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Louis Kahn

Contact Type Architects (individuals)
Category Literatures

Personal life

  • Born in February 20, 1901, In Estonia, Russia to a poor Jewish family.
  • His family emigrated to Philadelphia when he was just a child so that his father will join the military, and where Kahn would remain for the rest of his life.
  • Kahn started drawing when he was young and sold his drawings to gain some money for his family. The family could not afford pencils, so they made their own charcoal sticks from burnt twigs so that Louis can draw.
  • Passed away in March 17, 1974 (aged 73), New York, USA.


  • Kahn excelled in art from a young age, repeatedly winning the annual award for the best watercolor by a Philadelphia high school student.
  • He was an unenthusiastic and undistinguished student at Philadelphia Central High School until he took a course in architecture in his senior year, which convinced him to become an architect.
  • He turned down an offer to go to the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts to study art under a full scholarship, instead working at a variety of jobs to pay his own tuition for a degree in architecture at the University of Pennsylvania School of Fine Arts. There, he studied under Paul Philippe Cret in a version of the Beaux-Arts tradition, one that discouraged excessive ornamentation.

Work life

  • Kahn might be categorized as a late Modernist. Kahn created a style that was monumental and monolithic; his heavy buildings for the most part do not hide their weight, their materials, or the way they are assembled.
  • He was one of the United States' greatest 20th century architects
  • After completing his Bachelor of Architecture in 1924, Kahn worked as senior draftsman in the office of the city architect, John Molitor. He worked on the designs for the 1926 Sesquicentennial Exposition.
  • In a trip to Europe in 1928, he took more interest in Medieval architecture such as castles and walled cities than in the emerging modernist scene there.
  • In 1932, Kahn and Dominique Berninger founded the Architectural Research Group, whose members were interested in the populist social agenda and new aesthetics of the European avant-gardes. Among the projects Kahn worked on during this collaboration are schemes for public housing that he had presented to the Public Works Administration, which supported some similar projects during the Great Depression.
  • Kahn worked with George Howe in the late 1930s on projects for the Philadelphia Housing Authority and again in 1940, along with German-born architect Oscar Stonorov, for the design of housing developments in other parts of Pennsylvania.
  • After working in various capacities for several firms in Philadelphia, he founded his owatelier in 1935.
  • A formal architectural office partnership between Kahn and Oscar Stonorov began in February 1942 and ended in March 1947, which produced fifty-four documented projects and buildings.
  • Kahn did not arrive at his distinctive architectural style until he was in his fifties. Initially working in a fairly orthodox version of the International Style, he was influenced vitally by a stay as Architect in Residence at the American Academy in Rome during 1950, which marked a turning point in his career.
  • In 1961 he received a grant from the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts to study traffic movement in Philadelphia and to create a proposal for a viaduct system.
  • While continuing his private practice, he served as a design critic and professor of architecture at Yale School of Architecture from 1947 to 1957.
  • From 1957 until his death, he was a professor of architecture at the School of Design at the University of Pennsylvania.
  • He also was a visiting lecturer at Princeton University School of Architecture from 1961 to 1967.

Awards & Honors

  • 1953: Kahn was elected a Fellow in the American Institute of Architects (AIA).
  • 1964: Kahn was made a member of the National Institute of Arts and Letters.
  • 1964: Kahn was awarded the Frank P. Brown Medal.
  • 1965: Kahwas elected into the National Academy of Design as an Associate Academician.
  • 1968: Kahn was made a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
  • 1971: Kahn was awarded the AIA Gold Medal.
  • 1972: Kahn was awarded the Royal Gold Medal by the RIBA.

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