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Eugene Feldman, Co-Editor, and Co-Designer of The Notebooks and Drawings of Louis I. Kahn

David Feldman, son of the esteemed artist and experimental printer, offers a poignant recollection of his father and the architect Louis Kahn.

October 5, 2021

By David Feldman

Our train arrived late at Penn Station. As we were rushing to the taxi stand, I asked my father to show me where in the station Lou Kahn had died. But he did not react, maybe because we were late, maybe because he didn’t want to relive memories.

Profile of Louis I. Kahn, 1962, by Eugene Feldman. Photo: © The Estate of Eugene Feldman

It had been only a few months before when my father told me about Kahn’s death. It was strange because my father rarely discussed anything about his feelings, but this time he had much to say. He spoke about how sad he was about Kahn’s tragic death, how sad he was that that so many of Kahn’s brilliant ideas would never come to fruition, and how sad he was to have lost someone he admired so deeply. It was 1974 and I was twelve years old.

My father, Eugene Feldman, was an artist, experimental printer, graphic designer, and Professor of Fine Arts at the University of Pennsylvania. He pioneered the use of offset lithography as a fine art form. He loved experimenting with offset presses to create rich, layered images using the latest technology. His commercial press, Falcon Press, was the publisher of the original 1962 edition of The Notebooks and Drawings of Louis I. Kahn and was also the studio where he created his own original art.

He routinely collaborated with museums and other artists to create books that were also works of art. Shortly before co-editing and co-designing The Notebooks and Drawings of Louis I Kahn with Richard Saul Wurman, he collaborated with the Brazilian artist,Aloísio Magalhães on Doorway to Brasilia, a book about the construction of the new Brazilian capital.

“Practice” salutations by Louis Kahn for his letter to Richard Saul Wurman and Eugene Feldman, which served as the introduction to the 1973 edition of The Notebooks and Drawings of Louis I. Kahn. Eugene Feldman Collection, The Architectural Archives, University of Pennsylvania

One of my father’s prized possessions was a framed 8½ x 11 sheet of paper on which Kahn had handwritten “Dear Rick and Gene” six times. Kahn cut out the version he liked best, and it was used at the beginning of his introductory letter to the 1973 edition of The Notebooks and Drawings of Louis I. Kahn. My father loved how this simple piece of paper showed Kahn’s perfectionism and intentionality.

Lou Kahn’s death in 1974 was a turning point for my father. Years of working full-time as an artist, commercial printer, and professor had taken their toll on him. My father had had a heart attack a few years before and his doctors were pressuring him to cut down.

Shortly after Kahn’s death, my father decided to place an anonymous ad in a printing trade publication looking for expressions of interest to buy Falcon Press. I was with him when he received a large manila envelope with letters from potentially interested buyers. He scrutinized each envelope, rolled his thumb over the printed return address, and rejected most without even opening the envelope and reading the contents.

Eugene Feldman at the Falcon Press printing studio, c. 1966. Eugene Feldman Collection, The Architectural Archives, University of Pennsylvania

He eventually did find a buyer. But in September 1975, on the day he was to complete the sale, he suffered a massive heart attack while teaching at the University of Pennsylvania. Although resuscitated by his students, he died of complications a few days later.

I know my father would have been delighted to know that future generations will enjoy the beauty of The Notebooks and Drawings of Louis I. Kahn.

David Feldman
Athens, Greece
August 2021

 

Read more about The Notebooks and Drawings of Louis I. Kahn.

Read more about Eugene Feldman (1942–1975).

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