The notebooks and drawings of Louis I. Kahn
Louis Kahn was never not drawing, says his daughter Sue Ann. ‘As an architect, he always had a pencil or charcoal in his hand. When he wasn’t sleeping on a boat, train, or plane, he drew,’ she remembers in a new edition by The notebooks and drawings of Louis I. Kahn released yesterday on April 19, 2022.
Estonian-born American architect Louis Kahn in 1901 is remembered as a modernist master of geometry, precision and order. Notable works throughout his prolific career include the Salk Institute in CaliforniaKimbell Art Museum in Texas, the Bangladesh National Assembly Building in Dhaka, and the Phillips Exeter Academy Library in New Hampshire.
Like most architects, drawing was Kahn’s most prized tool for developing and communicating his architectural ideas. However, for Kahn, sketching and painting were also an important form of self-expression and during his work and travels he amassed a large collection of watercolors, pastels and charcoal drawings. As a tribute to Louis Kahn, the artist Richard Saul Wurman together with printer Eugene Feldman have created a new facsimile edition of Notebooks and Drawings with an all-new Reader’s Guide. Like an autobiography in pictures, the reprint of the original 1962 book takes the reader on a journey through Kahn’s life and oeuvre with architectural drawings and sketches, personal memories and unpublished speeches.
1957 AN Richards Medical Research Building, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, early study / chalk on tracing paper (main image: 1956 study for downtown Philadelphia / ink on tracing paper)
1957 AN Richards Medical Research Building, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, final study / pencil on tracing paper
the 2022 facsimile edition
This hardcover edition of Notebooks and Drawings occupies 96 pages divided into two sections. One part contains Kahn’s travel sketches of trips to Greece, Egypt, Italy and France in the 1950s. Another section features early drawings and renderings for well-known projects, including: the Sculpture Garden at Yale University Art Gallery; the AN Richards Medical Research Building (Laboratories) at the University of Pennsylvania; the General Motors Exhibition Building for the 1964 New York World’s Fair; and the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California; as well as visionary studies for Philadelphia’s city center.
Richard Saul Wurman, a former student of Kahn’s who worked in his Philadelphia office, personally selected the drawings for the book. ‘I did not choose what were considered his best, most completed drawings,’ Wurman shares. “I chose the ones that spoke to me—much like Lou would say you were having a conversation with a building…the drawings that told me what they were trying to be.”
Readers of this latest edition are also treated to a handwritten note from Kahn to Wurman and Feldman, in which he offers his own perspective on the publication.
1950 Doge’s Palace, Venice, Italy / chalk in notebook
1959 St.-Cécile Cathedral, Albi, France / ink
an all-new Reader’s Guide
The 120-page Reader’s Guide provides a rich context for understanding Kahn’s art and thinking. The accompanying matte black cover paperback features commentary by Richard Saul Wurman, William Whitaker, Louis Kahn’s three children, and tributes from renowned architects who have received the Louis I. Kahn Award. Names include David Adjaye, Tadao Ando, David Chipperfield, Peter Eisenman, Ted Flato, Norman Foster; Jeanne Gang, Frank Gehry, Nicholas Grimshaw, Steven Holl, Daniel Libeskind, Thom Mayne, Antoine Predock, Moshe Safdie, Denise Scott Brown, Robert AM Stern, Billie Tsien and Tod Williams and Rafael Viñoly.
The new 2022 edition of The notebooks and drawings of Louis I. Kahn is published by the Yale Center for British Art in association with Yale University Press and in association with the publisher Designers & Books. The facsimile edition and Reader’s Guide were produced with the approval and collaboration of Richard Saul Wurman, Nathaniel Kahn, Sue Ann Kahn, Alexandra Tyng, and the Louis I. Kahn Collection of the Architectural Archives of the University of Pennsylvania.
The Notebooks and Drawings of Louis I. Kahn: Facsimile Edition and Reader’s Guide comes as a deluxe set of two books. It retails for $110.00 USD and you can find it here on the YC British Art website.
1962 Graham Foundation studies for the downtown Philadelphia plan / charcoal on yellow tracing paper
1962 Salk Institute for Biological Studies, San Diego, California, laboratory garden/charcoal on yellow tracing paper