Louis Isadore Kahn (February 20, 1901 - March 17, 1974) practised as an architect in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and taught architecture there and at Yale.
Kahn was born on the Estonian island of Saaremaa. He was raised in Philadelphia, to which his family had emigrated, and trained in a rigorous Beaux-Arts tradition, with its emphasis on drawing, at the University of Pennsylvania ("Penn"), after completing his Master's degree in 1924, Kahn made a European tour and settled on the medieval walled city of Carcassonne, rather than the monuments of classicism or modernism. In 1925-1926 Kahn served as Chief Designer for the Sesquicentennial Exposition. From 1947 he spent a decade teaching at Yale, where his influence was paramount, then moved to Penn. His prominent apprentices include Moshe Safdie and Robert Venturi. He died of a heart attack in a bathroom in Pennsylvania Station in New York City.
Louis Kahn's work infused International style with a fastidious, highly personal taste, a poetry of light. His few projects reflect his deep personal involvement with each. Isamu Noguchi called him "a philosopher among architects".
Kahn had three different families with three different women: his wife, Esther, Anne Tyng, a co-worker, and Harriet Pattison. His son with Pattison, Nathaniel Kahn, made an Oscar-nominated biographical documentary about Louis Kahn, entitled My Architect, which gives glimpses of the architecture while it focuses on talking heads. It includes interviews with renowned architect contemporaries such as Frank Gehry, Philip Johnson, I. M. Pei, and Robert Stern, but also an insider's view of Kahn's unusual family arrangements.
Important works include
Yale University Art Gallery. New Haven, Connecticut (1951-53); the first significant commission of Louis Kahn and his first masterpiece, replete with technical innovations, like a floor slab system giving access to mechanical systems, and a somewhat "brutalist' shock to Yale's neo-Gothic context.
Richards Medical Research Laboratories, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, (1957-1965), regarding which Kahn said, “No space you can devise can satisfy these requirements. I thought what they should have was a corner for thought, in a word, a studio instead of slices of space”
Jonas Salk Institute, La Jolla, California, (1959-1965), divided into work and contemplative spaces suffused with light and the ocean
Phillips Exeter Academy Library, Exeter, New Hampshire, (1965-1972)
Jatiyo Sangshad Bhaban (National Assembly Building in Dhaka, Bangladesh (1962-1974), considered his masterpiece and one of the great monuments of International Modernism.
Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, Texas, (1967-1972)
Yale University Center for British Art, New Haven, Connecticut, (1969-1974)
He was no relation to the other American architect, Albert Kahn.