Louis I. Kahn’s œuvre has a presence, an aura unmatched by that of any other architect of the present day. Structuralism, New Rasionalism and fundamental features of Post–Modernism owe no less to Louis Kahn’s concepts and buildings than the International Style. After a lifetime of worrying about many things, Kahn discovered late in life how to transform the ruins of ancient Rome into modern buildings. Kahn’s idiosyncratic use of certain words has caused confusion. Monumentality did not mean to him what it means to others: big, important, lavish buildings dominating their surroundings.
The elements of his buildings - always elemental - heavy are assembled in solemn, load-bearing masses. Their body is Platonic, abstractly geometric the essential shapes of circle, square. They shape spaces heavy with light. They are silent. They are more than that. They begin something. Kahn described his work more as the discovery of some ideal than as the invention of something new. It is brooding, remote, mysterious. But ultimately his search was more metaphysical, more psychological or existential, than it was architectural.
In Fort Worth, Kahn created a skylight system, opening the building to the sun in just the way that he had long recommended- by parting the structure and thus weaving support and illumination together. The visitor to Kahn’s Kimbell Art Museum may not, at first feel welcomed. With its rich pallet of pale concrete, somber lead roof and fissured, honey- toned travertine, it is evocative – as a mausoleum or a temple perhaps – but it is not clearly a public space. It is poetically rather than monumentally deployed. The galleries conveying the impression of a heightened impression but they are undeniable noble as in a monument.