Tradition as Mediation: Louis I. Kahn: The Dominican Motherhouse & The Hurva Synagogue, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Tradition as Mediation: Louis I. Kahn

The Dominican Motherhouse & The Hurva Synagogue, 1st Edition

By Dana Margalith


250 pages | 27 B/W Illus.

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Hardback: 9781138673229
pub: 2018-07-06
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pub: 2018-07-11
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This book explores Louis I. Kahn's approach to tradition as revealed in two of his important, unbuilt, projects. Focusing on Kahn's designs for the Dominican Motherhouse of St. Catherine de Ricci, Media, Pennsylvania (1965-1969), and the Hurva Synagogue, Jerusalem, Israel (1967-1974), the book challenges prevailing aesthetic and methodological assessments of Kahn's use of tradition. It reveals how an authentic and critical theoretical-historical and humanistic study of tradition nourished Kahn's designs, enabling him to mediate historical rituals, ideas and beliefs – and to develop innovative designs rooted deep in human culture while addressing real modern concerns. The book evaluates Kahn's works as a creative recreation and re-interpretation of the past, shedding light on the potential value of the meaningful consideration of tradition in modern times.


Through a carefully focused study of two major projects by Louis Kahn’s, this important book clarifies the architect’s crucial and often misunderstood relationship to history. Questioning previously held assessments of Kahn’s work, Dana Margalith reveals the originality and contemporary pertinence of Kahn’s approach, engaging cultural habits and traditions hermeneutically that crystallize in significantly innovative projects. Such approach is mischaracterized by the simple appellations of modernism or postmodernism, going beyond a merely progressive or reactionary use of forms for the sake of novelty.

Alberto Pérez-Gómez, Bronfman Professor of Architectural History, McGill University, Canada.

Louis I. Kahn redirected the entire tradition of modern architecture, though that was not the aim of his ‘patient search,’ for he was much too focused on the very topics creatively studied in this book: human association, as evident in the meaningful situations of our lives, that have been shaped historically, as well as the spatial and material interactions between buildings and their environments, the order of which projects both interpret and transform. Two unbuilt projects focus the book’s arguments, inviting the reader to discover in both written and drawn traces of thought real possibilities for an architecture of our time that can be beautiful, significant, and poetic.

David Leatherbarrow, University of Pennsylvania, USA.

Table of Contents


Introduction: History, Tradition, Memory

1: Weak Truth

2: Institutions on Trial

3: Proto Forms as Seeds of Desire


Part 1: The Dominican Motherhouse of St. Catherine de Ricci,

Media Pennsylvania, 1965-1969

1: The Architectural Challenge

2: Design Schemes

3: Proto Forms as Seeds of Desire

4: Mnemonic Images and Programs

5: The Motherhouse after Kahn

Part 2: The Hurva Synagogue

The Old City of Jerusalem, 1967-1974

1: A New Institution

2: Design Proposals

3: Proto Forms as Seeds of Desire

4: Mnemonic Images and Programs

5: The Hurva Synagogue after Kahn


Conclusion: Mediation

Kahn's Mnemonic Images and Programs

About the Author

Dana Margalith is a lecturer at Tel-Aviv University, Israel, and a practicing architect.

About the Series

Routledge Research in Architecture

The Routledge Research in Architecture series provides the reader with the latest scholarship in the field of architecture. The series publishes research from across the globe and covers areas as diverse as architectural history and theory, technology, digital architecture, structures, materials, details, design, monographs of architects, interior design and much more. By making these studies available to the worldwide academic community, the series aims to promote quality architectural research.

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