Books on Designers

15-Plus Books on Louis Kahn

February 20, 2014

Fifteen books from our contributors on American architect Louis I. Kahn (February 20, 1901– March 17, 1974). Updated March 22, 2021.

Additional books can be found on The Louis I. Kahn Facsimile Project.

1
The Essential Louis Kahn Photographs by Cemal Emden

From the Publisher: A photographic tour of every one of the more than 20 buildings designed solely by Louis Kahn, representing the architect's greatest accomplishments. From his native city of Philadelphia to the heart of Bangladesh, Kahn's architecture reflecta his fascination with science, mathematics, history, and nature. Striking new interior and exterior photographs by esteemed architectural photographer Cemal Emden reveal the characteristic features of Kahn's aesthetic: juxtaposed materials, repetition of line and shape and geometric precision. Also evident is the way Kahn's designs flourish in a variety of settings--religious, governmental, educational, and residential. The book gives close attention to Kahn's most iconic buildings, including Erdman Hall at Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania, the Indian Institute of Management in Ahmedabad, the Sher-e-Bangla Nagar in Dhaka, Bangladesh, and the Yale Center for British Art in New Haven, Connecticut, as well as a cluster of residences he designed in the Philadelphia area. Chapter openers written by architecture professor Caroline Maniaque, an introduction by academic Jale Erzen, and an extensive chronology by academic Zekiye Abali, as well as a selection of Kahn's most insightful statements complete this book, which allows for a rich understanding of Kahn's architectural ingenuity.

2
The Houses of Louis Kahn George H. Marcus
William Whitaker

From Yale University Press; #1 Design Best Seller at Van Alen Books, New York (November 2013). Richly illustrated with new and period photographs and original drawings, as well as previously unpublished materials from personal interviews, archives, and Kahn’s own writings, The Houses of Louis Kahn shows how the architect’s ideas about domestic spaces challenged conventions, much like his major public commissions, and were developed into one of the most remarkable expressions of the American house.

Read the Notable Book of 2013 review.

Margaret Esherick House, Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia, 1959–62. From southeast. From The Houses of Louis Kahn (2013, Yale University Press). Photo: 2008 © Matt Wargo
3
Louis Kahn: Conversations with Students Louis I. Kahn

From the Publisher. Louis Kahn (1901-74) is one of the most renowned practitioners of international modernism, on a par with Le Corbusier and Mies van der Rohe in the extent of his influence on subsequent generations of architects. Kahn sought the spiritual in his powerful forms, and encouraged his students to seek the essential nature of architecture. His Philadelphia-based practice was responsible for such masterpieces as the Richards Medical Research building in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; the Yale Art Gallery extension in New Haven, Connecticut; the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas; the government complex at Dhaka, Bangladesh; and the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California.

This title, in the same format as our highly successful Rem Koolhaas: Conversations with Students, contains a little-known essay by Kahn on his sources of inspiration, an interview with the architect on his working methods and his vision for the future of the profession, and writings on Kahn by Michael Bell and Lars Lerup, contributors to our title Stanley Saitowitz.

4
Louis Kahn: Drawing to Find Out Michael Merrill

From the Publisher. Like few others, Louis Kahn cultivated the craft of drawing as a means to architecture. His personal design drawings—seen either as a method of discovery or for themselves—are unique in the twentieth century. Over two hundred—mostly unpublished—drawings by Kahn and his associates are woven together with a lively and informed commentary into an intimate biography of an architectural idea. Unfolding around the iconic project for the Dominican Motherhouse (1965–69) the drawings form a narrative which not only reveals the richness and hidden dimensions of this unbuilt masterpiece, but provides compelling insights into Louis Kahn’s mature culture of designing. Kahn—long considered an architects’ architect—emerges as a vivid and instructive guide, provoking reflection on questions which continue to remain relevant: on how works are conceived, on how they might be perceived, on how they become part of human experience. Fascinating not only in their beauty, the drawings open a new and stimulating perspective on one of the past century's great architects.

5
Louis I Kahn Robert McCarter

From the Publisher. U.S. architect Louis Kahn (1901–74) was one of the greatest influences on world architecture during the second half of the twentieth century. This monograph focuses on Kahn's major designs—as well as a number of unfinished projects, in order to understand his work and philosophy.

6
Louis Kahn: Architecture as Philosophy John Lobell

From the Publisher. John Lobell seeks to reveal how Kahn’s buildings speak to grand humanistic concerns. Through examinations of five of Kahn’s great buildings–the Richards Medical Research Building in Philadelphia; the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla; the Phillips Exeter Academy Library in New Hampshire; the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth; and the Yale Center for British Art in New Haven–Lobell presents a clear but detailed look at how the way these buildings are put together presents Kahn’s philosophy, including how Kahn wishes us to experience them.

7
Louis I. Kahn Esherick House Julie Iovine
Bob Bascom
Photographs by Todd Eberle

Photographs of Kahn’s Esherick House; 2008 auction booklet from Richard Wright.

8
Louis Kahn: A Life in Architecture Carter Wiseman

From the Publisher. The man who envisioned and realized such landmark buildings as the Salk Institute, the Kimbell Art Museum, and the National Assembly complex in Bangladesh, Louis Kahn was born in what is now Estonia, immigrated to America, and became one of the towering figures in his adopted country’s built world. His works are unmistakable in their elegance, monolithic power, and architectural honesty. This book offers a succinct, accessible examination of the life and work of one of America's greatest architects. It traces the influence of his immigrant origins, his upbringing in poverty, his education, the impact of the Great Depression, and the arrival of Modernism on his life and work. Finally, it provides insight into why, as the legacy of many of his contemporaries has receded in importance, Kahn’s has remained so durably influential.

9
Louis Kahn: On the Thoughtful Making of Spaces Michael Merrill

From the Publisher. It was not by chance that Louis Kahn's move into his profession's spotlight coincided with the crisis of modern architecture: representing, as his work increasingly did, those aspects of space which modernism had so ambitiously removed from its program. Kahn's rethinking of modern architecture's paradigm of space belongs to his most important contributions to the metier. In tracing the genesis of the unbuilt project for the Dominican Motherhouse we are given a close-up view of Kahn at work on a few fundamental questions of architectural space: seeking the sources of its meaning in its social, morphological, landscape and contextual dimensions. This rich and multivalent project opens the way to a second section, which sheds new light on several of major works in a timely reappraisal of Kahn's work.

 

10
Louis I. Kahn: The Nordic Latitudes Per Olaf Fjeld
Emily Randall Fjeld

From the Publisher. Louis I. Kahn: The Nordic Latitudes is a new and personal reading of the architecture, teachings, and legacy of Louis I. Kahn from Per Olaf Fjeld’s perspective as a former student. The book explores Kahn’s life and work, offering a unique take on one of the twentieth century’s most important architects. Kahn’s Nordic and European ties are emphasized in this study that also covers his early childhood in Estonia, his travels, and his relationships with other architects, including the Norwegian architect Arne Korsmo. The authors have gathered personal reflections, archival material, and other student work to offer insight into the wisdom that Kahn imparted to his students in his famous masterclass. Louis I. Kahn: The Nordic Latitudes addresses Kahn’s legacy both personally and in terms of the profession, documents a research trip the University of Pennsylvania’s Louis I. Kahn Collection, and confronts the affiliation of Kahn’s work with postmodernism.

11
Louis Kahn: The Power of Architecture Mateo Kries Editor
Jochen Eisenbrand Editor
Stanislaus von Moos Editor

From the Publisher. The American architect Louis Kahn (1901–1974) is regarded as one of the great master builders of the 20th century. With complex spatial compositions, an elemental formal vocabulary, and a choreographic mastery of light, Kahn created buildings of archaic beauty and powerful universal symbolism. Numbering among his most important works are the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California (1959–65), the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas (1966–72), the Indian Institute of Management in Ahmedabad (1962–74), and the National Assembly Building in Dhaka, Bangladesh (1962–83).

12
Louis I. Kahn: Silence and Light Louis I. Kahn

From the Publisher. Louis I. Kahn (1901–74) was one of the foremost architects in America during the twentieth century. His notable buildings include the Yale Study Center; the Salk Institute in Pasadena, California; and the Exeter Library in Exeter, New Hampshire. On February 12, 1969, Kahn gave a lecture at the School of Architecture at Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zürich. Entitled Silence and Light, the lecture explains Kahn’s spiritual understanding of architecture, which goes far deeper than simply constructing buildings. He also gives a remarkably prescient account of a belief in sustainable architecture that prefigures the twenty-first century’s focus on green technology. The lecture is represented in transcripts into five different languages (German, Italian, English, French, and Spanish), as well as an audio recording of Kahn giving the lecture in English included on CD. To complement the original text, the editor has included a preface written by Kahn’s close friend and fellow architect Balkrishna V. Doshi, as well as many of Kahn’s own images and drawings, some of which have never been published before.

13
Louis I. Kahn: Unbuilt Masterworks Kent Larson
Foreword by Vincent Scully

From the Publisher. American architect Louis I. Kahn left behind a legacy of great buildings: the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California; the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas; and the Indian Institute for Management in Ahmedabad. Yet he also left behind an equally important legacy of designs that were never realized. This exceptional volume unites those unbuilt projects with the most advanced computer-graphics technology—the first fundamentally new tool for studying space since the development of perspective in the Renaissance—to create a beautiful and poignant vision of what might have been.

Author Kent Larson has delved deep into Kahn's extensive archives to construct faithful computer models of a series of proposals the architect was not able to build: the U.S. Consulate in Luanda, Angola; the Meeting House of the Salk Institute in La Jolla; the Mikveh Israel Synagogue in Philadelphia; the Memorial to Six Million Jewish Martyrs in New York City; three proposals for the Hurva Synagogue in Jerusalem; and the Palazzo dei Congressi in Venice. The resulting computer-generated images present striking views of real buildings in real sites. Each detail is exquisitely rendered, from complex concrete textures to subtle interreflections and patterns of sunlight and shadow.

Kahn's famous statement—"I thought of wrapping ruins around buildings"—is borne out by the views of his unbuilt works; his rigorous exploration of tactility and sensation, light and form, is equally evident. Complementing the new computer images is extensive archival material—rough preliminary drawings, finely delineated plans, and beautiful travel sketches. Larson also presents fascinating documentation of each project, often including correspondence with the clients that shows not only the deep respect accorded the architect but the complicated circumstances that sometimes made it impossible to bring a design to fruition. Not only a historical study of Kahn's unbuilt works, this volume is in itself an intriguing alternative history of architecture.

14
Our Days Are Like Full Years Harriet Pattison

From the Publisher. An intimate glimpse into the professional and romantic relationship between Harriet Pattison and the renowned architect Louis Kahn On a winter day in 1953, a mysterious man in a sheepskin coat stood out to Harriet Pattison, then a theater student at Yale. She would later learn he was the architect Louis Kahn (1901–1974). This chance encounter served as preamble to a fifteen-year romance, with Pattison becoming the architect’s closest confidante, his intellectual partner, and the mother of his only son. Here for the first time, Pattison recounts their passionate and sometimes searing relationship. Married and twenty-seven years her senior, Kahn sent her scores of letters—many from far-flung places—until his untimely death.

This book weaves together Pattison’s own story with letters, postcards, telegrams, drawings, and photographs that reveal Kahn’s inner life and his architectural thought process, including new insight into some of his greatest works, both built and unbuilt. What emerges is at once a poignant love story and a vivid portrait of a young woman striving to raise a family while forging an artistic path in the shadow of her famous partner.

Harriet Pattison, FASLA, is a distinguished landscape architect. She was Louis Kahn’s romantic partner from 1959 to 1974, and his collaborator on the landscapes of the Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, and the F.D.R. Memorial/Four Freedoms Park, New York. She is the mother of their son, Oscar-nominated filmmaker Nathaniel Kahn.

15
What Will Be Has Always Been Richard Saul Wurman Editor

The notebooks, writings, and interviews of architect Louis I. Kahn.

16
You Say to Brick: The Life of Louis Kahn Wendy Lesser

From the Publisher. A major exploration of the architect’s life and work. Kahn, perhaps more than any other twentieth-century American architect, was a “public” architect. Rather than focusing on corporate commissions, he devoted himself to designing research facilities, government centers, museums, libraries, and other structures that would serve the public good. But this warm, captivating person, beloved by students and admired by colleagues, was also a secretive man hiding under a series of masks. Drawing on extensive original research, lengthy interviews with his children, his colleagues, and his students, and travel to the far-flung sites of his career-defining buildings, Lesser has written a landmark biography of this elusive genius, revealing the mind behind some of the twentieth century’s most celebrated architecture.

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