Louis Kahn Plays the Organ
PHOTOS BY PHILIP HENDREN, AIA.
by Philip Hendren, AIA
Louis Kahn was the guest of honor at the First Annual Le Corbusier Lecture Series at The University of Texas at Austin School of Architecture. The lecture committee, Professor Dick Oliver and I, hatched up the idea of calling it a “Le Corbusier” series, thinking it might make it easier to get big names to come to Austin. It worked when we called Louis Kahn’s office in Philadelphia. The person on the other end of the phone said that Kahn loved Le Corbusier — he had in fact visited him in Paris in 1928 — and would probably be honored to participate. At that time, Kahn was arguably the most beloved architect on the planet, especially in academia — maybe because he started designing and building in his mid-fifties after being a much-admired teacher. By 1970, Kahn’s buildings had caught the attention of the world. He was just beginning to work on the Kimbell Art Museum, and we knew he would draw a big audience. On January 12, 1970,
We reserved Batts Hall, the largest available lecture hall at UT Austin, and Oliver designed wonderful posters, which we pinned up all over campus and mailed to local architects. On the night of the lecture, the sky was bleak and it was very cold, but the weather did not deter the crowd already filling the room hours before the talk. When Kahn began speaking, the hall was at full capacity, standing room only, and people were on the lawn outside the building. supplemented by slides of his recent work, was mesmerizing, especially the part about the Kimbell. Everyone who was there that night came away with a new appreciation for the roles that light plays in architecture. Kahn’s words and images seemed almost to turn light into a religion. He was very animated about the elements of architecture and spoke about a beam of light or a brick as though the materials could understand him. Kahn’s lecture,
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