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
© 2024 Estate of Louis I. Kahn
Architecture and Design

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