Kahn's childhood experiences and his personality inclined him to assume that communication with others could reap social as well as personal rewards. Assumptions were transformed into convictions when Kahn became associated with a group of architects, city planners, and social activities in the American public housing movement, an association that began in the 1930's and deepened through his partnership with Stonorov, the German immigrant architect with whom he worked from 1941 to 1947. Kahn's involvement in public housing was integral to his identity as a modernist: he was immersed in the city's small, close-knit community of architects, a center both of discussions about trends in European avant-garde architecture and of the movement to improve public housing through a national program.
However, those who worked most closely with Kahn knew him as a thoroughly down-to-earth practitioner, an architect who actually relished making changes to his original designs and solving problems that would have exasperated lesser talents. He told colleagues that he dreaded finishing a building because he felt that completion meant the end of the design process.
From 1957 until his death, he was a professor of architecture at the School of Design at the University of Pennsylvania. Influenced by ancient ruins, Kahn's style tends to the monumental and monolithic; his heavy buildings do not hide their weight, their materials, or the way they are assembled.
During his life, Kahn focused a lot of his time on public housing and the living conditions in Philadelphia. He joined the Public Works Administration and the Architectural Research Group to discuss the living situations in Philadelphia. Two important people he collaborated with in this group were George Howe and Oskar Stonorov. Within these groups, he worked with them and other architects to create new projects for the Philadelphia Housing Society, such as Carver Court in Coatesville, Pennsylvania, a region outside of the Philadelphia area, and Philadelphia’s Mill Creek Housing project, which has since been demolished. Kahn felt strongly about providing help and shelter for people in the Philadelphia region through designing and building better housing. He believed that improving the city’s housing was like treating a living organism, and if something went wrong over time, the organism would begin to die.
From modernism Kahn learned about materials like reinforced concrete and technologies like truss-framing, about decorative minimalism ("the joint is the beginning of ornament," he insisted), about the visual clarity of simple forms and basic geometries. From modernist ideas he derived his lifelong insistence on forthrightly revealing how a building was made, in the end surpassing most of his peers at turning structure and the visible residues of construction technologies into art.
Kahn was one of the architects who struggled with, rather than against, modernism. He reshaped the idiom of East Coast American modernism, which was in essential ways different from either its West Coast or its European counter-parts, to adapt it both to the new social circumstances and new cultural concerns of his discursive communities and to his own moral and political agenda.
Louis Kahn undertook his first important work in 1952–1954, the Yale University Art Gallery, which marked a notable departure from his International Style buildings of the previous decade. Kahn's work was controversial during his lifetime, but his work was reviewed more favorably by a new generation of critics, who declared him one of the most original and important architects of the 20th century.
At age 12, Kahn attended the Fleischer School of Art in Philadelphia and spent much of his time there painting. Later, he attended Philadelphia Central High School. While there, he focused many of his classes on the arts. This is where Kahn would get his first taste of architecture. He studied under William F. Gray, a former architectural critic. After graduating Philadelphia Central High School, he entered the architecture program at the University of Pennsylvania in 1920 with a full palette of architectural knowledge ready to be used.
Louis Isadore Kahn (1901-1974), U.S. architect, educator, and philosopher, is one of the foremost twentieth-century architects. Louis I. Kahn evolved an original theoretical and formal language that revitalized modern architecture. His best known works, located in the United States, India, and Bangladesh, were produced in the last two decades of his life.
Born in 1901 on the Baltic island of Osel, Louis Isadore Kahn's family emigrated to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1905, where Louis Isadore Kahn lived the rest of his life. Trained in the manner of the Ecole des Beaux Arts under Paul Philippe Cret, Louis Isadore Kahn graduated from the University of Pennsylvania School of Fine Arts in 1924. Among his first professional experiences was the 1926 Philadelphia Sesquicentennial Exhibition.