1st Edition

Louis I. Kahn in Rome and Venice Tangible Forms

By Elisabetta Barizza Copyright 2021
    228 Pages 43 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    228 Pages 43 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This book examines the idea of organism in the work of Louis I. Kahn, from the turning point of Rome to the project for Venice. It presents an original interpretation of the work of Kahn during one of the most fruitful periods of his career, when he was working on a particular design method based on an entirely novel way of interacting with the past. Beginning with a meticulous documentation and analysis of Kahn’s experiences in the twenty years from 1930 to 1950, the book sheds new light on the relationship between Kahn’s work and the modern movement. The arguments are supported by case studies, including that of the Palazzo dei Congressi in Venice based on Kahn’s words (like his lessons in Venice at IUA, International University of Art, in 1971) and others as the Trenton Bath House, the Salk Institute (La Jolla), the Kimbell Museum (Fort Worth), the Yale Gallery and the Mellon Center for British Art (New Haven) and more.

    Unlike much of the by now well-established literature on Kahn’s work, Louis I. Kahn in Rome and Venice suggests that the basic premise of Kahn’s invention is the idea of spatial, constructive organism, which explains how he created forms that were inextricably anchored in the past, without imitating any one kind of ancient architecture. The main objective of the book is to explain Kahn’s methodology to architects and students, showing how he was able to design an architectural object with the characteristics of the best designed objects: organisms, in which each part contributes, with the whole, to creating "something made of indivisible parts".

    Foreword: Kahn revisited Giuseppe Strappa


    PART I: The critical reception of Kahn in Italy

    1. The idea of organism in the works of Louis Kahn

    1.1 Organic morphology in the critical literature during the 1960’s and ‘70’s

    1.2 Interpretations of the idea of form in the 1980’s

    1.3 Steps towards a contemporary interpretation

    PART II: Basic Principles

    2. Philadelphia and the teaching of Paul Cret

    2.1 Architecture and teaching at the University of Pennsylvania

    2.2 The lesson of Paul Cret

    3. "How’m I Doing, Corbusier?"

    3.1 The beginnings: the quest for modern forms

    3.2 The Thirties: experimentation and social engagement

    3.3 The American Society of Planners and Architects

    4. Kahn and Rome. The essence of the notion of organism

    4.1 The American Academy in Rome, 1950-1951

    4.2 Designing institutions: from unity to uniqueness

    4.3 Solid structures in stonework

    PART III: Architectural unity in Kahn’s work

    5. "The word order is a beautiful word"

    5.1 Designing with Proportion and congruence

    5.2 "Designing is composing forms in order"

    5.3 "Order is"

    6. "Architectural order implies integration of space, structure and mechanics"

    6.1 The legibility of the form and architectural integrity

    6.2 "The miracle of span"

    6.3 The originality of the applications and the unique nature of the procedures

    7. A dialogue with the architecture of the past

    7.1 Monumentality

    7.2 A building as a picture of a purpose well expressed

    7.3 The Salk Institute for Biological Studies

    PART IV: Kahn and Venice. "Places more than buildings"

    8. The significance of the idea of city

    8.1 The design project of Palazzo dei Congressi 1968-1969

    8.2 The architectural solution

    8.3 A dialogue with the city

    9. Original words: Kahn at UIA, International University of Art of Venice, 1971

    9.1 Louis Kahn, lecture in Venice, 1971

    9.2 "On the roof of Ducal Palace"

    9.3 Kahn talks with students in Venice


    Bibliography notes









    Elisabetta Barizza, PhD, is an architect and teacher of history of art and design. After working as an architect in Italy and abroad, she specialised in teaching. In 2017, she published the book La forma tangibile and in 2018 (with Marco Falsetti) Rome and the legacy of Louis Kahn, published in Italian in 2014. In 2018, she (with Gabriele Neri) published Louis Kahn and Venice, the catalogue of the exhibition curated for the Theatre of Architecture, Mendrisio Academy, Switzerland.