And more and more the column wants to feel its strenght outside and it leaves a hollow inside, more and more, and it becomes conscious of the hollow. And if you magnify this thought the column gets bigger and bigger and bigger, and the periphery gets thinner and thinner and inside is a court. And this was the basis of the design for the Capitol in Pakistan.
LOUIS KAHN: STATEMENTS ON ARCHITECTURE
from a talk given at the Politecnico di Milano in January 1967
I want first to begin by saying that architecture does not exist.
What does exist is a work of architecture. And a work is an offering to architecture in the hope that this work can become part of the treasury of architecture.
All building is not architecture.
One of the most important aid in the work that I do Comes from the realisation that any building belongs to some institution of man.
And I have the greatest reverence for those inspirations from which the establishment of institutions came and from the beauty of the architecture interpretations. But we solved it from it. Think of one glorious expression which was inspired by Adrian. Adrian wanted a place where everyone could worship equally. The Pantheon was the result.
How wonderful the interpretation which gave us a circular building from which one could not derive a formalistic ritual. And how so genious was the tracing of the only opening to the sky. I must relate you an experience in my conduct of school recently.
The problem was a monastery.
We began by assuming that no monastery existed up to now.
I was a hermit who had the idea of socializing elements, of bringing them together into a single self-complement.
We had to forget the word monk, the word refectory, the word chapel, the cell.
For two weeks we did nothing. Then an Indian girl said: I believe the cell is the most important element of this community and that the cell gives the right for the chapel to exist, and the chapel gives the right for the refectory to exist, and the refectory gets its right from the cell, and that the retreat is also given by the cell and that the workshops are all made by right of the cell. Another non-catholic, also an Indian, said I agree with Menah.
But, he said, I want to add another important realisation, and that is that the cell must be equal to the chapel, the chapel is equal to the refectory and the refectory is equal to the retreat, every part is equal to the other, one is not better than the precedent or than another.
The designs of these two Indian students, I must say, were rather inferior but the inspiration of their talk was certainly a great guide to the class.
The most brilliant student, an Englishman, produced a marvellous design in which he invented new elements. One was the necessity for a fireplace which doměnated the monastery. And he also traced the refectory a half a mile away from the center and in the wake of the retreat, saying that it was such an honour for the retreat to he near the monastery, for an important arm of the monastery had to be given to it.
I am sure that if a program of requirements was given first in this problem, no such thought will come to the class.
The nucleus of the very beginning monastery was not a loss but new realizations came to it by reconsidering the spirit of the monastery.
It is for this reason my interest in this nucleus, in form realisation, form meaning, the realization of inseparable parts of something.
It is for this reason also that I came to the realization that in doing the Magistery Chamher of the capital of Pakistan — I had to introduce a mask in the entrance.
It is for this same reason that when Dr. Salk came to my office and wanted to have a biological laboratory built and when he mentioned that he would like to invite Picasso there, I suddenly had the idea of having a meeting place of the unmeasurable and the science laboratory was the center of the measurable.
In the monastery which I am doing myself, which is the same monastery of which I gave the problem, I have myself discovered other things which are the contrary to discovery of the class. For instance I have a gateway building. This gateway is the transition between the inside and the outside, I mean is the center of the Ecumenical Council.
It is not in the program, it comes from the spirit and nature of the problem.
This is why I think it is so important that the architect does not follow the program but simply uses it as the point of departure of quantity, not of quality.
For the same reason that the program is not architecture - it is merely instruction, it is like a prescription by a druggist.
Because in the program there is a lobby which the architect must change to a place of entrance.
Corridors must be changed to galleries. Budgets must be changed to economy and areas must be changed to spaces.
The inspirations of man are the beginning of his work.
The mind is the soul, the spirit and the brain, the brain is purely physical.
That is why a machine will never be able to compose Bach.
The mind is really the center of the unmeasurable, the brain is the center of the measurable.
The soul is the same and all. Every mind is different. Every one is a singulanty.
The inspirations come from the walks through life and through the making of man, the inspiration to live gives a life to all institutions of medicine, of sport, of those manifestations of man that come from the inspiration to live forever.
The program that you get and the translation you moke architecturally must come from the spirit of man, not from the program.
The inspiration to learn is the making of all institutions of learning.
The inspiration of question is probably the center of all philosophy, and religion.
The inspiration to express, which I think is the most powerful inspiration, is the center of all art. And art is the language of God.
Structure is the maker of tight.
A square building is constructed like a square and its light must give evědence to the square.
An oblong must be constructed like an oblong.
Same with. the. circular, same with the building which is more fluid and stili must find its instruction internally in its making which is actually geometry.
I just want to tell you one more story.
It’s about a man in my office who doesn’t do any work.
But I gladly pay him because he helps me think.
Once in class--and he attended class--in explaining that structure is the maker of light. I introduced the idea of the beauty of the Greek columns in relation to each other and I said the column was no light — the space was light.
But the column feels strong not inside — the column — but outside the column.
And more and more the column wants to feel its strenght outside and it leaves a hollow inside, more and more, and it becomes conscious of the hollow.
And if you magnify this thought the column gets bigger and bigger and bigger, and the periphery gets thinner and thinner and inside is a court.
And this was the basis of the design for the Capitol in Pakistan.
One day I walked into the elevator and I found him in there — he is about 6 ft. 5 — and he didn’t see me, he had his hands like this, thinking, you see, and I walked in like a crumbled piece of paper under him.
When we walked out, both of us, to the same floor he said: oh! — he saw me.
And then I walked--my room is next to the elevator--so that he put his whole frame inside the door while I sat at my table and--as if he were in the other room somehow, he is so tall , you see--he wanted to say may I come in, you see. I said sit down. He said to me : Professor, I ve been thinking: is the interior of the column hope?
I knew it wasn’t hope, though I made believe that I was thinking about it. I looked down to the window and I tumbled with some papers.
And I said: would you accept inspiration?
He said yes.
And it is what I am trying to say only — is that everything that you use is under scrutiny, there is nothing finished. And the door is open, very open, to the realization of wonderful new institutions. And the wonderful way in which they can be made by inspiring composition and inspiring engineering.