Goldhagen

View Inside Price: $55.00

June 10, 2001
336 pages, 7 x 10
146 b/w + 24 color illus.
ISBN: 9780300077865

Out of Print

Louis Kahn is perhaps the most important architect to emerge in the decades following World War II. In this book Sarah Williams Goldhagen dismantles the myths that have cast Kahn variously as a mystical neo-Platonist, a structural rationalist, a visionary champion of Beaux-Arts principles, a rebel against modernism. She demonstrates instead that the essence of Kahn’s architecture lies in his deeply held modernist political, social, and artistic ideals. Throughout his life, Goldhagen shows, Kahn sought to rework modernism into a socially transformative architecture appropriate for the postwar world.

Goldhagen presents much new archival evidence about Kahn’s buildings, his ideas, and his indebtedness to contemporary art and to the many socio-critical and architectural discourses of the postwar years. She offers fresh interpretations of many of his important buildings, including the Yale University Art Gallery and the National Assembly complex in Bangladesh, as well as of such previously understudied or misunderstood works as his essay on monumentality and his AFL Medical Services building in Philadelphia. Goldhagen theorizes Kahn’s architectural principles to show that he struggled with modernism rather than against it, reconceptualizing it into a singular and powerful new vocabulary that retains architectural and social relevance today.

Sarah Williams Goldhagen is lecturer in architectural history at the Graduate School of Design, Harvard University.

. . .Goldhagen distills key themes in Kahn's thought about the purpose and goal of modern architectural design. . .

[A] splendid book.

"This book will durably change the paradigm by which we have viewed Louis Kahn now for several decades."—Francesco Passanti

“This book will quickly take its place in the Kahn canon. Ten years of research has given the author a meticulous knowledge of Kahn’s works and writings. . . . Goldhagen distills key themes in Kahn’s thought about the purpose and goal of modern architectural design: authenticity, monumentality, and community. These themes allow her to reassess significant commissions in Kahn’s career. . . . The author chose the phrase ‘situated modernism’ because she seeks to reinsert Kahn within his social, political, and artistic context.”—Choice

“This book offers a refreshingly new reading of the work of Louis Kahn. The author argues that, far from being a solitary genius striving for a transcendent architecture, Kahn was deeply involved with the discourse of his time, searching for an architecture that would foster community within a democratic society.”—Alan Colquhoun, professor emeritus, Princeton University

“Provocative, with a truly challenging thesis. Where Kahn spoke of his creations in almost transcendental terms, especially toward the end of his life, Goldhagen thinks of them as functioning along more down-to-earth, utilitarian lines.”—Robert Leiter, Jewish Exponent
Richard Neutra’s Windshield House

Edited by Dietrich Neumann; With contributions by Joyce Bot

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