Kahn and Philadelphia Jewry
In doing all this recent research into Kahn's architecture of the early 1950s and prior, it becomes clear that most of Kahn's clients then were Jewish and/or Jewish institutions. Besides Ahavath Israel, Adath Jeshurun, and Philadelphia Psychiatric Hospital, about a dozen private houses, half of which were built, all appear to be for Jewish clients. It wouldn't surprise me if much of Kahn's 'networking' back then can actually be credited to his wife, Esther Israeli Kahn, a highly educated women, and a long-standing pillar of Philadelphia's Jewish community herself.
I'm mentioning all this because I believe it is indicative of how Kahn really began to achieve his greatness as an architect. Beyond the adage that "behind every great man there is a great woman," Kahn also had early exposure to great clients. So, before Kahn stepped up into the 'limelight' after the Yale Art Gallery, he was already at a nice, elevated place essentially created by Philadelphia's Jewry.
Re: 1000 Kunstler
Interesting how Denise Scott Brown mentions "A small church or synagogue, set within a row of town houses or surrounded by office buildings, holds its own with dignity" in her editorial/op-ed piece on development of Lower Manhattan in today's NYTimes.
What's good in your hood
The quondam Ahavath Israel Synagogue, Louis Kahn's first independent building (1935-7), on the 6700 block of N. 16th Street, Philadelphia. Note the salmon CMU of the facade is a 2000 renovation of Grace Temple Church.
ever feel like you are just a shitty designer
Louis Kahn was 36 years old when his first (independently designed) building was completed construction. Now altered with pink CMU. Esther Israeli Kahn was probably the most instrumental in getting Kahn independent projects from 1935-1950. Esther was extremely well connected within Philadelphia'a Jewish community.
In Goldhagen's Louis Kahn's Situated Modernism we read:
"In 1951, the [Adath Jeshurun] synagogue's leaders purchased a large polygonal site in Elkins Park, where many of its members were moving. The short end of the lot faced a major thoroughfare, and the remainder sloped back into a more pastoral setting that was bisected diagonally by a small stream (Fig. 4.1)."
And the caption of Fig. 4.1 reads: Sketch of the Elkins Park site for the Adath Jeshurun synagogue, 1954. From the Kahn Collection.
These citings convey misinformation. Kahn's design for Adath Jeshurun was sited on Old York Road within Philadelphia. Kahn's design was never executed, but Adath Jeshurun did ultimately build a new synagogue on a site (within a more pastoral setting) further north up Old York Road in Elkins Park. [This site misinformation is also conveyed within Louis I. Kahn: Complete Works 1935-1974.]
Goldhagen also mentions Wright's Beth Shalom [sic] synagogue. Beth Sholom is about a mile further north up Old York Road from the current Adath Jeshurun and about two miles north of Kahn's site for Adath Jeshurun.
Just coincidently, Kahn's first independent build work, the quondam Ahavath Israel synagogue, is about a half mile away from the Philadelphia site of Adath Jeshurun. And Kahn's Oser House is practically across the street from the bult Adath Jeshurun in Elkins Park. And Trumbauer built three Elkins' mansions for which Elkins Park is named. It's like a little architectural mecca along an ancient Indian trail.
visited Kahn's grave today
Kahn is buried at Montefiore Cemetery. It's in Rockledge (with a Jenkingtown zip code, I think), and more or less in my neighborhood now. I learned that Kahn was buried there a couple years ago, but never pursued it further. Since Kahn's death day was yesterday, and it was a really nice day here, I decided to go find his grave. And that's what I did. Turns out the grave is within easy eyesight of a road I've driven down innumerable times over the last 30 years.
While on my walk through Pennypack Park this morning, I tried to think of what Kahn building is now closest to his grave, and I think it's the Oser House in Elkins Park. The next closest would be either Pennypack Woods housing and commons, Ahavath Israel, Esherick House, Korman House or Fisher House.
Are diagrams in architecture bullshit and ditto for process?
"The Duck and the Decorated Shed" came within a year or two after the completed construction of Guild House (1961-66), coinciding with the marriage of Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown--23 July 1967.
Before Guild House there is George Howe's Maurice Speiser House (1933) and Louis Kahn's Congregation Ahavath Israel (1935-37) (Venturi's immediate Philadelphia architecture legacy) and Moretti's Casa "Il Girasole (1947-50) (effect of Venturi's study in Rome 1954-56).