I have had such a pleasure this year to pour so much heart and time into art history and its crossover with architecture. My capstone projects have brought up so many fantastic intersections between these two worlds that I’m surprised my brain has yet to explode.
Something I have been studying a lot recently is the concept of light and shadow–how this can completely change a space and create a individual experience depending on time of day, personal preference, weather, etc. It’s so crazy to me how one thing that we so often take for granted, a shadow, can cause so much change in the environment.
Naturally, if you’re looking at light and shadow as an architectural feature, you’re looking at Louis Kahn. He had a fascination with architecture of the past, and somehow shaped this into designs that became trademarks of modernist style. My idol, honestly.
Geared towards my own project, I would like to take a moment here to discuss the Kimbell Art Museum, designed by Kahn in 1972. By using strategic design decisions (such as reflectivity in certain materials, structured bays of circulation, and thin aperture allowing light to dance and play as the day moved) Kahn created a highly individual and vocal space that has a conversation with the art it houses. True to his vision, the Kimbell Art Museum has a “conversation with the sky.”
Each bay is about 100 feet long, and fronts into porticos that mark the line between interior and exterior light. However, Kahn still allows the interior spaces to act as if they have interior light by using courtyards and skylights. This interaction between inside and out allows for the sun’s movement to create a dialogue within the space. Travertine, concrete, white oak, metal, and glass carefully shape, shadow, and reflect this light and put a spotlight on the texture and behavior of each material in this natural light. Despite being modern in nature, Kahn’s design of Kimbell has a timeless quality that can only be created with careful attention to natural light.
If anyone wants to go to Texas with me any time soon, please let me know. I can only say so much about Kahn’s bending of natural light without seeing the light, naturally, with my own two eyes. Alas, another spot to add to my endless list of places to go and people to see.
All body images come from Kimbell Art Museum (https://kimbellart.org/)