This talk explores a singular response to, and minor history in, mid 20th century architectural discourse, that of architect Louis I Kahn’s (1901-1974) project for the unbuilt De Vore House. The paper takes up the provocation of identifying figures of expression that deny or perhaps even resist division and thus potentially serve as contemporary architectural manifestations of the archaic. It does this through a formal analysis of De Vore House, a project that paradoxically on first glance appears to be all about composition strategies of division and dissociation per se. Three propositions underpin the study. The paper conjectures, firstly, that the unbuilt project is characteristic of a swerve from modern movement paradigms and at the time an unanticipated launch of a sensibility whose impact remained unrealised and untheorised some twenty years later at Kahn’s death and one still awaiting resuscitation. The paper proposes, secondly, that in De Vore House an underlying composition strategy of spacing is at work, one manifest in gestures that call up what can be described as retrograde forms and devices that differ from those associated with processes of separation. The paper suggests, finally, that this other shape and space-generation strategy signals a radical departure in plan disposition: unlike Beaux Arts cross-axial distributions, cubist collage-fragmentations, and modernist frame and grid, this other approach is sufficiently different to remain unexploited to this day. The paper contributes to addressing the theme of figures of expression and adds to scholarship on Kahn’s work, expanding on and varying secondary readings including those of Peter Eisenman and Alison and Peter Smithson. Published papers and archival materials held in the Louis I Kahn Collection, University of Pennsylvania, provide primary material for the research.
15 Jun 2018
L’Archaïque et ses possibles aujourd’hui / The Potentials for the Archaic Today