Tuesday, September 27, 2011

ARCH-ARQ: Michael Merrill investigates Kahn's architecture with his unbuilt Dominican Motherhouse.

Two new books by Michael Merrill are nothing less than a revelation for our understanding of Louis Kahn. The volumes investigate one of Kahn’s most famous unbuilt projects, the Dominican Motherhouse, a monastery near Media, Pennsylvania, and provide a great deal of insight into the architect’s strikingly sensitive design process and his ability to think through all aspects of a project with hard and soft-line sketching. While this motor response to the unworldly program of communal living and religious study in the solitude of nature seems like an obvious place to begin for an architect on any project in its planning stages, it is the expressive manner in which Kahn’s drawing analysis unfolds which makes this very special collection worth delving into. Kahn’s drawings across four schemes between June 1966 and March 1969 develop in a way that suggests that they have a spiritual struggle of their own to contend with that runs parallel to the life of the congregation and the rules of the Dominican order, which the architect perceives through an unquestionably romantic sensibility.

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