Structure is the maker of light. When you decide on the structure, you are deciding on light. In the old buildings, the columns were an expression of light/no light... When I see a plan I must see the plan
as though it were a symphony, of the realm of spaces
in the construction and light. I sort of care less, you
see, for the moment, whether it works or not. Just
so I know that the principles are respected, which
somehow are eternal, about the plan. As soon as I
see a plan which tries to sell me spaces without light,
I simply reject it with such ease, as though it were
not even thoughtfully rejected, because I know that it
is wrong. And so, false prophets, like schools that have
no natural light, are definitely unarchitectural. Those
belong to the marketplace of architecture but not
to architecture itself...
I turn to light, the giver of all presences: by will; by law.
You can say the light, the giver of all presences, is the
maker of a material, and the material was made to cast
a shadow, and the shadow belongs to the light.
I did not say things yet made here, desire, being –
that quality, that force, that unmeasurable force,
everything here stems from the unmeasurable.
Everything here promises the measurable. Is there a
threshold where they meet? Can a threshold be thin
enough to be called a threshold in the light of these
forces; these phenomena?
Everything you make is already too thick. I would
even think that a thought is also too thick. But one
can say, light to silence, silence to light, has to be a
kind of ambient threshold and when this is realised,
have something of a promise of being able to express
that which is only a desire to express, because the
evidence of the material making of light gives already a
feeling of inspiration.
In this inspiration, beside inspiration, there is a place,
the Sanctuary of Art; Art being the language of man
– before French, you know, or German. It says the
language of man is art. It stems from something which
grows out of the needing, of the desire to be, to express,
and the evidence of the promise of the material to do
it. The means somehow is there. The Sanctuary of Art
– sort of the ambience of man’s expressiveness has an
outlet, you might say.
It is my belief that we live to express. The whole
motivation of presence is to express. And what nature
gives us is the instrument of expression, which we all
know as ourselves, which is like giving the instrument
upon which the song of the soul can be played. The
Sanctuary of Art – I’m taking this little lesson to say
that it is the treasury of the shadows.
This article contains extracts from Silence
and Light by Louis I Kahn (Park Books)
edited by Alessandro Vassella, courtesy
ACC Publishing in the UK. The book
features the complete text and the full
original recording of Kahn’s hour-long
lecture in 1969, on CD. To receive a 30
per cent discount on the RRP of £ 30
(plus p&p, Americas and Asia) visit
accpublishinggroup.com and quote this
code: ACC30%. Offer ends 30 April 2017.