The American architect Louis Kahn (1901–1974), designer of the Kimbell Art Museum,  is regarded as one of the great master builders of the 20th century. With complex spatial compositions and a choreographic mastery of light, Kahn created buildings of archaic beauty and powerful universal symbolism. In addition to the Kimbell (1966-72), his most important works include the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California (1959–65), the National Assembly Building in Dhaka, Bangladesh (1962–83). The exhibition Louis Kahn. The Power of Architecture, organized by Vitra Design Museum (Weil am Rhein, Germany), is the first major retrospective of Kahn's work in two decades.


The exhibition encompasses an unprecedented and diverse range of architectural models, original drawings, photographs and films. All of Kahn’s important projects are extensively documented—from his early urban planning concepts and single-family houses to monumental late works such as the Roosevelt Memorial in New York City (1973/74), posthumously completed in October 2012. The view of Kahn's architectural oeuvre is augmented by a selection of watercolors, pastels and charcoal drawings created during his travels, which document his skill as an artist and illustrator. Highlights of the exhibition include a 12-foot-high model of the spectacular City Tower designed for Philadelphia (1952–57), as well as previously unpublished film footage shot by Nathanial Kahn, the son of Louis Kahn and director of the film My Architect. Interviews with architects such as Frank Gehry, Renzo Piano, Peter Zumthor and Sou Fujimoto underscore the current significance of Kahn's work, which is being rediscovered and made accessible to a wide public audience with this exhibition.

This exhibition was organized by the Vitra Design Museum, Germany, in collaboration with the Architectural Archives of the University of Pennsylvania and the Netherlands Architecture Institute, part of the New Institute, Rotterdam.  The exhibition is globally sponsored by Swarovski. Additional support is provided by The Beck Group.


Louis Kahn: The Power of Architecture


Complementary Exhibition

The Color of Light, The Treasury of Shadows:  Pastels by Louis I. Kahn from the Collections of His Children

This intimate exhibition presents a selection of pastels dating from a three-month period in 1950–51 when Kahn was Architect in Residence at the American Academy in Rome. While there, he had the opportunity to travel and sketch the great historic monuments and public spaces of Italy, Greece and Egypt. Away from the daily concerns of his architectural practice, his eye and spirit were free to absorb the essence of these places. In pastels that have been acknowledged as the most sublime examples of his drawing, he captured the vivid colors that light and shadow make as they illuminate the ancient sites.

Special thanks to the children of Louis I. Kahn, Sue Ann Kahn, Alexandra Tyng and Nathaniel Kahn, for generously lending their works for this exhibition.


The Color of Light, The Treasury of Shadows