For many years, sunshine was the only source of effective daylight. The aim of creating wide spaces and openings large enough to diffuse light to the interior of buildings was the main domination of architecture. Fully glazed facades and efficient artificial light sources have freed architects from these problems of the past. Advanced daylight systems and strategies of control are other steps presumptuous in providing user-friendly, day-lit, and energy-efficient buildings.Architects have to incorporate these systems intothe buildings’ general design strategy and integrate them into the architectural process from its beginning stages. Many architects have cropped up in the recent past with immense skills in designs that ensure ample working space and enough sunlight in structures. Louis Khan is among these architects. He is one of the greatest and most appealing designers of all time. He designed significant and important structures with a great sense of material, light and space. This editorial brings out the ways in which elements such as space and light with the help of good example from his works influenced Louis Kahn’s architecture.

The first works of Kahn bear classical international style of architecture. Somewhere along the way, Khan decided to leave behind the old traditional architectures and focus on innovation. He had the push to give meaning to the bases of architecture via re-examination of structure, space, form, and light[1]. The elements he grew in are a great source of inspiration to him as some scholars put it. He comes from Philadelphia city, which was a place where numerous factories had large windows. Some of Kahn’s earlier works display that the structures were very solid. Recently, his architecture exposes a sense of place, depict the real side of architecture, and expose the successful application of plutonic geometry principles. He has the creditof re-introducing various ideologies, which contemporary architects have deserted like sing geometrical principles, centralized spacing, and solid mural strength usage. Kahn has also realized the usefulness of sunlight which is greatly demonstrated by the Egyptians and Greek works. These works display broad use of sunlight via different types of openings and windows[2].

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Examples of Louis’s Projects with Space and Light Elements

All the elements of design philosophy have attributionsto all the works of Louis beginning with his first innovative work at Yale University in which he added an Art gallery. This work is very attractive as people can see the prominence focused on the architectural innovations depicted by the floor slab system and the hollow concrete ceiling, which was an outstanding performance. His artistic sense is eminent from the design of triangular staircase, sitting in a circular concrete shell, showing the space for servants to be unique from the spaces of the building to be served. He demonstrated ample use of spaces and is responsible for the inception of the served and servant spaces. His art of space consideration is eligible from the following scenarios: Entrance to the Art Gallery of Yale University, Rear view of the building from the garden, View-down into the stairwell at the Art Gallery, and View-up to ceiling of stairwell.

Kahn used his principles to create outstanding pieces of work, which made a great deal of sense to the usage of space and light. Some of his extension or the Richards Towers of Philadelphia, bring amazing impacts with the transformation in light, feasible due to the apt utilization of light and space. Workers get totally different conditions of working in the buildings at varied times of the day. By building the Institute of Salkin La Jolla, California, Louis made another astonishing work, which had an extraordinary motivating number of structures.

Richard Medical Towers exposes many significant aspects of Kahn’s architecture. The principles have had often implementation by many designers but not in the same level and time. Kahn uses this building to demonstrate the application of served spaces, beats the problem of insufficient sunlight, and prominently integrates material, process and form. According to Jaimini Mehta and RomaldoGiurgola, Richards Medical Towers creates an important turning point in modern architecture.

The Institute of Salk in La Jolla, New Jersey, emphasizes the principle of keeping buildings simple but strong. Kahn uses this structure to achieve an amazing use of pace; the ample space in the Laboratories for conducting research, the space available for office practices where ideas arise, and much more. The educational institution exposes an astonishing integration of action and mind. The building’s amazing concrete floors and surfaces give exact detailing and magnificent look. The generation of the building answers the need to confine particular places and does not rely on a wide envelope to shield such particular space. Some scholars define the main court of the structure inan artistic way. They say that the court is a sure Kahn-like space of shining blue water, a band facing the ocean showing what human work can attain with geometric principle and domineering but best deliberation, to providethe scale with less sweep of the ocean, here the pacific, a regretful gesture (Cummings and Kahn, 1989).

Louis Kahn was famous for his skill to make epic architectural structures that elicited human scale. He utilized bare concrete and bricks as his building tools and used specially polished surfaces like travertine marble to reinforce various textures. In addition to his consideration for spaces during design and curving of structures, Kahn never left out the sense of natural light and its importance. In his several projects such as the  houses ofSalk Institute that converge, the institute of management of Indiain Ahmadabad, India, the US Consulate in Luanda, Angola, and the Dhaka’s National Capital, which were situated in hot sunny climates, Kahn created visually dynamic sunscreens as he believed that the structures should be givers of light. The walls in those buildings withdifferently made openings covered inner rooms from the hot sunlight. The imagination of a great wall in ruins showcases an old part Louis’s treating of light as a core aspect in two unaccomplished projects, Hurva in Jerusalem, Israel, and Mikveh in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, as well as one of the greatest works of his, the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas (Solomon 2009). The art museum’s narrow lit in the concrete vaults allows light to enter. The light diffuses through by the travertine and oak present in the gallery interiors.

Louis’s work in Dhaka integrates various periods of history (local and general), and grapples with questions of individuality by trying to give form to a post-colonial order combining religious and secular aspects in its organization. The building is a democratic symbol in a country, which does not yet contain a fully functioning democracy, a statement of “modernity” with albeit, contains many ancient resemblances. Louis Kahn has confirmed that he could transcend the boundaries of western architectural conversations, giving form to the social and political aspirations of nations recently freed from imperialism. He transpired through the buildings of the past and developed them through his usual abstraction into resonant contemporary emblems.

According to Louis, the role played by natural light is one of the main aspects in creating architectural spaces that could be extraordinary in their appearance. The “giver of light” is a statement that Louis Kahn coined in his description of structures. Some of his projects located in hot climates display his sense of light appreciation. The Institute of management of India in Ahmadabad, India, the houses of Salk Institute, the US Consulate in Luanda, Angola, and the National Capital of Dhaka have visually dynamic sunscreens created by Kahn[3]. All of these projects have great walls taking various shaped openings, which assist in protecting inner spaces from the extreme direct light from the sun. Other projects of Kahn like Hurva in Jerusalem, Mikveh Israel in Philadelphia Pennsylvania, and the Kimbell Art museum in Fort Worth, Texas, have displayed Louis’s thoughtful take of sunlight. For instance, in the Kimbell Art Museum, light comes in through slits (tiny openings) in the concrete vaults and then later allowed to move into the gallery interiors, which have oak and travertine fillings[4].

Kimbel Art Museum is an amazing work of Louis in Fort Worth as it beautifully exposes utmost perfection, whichhas comparisons only to Greek works. Kahn used all available resources and tools without mistakes, that resulted in a structure, which had all contents working in a congruent way, and the system in its entirety worked perfectly.Most structures, utilize materials to an unsatisfactory extent but this building was an exception.

The power and purpose of light in hisdesign is not the cheap idea of mounting a large window to let in light. Instead, he incorporates it via two different aspects of building; the geometric forms and the division of space. Division of spaces into servant and master areas in is the organization concept that Louis Kahn used in the design of Richardson Medical Laboratory at University of Pennsylvania, one of the main change setting buildings of the 1960s[5]. With a scrutiny of scientist’s works and different experiments and devices used, Louis Kahn concluded thatthere was no design of space to content the experiments. He thought that the scientists should have a corner for thought, which is concisely a studio of slices of space. With his belief in design as a trait based on humans, Kahn went to generate comfortable spaces that scientist could utilize efficiently in their work. A room with warmth of light from the sun can give the necessities. His solution was to generate great stacks of studio and link them to the high service towers that would have parts to carry liquids and gases, animal quarters, and ducts to direct the air out via the top of the structure. The heights of studio laboratories, showcasedby their towering concrete cantilevered floors, seem enoughspaces free decisions[6].

In addition to the above examples is the strong geometric form he used in designing the government buildings in Dacca, Bangladesh. Kahn used another robust architecture element he is famous for; the brick. His Strong brick forms enabled the residential areas for the National Assembly to contain walls, reach great heights, and at the same time look light in mass. Here light got into the interior of the structure via geometrically shaped windows that allowed light from the sun. The used curved brick designs were similar to those used in the building of Philip Exeter Academy and allowed an ample presence of light[7].

Kahn’s Inspiration to other Architects

Kahn’s philosophy and masterpiece has had a lot of influence on contemporary scholars. Tadao Ando took an initiative and travelled throughout Europe, Japan, Africa and US for his study of architecture. He studied the architecture buildings and reads books of renowned architects like Louis Kahn and Le Corbusier. The knowledge he got from his journeys across various countries helped him begin his own architectural practice.When questioned about his style of architecture, he posed that walls are the most important aspects of architecture, and in his works, light was a basic factor. Naoshima’sContemporary museum of art in Japan and the Research center of Benetton Communications inItaly demonstrated that Tadoa Ando was inspired and has learnt a lot from Louis Kahn’s art. Renzo Piano worked in Louis Kahn’s offices in Philadelphia and ZS as well as Makowski in London. Louis Kahn along with another famous architect greatly influenced him (Richards Rogers). The two met at an exhibition (Expo’70) in Osaka (Japan) and discovered that they had similar interests. The most famous project of Richard Roger and  Renzo Piano is that of Georges Pompidou center in Paris, Italy. The structure was built in a form that makes it appear as though it were turned inside-out; various activities are seen on the outside of the structure making the inner part of the structure airy and light. There are numerous hypotheses that the construction of the building was on a similar basic principle, which Louis had used years ago in the Arts Center. The theory of served spaces and servant spaces influenced the rising of huge services ducts in the building. According to Solomon&Architects (2008), Louis Kahn influenced Richard Roger and Renzo Piano.

Norman Foster is another popular architect who got inspired by the works of Louis. He took a masters’ study of architecture in America when Kahn Louis was coming up with the Yale University extension. Foster ended up building the world’s most amazing buildings after getting inspiration from Louis’ philosophy and architecture. For instance, Norman Foster’s ‘Shanghai and Hong Kong’ Bank elicits Louis Kahn’s impact on the works of Norman Foster[8].

Another inspired architect is James Stirling. The architect was known for his approach (experimental approach), which showed that he was not limited to a particular style. Moreover, this approach meant that James was ready to innovate and try new ideas and that reflected Kahn’s quality of design. His earlier projects for Oxbridge emphasized greater significance to the concept of utilitarian and artistic needs. Owing to his “experimental approach” and adamant adherence to principle, James got criticism for not following architectural concepts[9].

Kahn’s influence works with the slow-wave motions of times. Even a recent structure such as the Chandgaon Mosque in Chittagong, Bangladesh by KashefMahboobChowdhury reveals the long distant influence of Khan in its spatial institution while also changing the basic mosque types from the Bengali Sultanate period from14th and 15th centuries (Croft 2004). Louis was a mirror and a lens just like Le Corbusier. He helped architects to realize themselves while also creating new directions on basic types and generic problems. Kahn had aspirations to an architecture “timeless but of its time”, but paid tribute to the significance of various architectural and cultural pasts. This is the reason why it is so important to free Kahn from the territorial suits sometimes made against him by those who would see him as a mainly “North American” architect, by those who would claim him for a specific religion, or by those who would endeavor to contain him to a western classical talk.



From a critical point of view, Kahn’s structures in the classical designs stress the vast applications of light. Through adivision of space principle and solid geometric forms, Kahn was able to incorporate light explicably into his architectures. This concept for the requirement of light from the sunoriginatedfrom his Beaux-arts’studies and foundational classical tendencies. Louis Kahn is undoubtedly one of the best designersthat ever lived in the twentieth century. In the end, he took the power of sunlight that burnt him in his childhood and turned it to transform the global world.


Supplementary Images


Louis Kahn | Yale university art gallery, 1953 New Haven Photos by Lionel Freedman and Elizabeth Felicella

Available at:http://media-cache-ak1.pinimg.com/192x/b7/da/91/b7da916b64d04b132dd41c629540cffa.jpg

Salk Institute for Biological Studies, La Jolla, California – Louis Kahn Photograph – Bob Trempe via d i s – s e c t i o n

Available at:http://media-cacheec4.pinimg.com/192x/69/cd/13/69cd1393151f5cd204fee580b119b079.jpg

The last post (with the quote from Kahn’s poem on Carlo Scarpa) originates from Rafael Cazorla’s fantastic blog with imaginary postcards. Rafael’s website: PostalesInventadas/ Making up Postcards features six postcards that might have been sent by or to Louis Kahn. They’re really fine examples of how Kahn’s famous quotes might have been used…they look very natural when written on the back of a postcard, thanks to Rafael Cazorla’s creative genius – keep it up Rafael!

Source: http://media-cache-ec4.pinimg.com/192x/62/ae/ee/62aeeeebc3cc4c7e10bbf73e5c9db7f1.jpg

Source: http://media-cache-ak1.pinimg.com/550x/ed/c0/26/edc0269711f92c1c91c339f53d567193.jpg

Almost impossible to distinguish the real from the virtual

This image provides a virtual glimpse of Mikveh Israel (yes, it’s truly an image rendered on the computer). In the article on Susan G. Solomon’s book the impact of Kahn’s deisgn for the synagogue are considered. Reference: ‘Louis I. Kahn: Unbuilt Masterworks’ (Monacelli, 2000): architect and MIT professor Kent Larson built images of Kahn’s unrealized projects, including this one.


Bloom, Jonathan, and Sheila Blair. The Grove encyclopedia of Islamic art and architecture.

New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.

Croft, Catherine. Concrete architecture. London: Laurence King, 2004.

Cummings, Patricia, and Louis I Kahn. Preview this item. Durham: Published by Duke

University Press in association with Duke University Museum of Art, 1989.

Gast, Klaus-Peter, Louis I Kahn, and Susanne Schindler. Louis I. Kahn. Basel: Birkhäuser,


Kahn, Louis I, and Dung Ngo. Louis I. Kahn : conversations with students. Houston:

Architecture at Rice Publications ; [New York, N.Y.] : Princeton Architectural Press, 1998.

Kalia, Ravi. Gandhinagar : building national identity in postcolonial India. Columbia:

University of South Carolina Press, cop, 2004.

Rielly, Edward J. The 1960s. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press, 2003.

Scully, Jr, Vincent, and Neil Levine. Modern architecture and other essays. Princeton:

Princeton University Press, 2002.

Solomon, Nancy B, and American Institute of Architects. Architecture : celebrating the past,

designing the future. New York: Visual Reference Publications ; Washington, D.C. : American Institute of Architects, 2008.

Solomon, Susan G. Louis I. Kahn’s Jewish architecture : Mikveh Israel and the midcentury

American synagogue. Waltham: Published by University Press of New England, 2009.



[1]Rielly, Edward J. The 1960s. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press, 2003.


[2]Kalia, Ravi. Gandhinagar : building national identity in postcolonial India. Columbia: University of South

Carolina Press, cop, 2004.


[3]Cummings, Patricia, and Louis I Kahn. Preview this item. Durham: Published by Duke University Press in

association with Duke University Museum of Art, 1989.


[4]Solomon, Nancy B, and American Institute of Architects. Architecture : celebrating the past, designing the

future. New York: Visual Reference Publications ; Washington, D.C. : American Institute of Architects, 2008.


[5]Croft, Catherine. Concrete architecture. London: Laurence King, 2004.


[6]Solomon, Susan G. Louis I. Kahn’s Jewish architecture : Mikveh Israel and the midcentury American

synagogue. Waltham: Published by University Press of New England, 2009.


[7]Gast, Klaus-Peter, Louis I Kahn, and Susanne Schindler. Louis I. Kahn. Basel: Birkhäuser, 1999.


[8]Bloom, Jonathan, and Sheila Blair. The Grove encyclopedia of Islamic art and architecture. New York:

Oxford University Press, 2009.


[9]Scully, Jr, Vincent, and Neil Levine. Modern architecture and other essays. Princeton: Princeton University

Press, 2002.


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