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My Louis Kahn - Power Of Architecture Pilgrimage

People from all over the world include the Salk Institute as a destination when they visit the US. Particularly for architects, often the Salk is part of an architectural pilgrimage.

San Diegans are fortunate that Dr. Jonas Salk chose to build his research institute in La Jolla, CA. We can visit the Salk rather easily – I am usually there once or twice a week to lead architecture tours. This past year, I planned my own architecture pilgrimage.

In 2015 when the docents at the Salk learned about "Louis Kahn – The Power of Architecture" exhibit, the first major retrospective of Kahn’s work in 20 years, we wondered where it would tour when it arrived in the US. Philadelphia? Fort Worth? Perhaps San Diego? We found out it would land in Bellevue Washington! Why Bellevue? And what if that was the only city where it would show?

BELLEVUE, WA

I had traveled to Seattle in August 2015 and fallen in love with the city so it wasn’t hard to decide to revisit the Pacific Northwest.  Thus, I made plans to view the exhibit at the Bellevue Arts Museum. I timed my visit for March 2016 to coincide when architects Robert McCarter and Steven Holl would lecture about Kahn and his influence. (note: Steven Holl is the architect of the Bellevue Museum)

On the day of the event, I had time to view the exhibit before the talks and managed to take a photo of the exhibit entryway, before security informed me that photo taking was not allowed. So, I put my iPhone away and took a quick walk through, appreciating the architecture models, paintings and sketches. I was happy that in the only photo I took there’s a glimpse of the study tower model of the Salk Institute. Of the exhibit, I particularly enjoyed one of Kahn’s pastels, Barrigan’s sketch for the plaza at the Salk and sketches/models for many of Kahn’s unrealized works.

It was in Bellevue that the other venues for the exhibit were announced – San Diego Museum Art (SDMA) and the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth. When I reported back to my friends in San Diego, they said the exhibit would be displayed uniquely in each of the spaces and still worthwhile for me to have made the trip to Bellevue.

SAN DIEGO

The Salk docents viewed the exhibit at the SDMA and attended talks by SDMA modern and contemporary art curator Ariel Plotek, author Wendy Lesser whose Kahn biography “You Say to Brick – The Life of Louis Kahn” was about to be released and William Whitaker, the curator and collections manager of the Architectural Archives of the University of Pennsylvania School of Design. Outside of the happenings at SDMA, the highlight for us was a special luncheon held at the Salk Institute where we got to meet family members of Louis Kahn and Dr. Jonas Salk.

FORT WORTH

Of the three venues, I was most pleased to experience the exhibit at the Kimbell, which Kahn architected. It was my first visit and I am likely to revisit not only the Kimbell, but several other art museums adjacent to the Kimbell (subject for a future post)

Being a good museum guest, I approached security to ask if I could take a photo of the entryway to the exhibit.  I was happy to find out that I could take as many photos as desired, just no flash photography.

The museum was kind enough to open the auditorium, so I could view the space where Kahn once stood for that classic photo.

PHILADELPHIA

Except for those involved with setting up the exhibit and Kahn family members, I probably am one of the few who has seen the Power of Architecture in Bellevue, San Diego and Fort Worth. Just yesterday I found out that the exhibit will be at The Fabric Workshop and Museum in Philadelphia August 11 – Nov. 5.

Perhaps a visit to Philadelphia is in order :)