Thursday, 22 November 2012

Why I don't like Louis Kahn's Salk Institute

One of the things I like about Gropius's Bauhaus building is that it is entirely synthetic, entirely of man. At least it is entirely of man in concept, whilst of course we can debate the nature of it's materials. It also looks cheap (economical).
One of the things I don't like about the Salk Institute by Louis I Kahn, a building that just about every American architect (at least) raves about, is that it seems entirely organic in concept, and it looks very expensive indeed (built without consideration of means to end- a sort of architecture for architecture's sake). I don't like it that Kahn goes on about light and space just about all the time, and talks in poetry; elements which are largely inadmissible to theory. That is not to say light and space and poetry aren't important, but all these things go together to make Kahn an architect in the great American tradition of the organic, a position so flawed it encourages many native architects in their desire to paint Las Vegas brown.
Sullivan, Wright, Kahn, all of them swept away in the rather despairing quest for organic unity, whilst those of the Hellenic disposition realise that this is all nonsense, and that man is basically almost interminably unhappy and alone.
Weirdly, the first opinion appears to make you more depressed than the second.
And of course, it's not quite fair to make criticism in such blatant, stereotypical terms, nobody wants to be thought of as this one dimensional. Neither are they so one dimensional.  However, since mostly the business of architectural criticism seems to be embroiled with the crushingly boorish attitude that everything is everything, one finds blogging refreshing, because when you blog, you can't do that, you can't go one about how satisfactory everything is, how wonderful everything is, you have to be categorical. Now there is a sentiment I suppose Kahn would of shared.

1 comment:

  1. I've being reading this blog for some time now and I must say it's becoming my favorite..

    Thanks for clarifying things that I was still digesting since the first time I saw the Kimbell (then the Yale things) in person. It was overwhelming in the way that most irritating art is. Made me feel like I'm capable of deeper thoughts and feelings than I actually am. I mean, "the institutions of man", jesus. I think Kahn would have been a more interesting architect had he watched The Wire..