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Louis I. Kahn : Unbuilt Masterworks Hardcover – August 28, 2000

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Editorial Reviews


A stunning act of digital cyber-architecture by architect Larson . . . uncannily realistic views on a Silicon Graphics Workstation. -- Time Magazine, Louis I. Kahn’s Hurva Synagogue.

Kent Larson used virtual reality to produce strikingly lifelike, two-dimensional pictures . . . the product is a luminous representation of daylight. -- The Chicago Tribune

Of applications to which the computer has been put in architecture, none is more intriguing . . . startlingly convincing. -- The New York Times Book Review,

Rigorous scholarship . . . an important contribution to the history of architecture in general, and a deeper understanding of Louis Kahn's genius -- Architectural Record, December 2000

The Hurva simulations are astonishing and utterly convincing. -- The New York Times, A Spiritual Quest Realized, but Not in Stone, Paul Goldberger, Sunday, Arts and Leisure.

The poetry in Larson’s images comes from his artistic interpretation of Kahn. -- OPEN: The Electronic Magazine, Redefining Creativity in the Digital Age, “Inside Virtual Walls,

They bring us with startling fidelity into the space that Kahn wanted to make. -- “A Virtual Landmark, Hurva Synagogue,

From the Inside Flap

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 the interreflections of glass block to the shading of concrete to the 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.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: The Monacelli Press (October 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 158093014X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1580930147
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 1 x 11.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,335,305 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 8, 2001
Format: Hardcover
So I'm looking through this book of photographs of unbuilt projects, and gradually I realize. . . I'm looking at photo. . . . graphs of. . . unbuilt projects. They're great-looking photos, too. There's a building at the Salk Institute in La Jolla which I know isn't there, and another Jewish memorial NYC which I don't think exists, and they look great.
What Kent Larson has done is a simple, powerful, cool idea that took a lot of time, energy, MIT architectural thinking, and SGI computing power to accomplish. Larson first pieced together a reasonable paper version of each structure, then assembled a 3-D virtual model of that structure, then had to choose the best virtual camera angles under the best false sunlight for the best portraits. Larson went as far as using high-resolution photographs of existing Kahn walls to skin these virtual surfaces, and added a patina of wear and tear, just to make it more convincing.
So Larson's work is the result of a lot of a helluva lot of choices. It helped the interpretation that Kahn preferred a limited palette of building materials - like concrete - which helped Larson orchestrate this score. It didn't help Larson that Kahn was known for his close attention to lighting effects. All that lighting took the most sophisticated possible CAD/CAM rendering on SGI hardware.
But the payoff is - shocking. You get bright sunlight, soft counter-reflections, complex reflections in glass (the glass-block Jewish memorial is the showboat piece in that respect). You have to see them to know how much you want to believe them, if that makes any sense. To know how much you'd like to visit these six new Kahn buildings that will never exist. In a weird way, this project advances Kahn's career and reputation, not only from beyond the grave, but lapsing over into architectural cyberspace.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By "hofarup1491" on November 18, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I have known the eight projects presented in this book for over thirty years, but now realize that my understanding was only superficial. This extraordinary volume reveals aspects of the buildings impossible to perceive from drawings and models: the layering of space, the rich materiality, and - most of all -Kahn's genius for manipulating light. Delightfully, this ambitious and unorthodox study is sure to rattle those who regard Kahn as an unapproachable icon.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Barry Webb on October 6, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This is a one of a kind book - masterful - the best digital images ever created of architecture. My only regret is that Kahn was not able to construct these eight works. They would have been among the great buildings of the 20th Century.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By "koshti" on December 14, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Larson has not only demonstrated superb skill in computer rendering but also a much deeper understanding of Kahn's architecture. Reviews by Scully demonstrate the histrorical development of Kahns work & Mitchell has done a fine job of giving the analysis. This book will help in establishing some standard for presenting unbuilt works of architecture in the future.
Format of the book is good in its simplicity although some reference to drawings would have made it a more comprehensive study. Great book ... a collecter's item for all "Kahnian's" across the world.
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