Louis I. Kahn. Civic Center, project, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Aerial perspective. 1957

Louis I. Kahn Civic Center, project, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Aerial perspective 1957

  • Not on view

In the small bird's-eye panorama Kahn further developed his idea of a city surrounded by massive cylindrical parking towers defending the center-which he now called the "Forum"-from the onslaught of automobiles and the forces of decentralization that threatened human interaction. The historicism that was beginning to emerge in his work is evinced by the gateway towers, which explicitly recall ancient monuments such as the Roman Colosseum in various states of decay. Kahn's idealized drawing was clearly inspired by Piranesi's famous eighteenth-century views of Rome and imaginary buildings. Here, buildings in a variety of archetypal geometric forms populate the city center. Kahn believed that only by a centralization of buildings and activities, supported by a clear ordering of streets and traffic, would meaningful urban life be preserved.

Publication excerpt from an essay by Peter Reed, in Matilda McQuaid, ed., Envisioning Architecture: Drawings from The Museum of Modern Art, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2002, p. 114.
Ink on tracing paper
11 x 14" (27.9 x 35.6 cm)
Gift of the architect
Object number
© 2020 Estate of Louis I. Kahn
Architecture and Design

Installation views

How we identified these works

In 2018–19, MoMA collaborated with Google Arts & Culture Lab on a project using machine learning to identify artworks in installation photos. That project has concluded, and works are now being identified by MoMA staff.

If you notice an error, please contact us at [email protected].


If you would like to reproduce an image of a work of art in MoMA’s collection, or an image of a MoMA publication or archival material (including installation views, checklists, and press releases), please contact Art Resource (publication in North America) or Scala Archives (publication in all other geographic locations).

All requests to license audio or video footage produced by MoMA should be addressed to Scala Archives at [email protected]. Motion picture film stills or motion picture footage from films in MoMA’s Film Collection cannot be licensed by MoMA/Scala. For licensing motion picture film footage it is advised to apply directly to the copyright holders. For access to motion picture film stills please contact the Film Study Center. More information is also available about the film collection and the Circulating Film and Video Library.

If you would like to reproduce text from a MoMA publication or moma.org, please email [email protected]. If you would like to publish text from MoMA’s archival materials, please fill out this permission form and send to [email protected].


This record is a work in progress. If you have additional information or spotted an error, please send feedback to [email protected].