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Glorify the Brick: Louis Kahn at the Design Museum

Louis Kahn has been known as the architect’s architect. Others have had that title before him and a few have since. Aalto, Asplund, Stirling and Zumthor come to mind. But what makes these architects universally adored amongst their contemporaries while everyone else is unaware of their work? I suppose each demonstrated a puritanical work ethic in their career. And they have all subverted modernism by drawing on the past. We know that all contemporary architects of any caliber respect these traits beyond others so let the futurist de-constructivists stew in their academic unpopularity. Speaking of which, Zaha Hadid has bought the entire museum for displaying her own work after the exhibition closes.

The Design Museum’s retrospective exhibition of Kahn, the first in over twenty years, has a very niche audience: architects who love Kahn. It is an opportunity to pay homage rather than to learn anything new. To look at the concept drawings in Kahn’s hand, and reconstructed models of the masterpieces, and say that we have paid our respects. We shed a small tear at the sight of his traveling suitcase and leave with the extra weight in our own bags from the substantial exhibition book. And we think, if only I could work harder and be more obsessive and single minded. That’s what it is to be an architect.

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