The Louis I. Kahn Facsimile Project

General / People / Places / Products / November 6, 2020

A book of Louis Kahn’s early drawings and words, out of print for almost 50 years, is about to be reprised.

The Notebooks and Drawings of Louis I. Kahn was first published by Falcon Press in 1962, with a press run of 1,800 copies. They were snapped up almost immediately. MIT Press would reprint 3,000 copies with a four-page, hand-written introduction by Kahn in 1973. It’s been out of print ever since.

That’ll change next year, when Steve Kroeter, editor-in-chief at Designers & Books, launches a Kickstarter campaign to fund The Louis I. Kahn Facsimile project, aimed at reprinting the MIT Press edition of the book.

“Louis Kahn is a very special figure – there’s a mystical aura about him through many of his quotes,” Kroeter says. “His reputation builds from year to year – in 2020 alone, four books about him are being published.”

This one, though, is special. It’s the first on Louis Kahn’s work, and it’s in his own words. Moreover, the projects in it were not of his own choosing, but by one of his students and early employees, Richard Saul Wurman. “Wurman told Kahn about the project, and Kahn said: ‘Okay,’” he says. “Then Wurman said ‘I want to choose what will be included,’ and Kahn said ‘Okay’ to that too.”

Wurman just turned 85, and is still highly active. He’s not only published 50 books, but was the creator of the first TED Conference, which he sold in the early 2000s. “It was all his idea,” Kroeter says. “He also came up with the term information architecture and invented that field of study.”

But Louis Kahn was Wurman’s mentor and guiding light while he was alive – and remains so even today. “He says he thinks about Kahn every day of his life,” Kroeter says.

His selections for the book, approved by Kahn, demonstrate the duality that the senior architect was beginning to embrace while in his fifties. “It’s a combination of the monumentality of ancient architecture and the wonder of modern architecture,” he says. “What his work is about is bringing those two things together – and that’s what we see in the drawings and text that Richard included in this book.”

It serves as the very definition of Louis Kahn’s oeuvre. “He made trips to Italy, France and Egypt – to understand what ancient monumental architecture was and what made it special and also of his own time,” he says. “That was his struggle, and he ended up accomplishing that and it is beautifully documented in this book.”

Watch this website for updates on Kroeter’s Kickstarter campaign next year.

For more, go here.

All images courtesy of Designers & Books.

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Mike Welton

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