Review: New book on Louis Kahn’s architectural philosophy

John Lobell: Louis Kahn – Architecture as Philosophy
ISBN: 9781580935289

Good approach, but potential not fully realised.

John Lobell’s approach of a detailed examination of Louis Kahn’s design principles on the basis of selected building examples is promising and, especially in relation to his earlier book ‚Between Silence and Light‘, is a consistent continuation of the analysis of Kahn’s understanding of architecture that was begun at that time.

Lobell is without doubt a profound and serious connoisseur of Louis Kahn’s work. However, the book falls a little short when one considers that the author apparently did not take up Michael Merrill’s recent, very detailed investigations into Kahn’s design thought. It is precisely here that valuable insights are provided that relate to Lobell’s core theme, namely to illustrate Kahn’s theoretically profound architectural approach.

In addition, the book, whose drawings and photographic illustrations are predominantly in red, loses its readability. Here, the clarity required for detailed architectural studies in particular has been sacrificed to a strong graphic will to design, which by the way is neither explained in the book nor placed in relation to Kahn.

The book is certainly a valuable contribution to the understanding of Kahn’s architectural work, but it remains, as already mentioned, below its potential by not fully exploiting the potential called for, and overall comes too close to a graphically overemphasized homage.

One will have to wait for the book ‚Louis Kahn: The Importance of a Drawing‘, which is expected to be published later this year, in order to get an exhaustive look at the design process, which will be traced through an unusually large number of original drawings.