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Louis I. Kahn's Jewish Architecture: Mikveh Israel and the Midcentury American Synagogue (Brandeis Series in American Jewish History, Culture, and Life)

2 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1584657880
ISBN-10: 158465788X
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Editorial Reviews


"Valuable . . . Solomon presents a careful and very readable study of those designs, clearly connecting the congregation's religious and communal needs with Kahn's evolving vision. She demonstrates where Kahn's concepts of site, space, light, landscape, and ritual continued to develop, often outpacing the congregation's own ideas. In this, the book is an introduction to Kahn the architect and the idealist. Solomon also offers lengthy and informative excursions into post-World War II views of Jewish identity and community, and of the lively professional and public debate about the appropriate art and architecture for synagogues, and in a postscript muses on the state of contemporary synagogue design." ―Tablet Magazine

"Louis I. Kahn's Jewish Architecture is hardly a mere tale of an unbuilt design. Solomon deftly uses the case of Mikveh Israel to reflect on the history of early postwar American synagogue architecture more broadly and on its significance for postwar American Jewish social aspirations. Solomon convincingly describes how American Jewish congregations (mostly Reform and Conservative) swiftly embraced modernist synagogue design in the years after 1945. She discusses the work of such well-known architects as Frank Lloyd Wright and Philip Johnson, as well as lesser-known figures, such as Pietro Belluschi and William Wurster, praising their designs as innovative in conception (especially their interior use of modern decorative art) and inspiring in effect." ―The Forward

"The book's main argument is succinct and clear, aided by the numerous pictures throughout all chapters. Those include not only Kahn's drawings and completed works, but also the exterior and interior designs of synagogues and other buildings by a host of architects from the nineteenth century to the present."―H-Net

"Important and insightful."―Jewish Exponent


“Susan Solomon’s engaging study of Louis Kahn’s unbuilt designs for the Mikveh Israel synagogue in Philadelphia shows how this project, which extended over a decade through Kahn’s mature career, was part of a broad pattern of American Jewish congregational patronage of modern architecture and visual art. Kahn’s designs for Mikveh Israel represented his critical response to the conventions of modernism in postwar American synagogues. Solomon shows how the Mikveh Israel project’s evolution marked the convergence of Kahn’s search for transcendence in his art with the client’s effort to define its identity and renew its role in the heart of Philadelphia through the 1960s. This book tells a compelling story of how his extraordinary mind struggled to come to terms with Judaism as a religion he did not practice but, in this project, one that he tried to reconcile with his own profoundly spiritual aims for his style of modern architecture." (Joseph Siry, Professor of Art History, Wesleyan University)|“Susan Solomon’s book, with its climax in a study of Kahn’s plans for a venerable congregation in Philadelphia, treats these plans within the broader context of the mid-century synagogue and as part of American modern architecture. Her level-headed and scholarly text sets the building in context; unlike some publications about Kahn, it is neither worshipful nor polemical. This book can be read with pleasure and intellectual profit by lay readers as well as scholars. Dr. Solomon also addresses synagogues by Philip Johnson, William Wurster, and others, and offers approaches to modern synagogues based on her own previous writings on Kahn and Jewish-sponsored architecture. Her book will be welcomed by researchers who deal with the architect, the building type, and American Jewish history.” (Carol Herselle Krinsky, Professor of Art History, New York University)

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Product Details

  • Series: Brandeis Series in American Jewish History, Culture, and Life
  • Hardcover: 236 pages
  • Publisher: Brandeis (August 31, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 158465788X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1584657880
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.3 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,866,590 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Susan G. Solomon was born in Perth Amboy, New Jersey. She received a Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania in 1997. Trained as an art historian with a concentration on twentieth-century architecture, Solomon has extensive experience as curator, writer,and speaker. She heads her own research firm, Curatorial Resources & Research in Princeton, New Jersey.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Elizabeth Frenchman on January 12, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Documenting an under-appreciated phenomenon, suburban sacred architecture of the 50s and 60s, settle in for a satisfying tale of Bauhaus-besotted modernists following their own religion. Where modernist malls and banks have been destroyed or altered beyond recognition, the churches and synagogues of this era survive. Even the photographs are beguiling, though there aren't enough of them.
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Format: Hardcover
Susan G. Solomon's Louis I. Kahn's Jewish Architecture achieves several objectives. Principally, it expands the body of knowledge on Kahn, one of the twentieth century's most important architects, with an in-depth study of one of his key projects. In addition, it contributes greatly to our understanding of a building type that has been understudied, offers a new perspective on the cultural history of the mid-20th century and on the effects of suburbanism in particular, and focuses a keen eye on subtle shifts in both the interpretation and reception of Modernism from the late 1950s to the 1970s. Solomon's text is intelligent and compelling; her narrative style engages the reader on multiple levels.
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Louis I. Kahn's Jewish Architecture: Mikveh Israel and the Midcentury American Synagogue (Brandeis Series in American Jewish History, Culture, and Life)
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