.. ‘s essay The Wall, the Column from Between Silence and Light The wall did well for man. In its thickness and its strength, it protected man against destruction. But soon, the will to look out made man make a hole in the wall, and the wall was pained, and said, “What are you doing to me? I protected you; I made you feel secure-and now you put a hole through me! ” And man said, “But I see wonderful things, and I want to look out.” And the wall felt very sad. Later man didn’t just hack a hole through the wall, but made a discerning opening, one trimmed with fine stone, and he put a lintel over the opening.
And soon the wall felt pretty well. Consider also the momentous event in architecture when the wall parted and the column became.” ” Upon my approach I noticed the arcade that formed the base of the structures was cast in shadow, and the entrance was not apparent immediately. Due to the language of modern architecture, this absence of hierarchy would not normally surprise me. However, since Khan was one of a few modernists who believed in Hierarchy, I was dumbfounded by its dearth. Only through research did I discover Khan’s true intent, “From all sides (of the campus) there is an entrance.
If you are scurrying in a rain to get to the building, you can come in at any point and find your entrance. It’s a continuous campus style entrance.” Unfortunately, as in my case, I entered the arcade from the east and walked south and had to circumnavigate the entire building before I found the front entrance. As I walked between the light and shadow of the arcade, my senses tingled with delight of knowing something special awaited inside. Walking through the arcade, I noticed at closer detail that Khan had continued to honor the brick by creating flat arch lintels at the opening as he had done with the facade. Again I was reminded of Khan’s writings “If you think of brick, and you’re consulting the Orders, you consider the nature of brick.
You say to brick, “What do you want, brick?” Brick says to you, “I like an arch.” If you say to brick, “Arches are expensive, and I can use a concrete lintel over an opening. What do you think of that, brick?” Brick says, “I like an arch.” It was at this moment that I began to realize that Khan had truly traveled from the Silence to the Light. The Seduction Inside After experiencing the exterior plaza, I was immediately greeted by a sweeping, grand curved monumental stair upon entering the library. Made of marble to reinforce its monumental nature, the stair entices you up a flight to the main level. In an almost ceremonial procession, the invitation to explore further is overwhelming. As I have previously stated, it was Kahn’s intention to create three different spaces: one where students would come together in the presence of books, another of the books, and a third for reading in the light.
It is at the top of these stairs, in the grand central hall that the invitation or presence of books begins. It is in this space that the librarians, as khan hoped, lay out the books, open especially to selected pages to seduce the readers. The books are set on tables as well as in case. In addition, the book carts, so important to the function of the librarian’s job, are kept in full view, alerting the user to the lifeblood of the library. “At a more essential level, however the design of the building itself participates in the seduction of the user.
Moving up the stair and standing in the hall, users can look through the large circular openings and into the main book stacks of the library.” These large circles of the central hall are the windows from where the sirens of books call out the user, seducing the student to venture to the second space, the “place of books”. It is also an opportunity to allow the books to “speak” to each other, from either side or from a different floor, a form of social interaction of the spaces. When Kahn spoke of the plan, he desired to create the interaction of space to space, from light to light. “I think that a plan is a society of rooms. A real plan is one in which rooms have spoken to each other. When you see a plan, you can say that it is the structure of the spaces in their light” .
Along the perimeter of the central hall Khan design shelving with counter space for the presentation of books. Once the user has reached this destination, he shall enter the place of books. The stacks are situated in a utilitarian atmosphere, with basic industrial style lighting. The exposure to concrete is in remarkable contrast to the warmth of the brick reading areas. Once the user selects a book, he proceeds to the third function of space, the reading areas. The first reading area, the carrels form the perimeter ring at the exterior walls of the library.
In addition, Khan provided private reading rooms for the faculty, and an exterior arcade. This meeting place occurs on the roof, in the presence of the truest forms of light, the sun. Homage to the Light When one experiences the Library at Phillips Exeter Academy, he or she cannot help but notice the constant shifting of Silence and Light. It is almost a dance between the shadow and light, one that effect the spirit and mood of each space and its user. The performance of light begins at the base, as the piers create a rhythm of lightness and darkness and travels the height of the facade. From the ever-changing color of the brick to the depth of the window openings, light dances its way across the building enclosure.
As the natural light penetrates the interior, Khan skillfully controls its every movement throughout the interior spaces. Kahn’s truly impressive use of light emanates in its execution to the three functions of the library. As Khan had stated “A plan of a building shall read like a harmony of spaces in light. Even a space intended to be dark should have just enough light from some mysterious opening to tell us how dark it really is. Each space must be defined by its structure and the character of its natural light.” In this utilitarian stairwell, the source of light emanates from a deflecting path of glass and wall. Understanding the importance for various sources, type and intensity of light, Khan design the library to take advantage light’s many properties. Khan provided three distinct areas of light for the each of his important spaces.
The areas for reading in the Light received natural light that was skillfully designed to enhance without inhibiting the ability to read, “Glare is bad in the library; wall space is important. Little spaces where you can adjourn with a book are tremendously important,” Khan wrote about the Exeter Library. Khan believed the potential of learning was just as great from looking out the window as from reading a book, however he also understood the need to limit the outside distractions, both of people and of light. . At the perimeter he allowed the light to enliven the reading area, yet he controlled the glare at the reading carrels, through window height and the use of sliding shutters.
In areas of more serious study, he limited the windows to a source of light from a clerestory. Because the rays of direct sunlight are harmful to books, Khan used dim fluorescent lighting in the “place of books”, offering only enough to allow the user to find a book. This action however, somewhat contradicts his previous statements on artificial light ” Space can never reach its place in architecture without natural light. Artificial light is the light of night expressed in positioned chandeliers not to be compared with the unpredictable play of natural light” Khan understood the materials and their reactions toward the light. “At Exeter, the meaning of light is a demonstration of Kahn’s most profound philosophical beliefs.
As a result of ever-changing external conditions, the interior space comes alive with a constant flux of light and shade. The room exists in the realm of shadows, that is, between the silence of ideas and the light of material reality.” Quite possibly one of Kahn’s most notable innovations in the control of light is found in the ceiling of the great hall. “With the light tower of Yale University Art Gallery, we are familiar with Khan’s principle of “light blades” which deflect light downward and simultaneously perform structural functions.” Additionally, the cross shape emphasizes the centrality of the space. As one can see in the photo to the left, it concisely illustrates all three important conditions of light; the invitation of books, the place of books, and the reading in the light. Conclusion The Library at Phillips Exeter Academy is the Light, the physical manifestation of Khan’s theories and writings. This project is more about the accumulation of experience or intention of idea than just a place to store and read books.
It goes beyond the realm of the known, beyond the mortar and bricks. It is the threshold between the Silence and the Light. If our impression of a building is defined by our knowledge of space, by what we see at a particular moment or what we just saw a few seconds ago, then it is also what we would like to see. “However, if we attempt to see a larger world, one that includes that which is not yet along with that which is, as the creative artist, scientist, and architect must, then a more powerful discipline is needed, one used by the poets, which the ancient Chinese Taoist philosopher Lao Tzu called the Tao, the existential philosopher Martin Heidegger called Being, and Louis Kahn called Order.” In his essay on Architecture, Khan said “You must follow the laws of nature and use quantities of brick, methods of construction, and engineering. But in the end, when the building becomes part of living, it evokes immeasurable qualities, and the spirit of its existence takes over.” Thus, space can be seen also as possibility .. present in our imagination.
The question of physical existence is inappropriate. More appropriately, one should ask For what is an architectural concept if not the material and spatial expression of spiritual intentions? Bibliography Brownlee, David B. and David G. De Long. Lois I Kahn: In the Realm of Architecture.
New York, Rizzoli, 1991. Buttiker, Urs. Louis I. Khan: Light and Space, Basel, Birkhuser Verlag, 1994. Holl, Stephen.
“Phenomena and Idea” Date Visited 5/10/99 Jordy, William H. “The Span of Kahn,” Architectural review 155, no. 928. June 1974 Khan, Louis I. “Silence and Light: Louis Kahn’s Words” in Between Silence and Light, John Lobell, Boulder, Shambhala Publications, Inc., 1979. Khan, Louis I. Bibliotecas – Libraries, New York, Garland, 1988.
Lobell, John. Between Silence and Light, Boulder, Shambhala Publications, Inc., 1979. Ronner, H., Jhaveri, S. Complete Work 1935-74, Basel, Birkhuser Verlag, 2nd Ed., 1987. Wiggens, Glen E., Louis I Kahn: The Library at Phillips Exeter Academy, New York, Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1997. Wurman, Richard Saul, Ed. What Will Be Has Always Been: The Words of Louis I. Khan.
New York, Access Press and Rizzoli International Publications, Inc. 1986. Wurman, R.S., “What will be has always been. The words of Louis I. Kahn.” Progressive Architecture 1969, special edition, wanting to be: the Philadelphia School.
p.89.Cambridge, MA and London, England, MIT Press, 1973 Wurman, R.S., Feldman, E. The Notebooks and Drawings of Louis I. Khan. Cambridge, MA and London, England, MIT Press, 1973.