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Explore the Architecture that Made Him Known Across the Globe

Written By: Jayme O’Hanlon Louis Kahn: The Power of Architecture

Expert: Ariel Plotek, Ph.D.
Credentials: The Associate Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art for San Diego’s Museum of Art; he serves as the exhibit’s project manager.

“A great building, in my opinion, must begin with the unmeasurable, must go through measurable means when it is being designed and in the end must be unmeasurable.”

These are words from Louis Kahn—a man with an inquisitive mind. Louis Kahn set the standard for 20th-century modern architecture. Born in 1901 in Estonia, Kahn spent most of his life in Philadelphia, where much of his architecture lives. Having passed in 1974, he has left a legacy of mystic awe, both within his public and private life.

From Nov. 5 until Jan. 31, Balboa Park’s San Diego Museum of Art will be hosting Louis Kahn: The Power of Architecture, an exhibition celebrating Louis Kahn’s architecture. During the exhibition’s run, the museum will be offering events related to Louis Kahn, such as workshops and film screenings. A total of nine different occasions are available for the public and can be found on the San Diego Museum of Art’s website.

The museum’s Associate Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, Ariel Plotek, said the exhibition incorporates a multimedia aspect in which visitors can watch a video compilation of interviews with world renowned architects such as Frank Gehry and Renzo Piano.

“The programming is very robust around the show, ” Plotek said. “…There is this kind of special resonance that these shows have.”

The exhibition also unveils Kahn’s models of about four to five feet tall, according to Plotek. Kahn’s models reveal recognized and unrecognized projects, either made by his studio or that were designed specifically for this exhibition by other artists. One model encompasses his 1952 City Tower project for Philadelphia, which was never built despite his strong inclination for completion. Nevertheless, his model has become a monument for architectural design for its invigorating, geometrical helix shape. This depiction of an architectural landmark yet presumed failure within the culture’s set standards will be the first element within the exhibition, welcoming and inspiring all spectators. Its height is roughly 15 feet.

Travel drawings and photographs will also be included in the show. His sketches are from a collection during his ventures throughout Europe in the 1950s, when Kahn firmly established his architectural identity. The portrayed photographs will depict his industrial and domestic buildings.

According to Plotek, the show in its entirety will “look like the kind of show that you’d expect a design museum to produce. That’s to say that the exhibition itself is very carefully presented with an eye to detail of every taste and graphic element.”

Native Knowledge: La Jolla’s Salk Institute was designed by Louis Kahn in 1965. The San Diego Museum of Art felt that they were a perfect host for Louis Kahn: The Power of Architecture because of The Salk Institute’s proximity.

Students from San Diego’s Woodbury University School of Architecture will participate their photography of The Salk in the museum’s annex exhibit: Shape, Shadow, Space. The show will be curated by Woodbury’s professors.

Fun Fact: During the exhibition, Plotek will be in contact with Louis Kahn’s three children, one of whom is the director of the film My Architect. All three have been lenders to the exhibit. Plotek will also be a keynote speaker for the Louis Kahn Symposium Nov. 5.

Louis Kahn: The Power of Architecture
The San Diego Museum of Art
1450 El Prado Louis Kahn: The Power of Architecture
Balboa Park Louis Kahn: The Power of Architecture
San Diego, CA Louis Kahn: The Power of Architecture
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