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Mesmerizing Quotes By Louis Kahn On Architecture And Life

Itze-Leib Schmuilowsky, born February 20th, 1901 is an American architect better known as Louis Kahn. Architecture requires an astute mind and attention to detail, both of which Mr. Kahn had. He had even spent time teaching the subject at the Yale School of Architecture for 10 years.

He wasn’t known for cutting corners or designed specifically made to speed up construction. When it came to the minor details of a structure, Kahn had to be meticulous about absolutely everything.

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Kahn and his family emigrated from the Russian Empire’s Livonian Governate in 1906, an attempt to flee his father’s possible conscription during the Russo-Japanese war. It was in 1915 that the architect’s father changed their name to Kahn.

Quotes by Louis Kahn

1. On the Life of Things

“A work of art… is not a living thing… that walks or runs. But the making of a life. That which gives you a reaction. To some, it is the wonder of man’s fingers. To some, it is the wonder of the mind. To some, it is the wonder of the technique. And to some, it is how real it is. To some, how transcendent it is. Like the 5th Symphony, it presents itself with a feeling that you know it, if you have heard it once.”

This is proof that Kahn subscribed to animism, the belief that all things, including inanimate objects (i.e. shoes, umbrellas, etc.), buildings, and even songs themselves had their own feelings.

I am totally with Kahn on this one. When a person is truly proud of their works, they imbue it with their very own spirit and energy, thus giving life to their creation.

If you’re into foreign films, a great movie about animism is the Japanese action flick The Great Yokai War.

2. Why Natural Light is Just Better

“Architects in planning rooms today have forgotten their faith in natural light. Depending on the touch of a finger to a switch, they are satisfied with static light and forget the endlessly changing qualities of natural light, in which a room is a different room every second of the day.”

Most people would prefer lights they can turn on and off, but it’s really the dynamics of sunlight that truly brings the energy into the room. It’s understandable that some might see a lack of natural light as taking away from the room’s overall experience.

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3. How to Harness The Sun

“Also marvelous in a room is the light that comes through the windows of a room and that belongs to the room. The sun does not realize how beautiful it is until after a room is made. A man’s creation, the making of a room, is nothing short of a miracle. Just think, that a man can claim a slice of the sun.”

We’ve been able to harness sunlight for electricity for some time now. But no one ever considers the amazing history of technology that goes into creating a building. Even less thought of is how sunlight can accentuate the true beauty of a room or building.

4. Laying Down Foundations

“You say to a brick, ‘What do you want, brick?’ And brick says to you, ‘I like an arch.’ And you say to brick, ‘Look, I want one, too, but arches are expensive and I can use a concrete lintel.’ And then you say: ‘What do you think of that, brick?’ Brick says: ‘I like an arch.’”

It’s important that the design of a piece is as aesthetically pleasing as it is functional. Here it seems Kahn wants people to trust their artist’s eye or over what they think others may want. Listen to that inner voice the first time it tells you about a great idea.

5. The Purpose of Art

“The creation of art is not the fulfillment of a need but the creation of a need. The world never needed Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony until he created it. Now we could not live without it.”

If you were to ask someone “what is art?” you would get a host of different answers. But art is anything that evokes a sense of emotion. Of course, we don’t know what we will think until an artist shows us their work.

Even if you aren’t into architecture, there’s no doubt that Kahn’s work and writing can teach us a great deal about life and living out one’s dreams.

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