Louis Kahn as Artist and Collaborator

Lecture and Book Signing
November 8, 2017

Wendy Lesser is the author of the biography You Say to Brick: The Life of Louis Kahn and editor of the Threepenny Review.

From early childhood onward, Louis Kahn had tremendous artistic talent; he possibly could have made a career as an artist. His sketches and paintings won him acclaim throughout high school, and he exhibited a number of his finished works at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts as an adult. When he began to work as an architect, he drew heavily on this talent, learning to “think” with his pencil (or his charcoal) as a way of getting to his final design ideas. Yet an architect is, by definition, also a collaborator, and in bringing his architectural masterpieces to fruition, Kahn depended on his ability to stimulate others as much as on his own innate talents. He was not an isolated genius but a collaborator of extraordinary abilities, able to bring out the best in his colleagues and then tinker and choose among the results. In her lecture, Wendy Lesser focuses on both of these aspects of Kahn’s career—the artist and collaborator—and discusses a number of the results of his collaborative genius, namely, the Salk Institute and the Yale Center for British Art. Lesser’s biography, You Say to Brick: The Life of Louis Kahn, was published in March 2017.