The value and aim of Louis I. Kahn’s form drawing

EL VALOR Y EL PROPÓSITO DE UN DIBUJO DE LOUIS I. KAHN

2013 The value and aim of Louis I. Kahn's form drawing«The value of an architectural drawing does not always depend exclusively on the architect’s skill. This is the case of drawings not stamped with an architect’s hallmark, drawings that obviate the need for pretentious calligraphy and pursue an ideal of longevity beyond the reach of the individual artist. In such drawings “the mind speaks to the mind” (Focillon, 2006: 41) directly, with no intermediaries. At this stage, neither the architect nor the beholder has begun to use their imagination: the drawing is simply an idea that appeals to the intellect.

One such drawing is the famous “form drawing” by Louis I. Kahn (1901-74) for the First Unitarian Church of Rochester (1959-69) which he drew for the first time on a blackboard in front of the congregation in June 1959. Despite being a superb draughtsman, Kahn won over his demanding audience with a drawing that is, in fact, little more than a diagram – a sketch that sums up the architect’s intention at the start of the creative process, a phase in which the design has not yet manifested itself as an image.

The intention of this paper is to establish the real value and aim of a drawing important not only for its remarkable subject but also its capacity to reveal, like a still photo, some essential features of the architect’s academic background, his interaction with customers, his biased view of history and his use of the circular form.»


“El valor y el propósito de un dibujo de Louis I. Kahn / The value and aim of Louis I. Kahn’s form drawing,” with Débora Domingo Calabuig. EGA 22 (2013): 242-251.

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