Monday, 28 July 2014

200words: Louis Kahn - The Power of Architecture

"Your prophets have been like jackals among ruins, O Israel."
Ezekiel 13v4

There is a recognisable formula to the eulogising typology of fan-exhibit: a fawningly dreary hodge-podge of uncritically splayed miscellany, soundbites, remnants left by  a man who could do no wrong. The whole dimly lit ensemble reads like a skim through the colour plates illustrating an inconclusive essay yet to be written, I am titillated and briefly diverted, and I leave hungry, none-the-wiser.

This exhibition concerns itself with 'the Power of Architecture', as if it were a brute force, as if that were a good thing. This exhibition concerns itself with the phenomenon of an individual, without a sensitivity to any meaningful context for these isolated details of Kahn's life and work now cluttered into a reliquary. It is in this very contextlessness that the motive force for such an exhibition is betrayed: to reinforce all myths of genius, to validate the narrative of creation ex mystique.

Against this, however, there is footage on one screen, perhaps by Nathanial Kahn, which dwells at first on the inhabitation of the National Assembly Building, in its shade weathered elders share a cup of tea, glinting dazzling faces blur past in their unmonumental everyday urgencies. Then the building is left behind altogether and we dwell on the rich human landscape of so much that is not-architecture, so much that is rusty and perpetual, fervent and alive. This vast portrait of the Dhaka into which Kahn's geometry is pressed suggests the subtle tensions and reciprocities which give to the form a richer endurance.

Design Museum

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