I've praised Louis Kahn before in my review of My Architect. He is among the handful of architects I know best. Of course I don't have Frank Gehry or I.M. Pei in my address book, but I believe I've gained a personal connection to these architects by merely being in their spaces.
Sometimes, when I look at a painting, even if standing within inches of Rembrandt's brushstrokes or Vermeer's light, there is a distance. Perhaps it's merely the frame, but somehow painters keep boundaries around their souls. Even with the most expressive artists like Van Gogh, I've at times perceived visual barricades that prevent me from fully entering into the image. Architects, however, allow us to enter their world, their minds. For me, Kahn was the most exceptional at offering up deeply soulful spaces. The irony of this is, of course, Kahn was regarded as an emotionally distant husband, friend, colleague and father.Because I worked in Kahn's Kimbell Museum as a graduate student, I appreciate him on a deeper, more personal level than other architects. His space became my office, my lunchroom, my second home.
When I recently discovered his collection of architectural drawings on the New York Times site, I felt as if I'd unearthed an old family photo album buried in the attic. As I studied his animated and vibrant sketches, I understood Kahn as a young traveler and began to see another side to his inspiration.
Kahn's Italy drawings are currently on view at the Italian Cultural Institute of Los Angeles.