Louis I. Kahn

American, born Russia (Ösel Island, Russia [now Saaremaa Island, Estonia], 1901 - 1974, New York City, New York)

Born into a Russian Jewish family, Louis Kahn spent most of his early life in Philadelphia after his parents emigrated to the U.S. in 1906. An avid drawer, Kahn studied at the University of Pennsylvania School of Fine Arts under Paul Philippe Cret, a French immigrant who espoused the historical styles taught at the École des Beaux-Arts.

Partly in response to Cret's teachings, Kahn developed a deep interest in the symbolic and spiritual aims of architecture at a time when the Modern movement, then gaining ground in Europe, aimed to eschew such references. Rather than embrace the speed and lightness promised by the modern machine, Kahn employed the age-old technique of using heavy materials (concrete, brick, stone) and platonic forms to manipulate daylight.

His designs for many of his important works, including the Yale University Art Gallery in New Haven and the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, are defined by accordingly massive, yet uplifting, spaces.

From June 3, 2013, through early 2016, SFMOMA's building on Third Street in San Francisco will be temporarily closed for expansion construction. Selected artworks in our collection are included in a range of off-site exhibitions during this period. We regret that the remainder of the collection will not be available for study during this time.

In the meantime, we invite you to explore a wide selection of our collection online. Please note that the information presented online is subject to revision. Please contact us at collections@sfmoma.org to verify artwork details.

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