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You Say to Brick: The Life of Louis Kahn Kindle Edition
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|Length: 417 pages||Word Wise: Enabled||Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled|
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She masterfully blends his complicated life and personal relationships (a marriage, a child by that marriage, and at least two extra marital affairs and two children from those affairs) with a thorough examination of four of his masterpieces; the Salk Institute, the Kimbell Art Museum, the Phillips Exeter Library, the National Assembly Building in Dacca, Bangladesh, and the Indian Institute of Management in India. She also analyses his two Yale art museums; describing the Library Court in the British Museum as “the acme of a gentlemen’s-club perfection . . .[punctuated] by a massive concrete cylinder… a giant piece of the ancient world plunked down in an upscale London interior.” Lesser is humorous, rhapsodic and even reverential in personalizing one of this country’s artistic geniuses.
This book will send you scanning the Internet for videos and images of his works and watching his son’s mesmerizing movie “My Architect.” This is biography at its finest.
Where the book falls drastically short is its evaluation of his accomplishment. If you picked up this book and had never seen a Louis Kahn building in any other context, you would be seriously befuddled as to what the fuss was about. The project descriptions are impressionistic recounts of the experience of walking through the buildings – which works well on occasion, such as her evaluation of the Salk Institute, and then at other times such as the capital complex at Dacca should not have even been tried. Although there is some discussion of Kahn’s contemporaries, there is really nothing here about what formally set Kahn apart from the work of his time. In the same respect, making simple claims that he was influenced by Roman ruins is not at all useful without demonstrating how and to what effect.
Although Lesser clearly admire’s Kahn’s work, she unfortunately lacks the gift to convey and share what it is that Kahn accomplished. There is barely any photography, the photographs that are there are fairly terrible, and no plans or sections of his buildings are included. It’s not much of an exaggeration say all of this would be as head-scratching as a biography of Picasso, for instance, that discusses his life but for his art included only a handful of grainy black and white images.
Fortunately there are good books out there such as “Louis I Kahn: In the Realm of Architecture” which correct this balance – having excellent discussions of the buildings as well as careful visual documentation. Without pairing this biography with an additional work such as that, the story of what Louis Kahn accomplished would be left here incomplete.
Recommended to anyone who is interested in art, architecture, collaboration in a creative spheres.