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An Architect of Light: Louis Kahn

November 9, 2010


In the spirit of some research I have been doing lately on architect Louis Kahn for my architecture class, I wanted to pass along some quotes of his about light that are thought-provoking, inspiring, and poetic.  I will not even begin to try to attempt to describe Louis Kahn and his gift for incorporating natural light into architecture, but I have included some photos of his work here so those who don’t know it can get a sense of his style. Enjoy!

“I sense Light as the giver of all presences, and material as spent Light.  What is made by Light casts a shadow, and the shadow belongs to Light.”

louis kahn light lighting architecture design

Kimbell Art Museum, Forth Worth, TX

“I sense a Threshold: Light to Silence, Silence to Light – an ambiance of inspiration, in which the desire to be, to express, crosses with the possible … Light to Silence, Silence to Light crosses in the sanctuary of art.”

louis kahn architect architecture light lighting design

Salk Institute for Biological Studies, La Jolla, CA

“I gave myself an assignment: to draw a picture that demonstrates light. Now if you give yourself such an assignment, the first thing you do is escape somewhere, because it is impossible to do.  You say that the white piece of paper is the illustration; what else is there to do? But when I put a stroke of ink on the paper, I realized that the black was where the light was not, and then I could really make a drawing, because I could be discerning as to where the light was not, which was where I put the black. Then the picture became absolutely luminous.”

louis kahn architect architecture light lighting design

National Assembly, Dhaka, Bangladesh

“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.”

louis kahn architect architecture light lighting design

Exeter Library, Exeter, NH

“Today, shadows are black.  But really, there is no such thing as white light, black shadow.  I was brought up when light was yellow and shadow was blue.”

louis kahn architect architecture light lighting design

Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, CT

“Even a room which must be dark needs at least a crack of light to know how dark it is.”

louis kahn architect architecture light lighting design

Esherick House, Philadelphia, PA

“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.”

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