With eyes on the new glazed pavilion designed by Renzo Piano Building Workshop, here’s a look back at Louis Kahn’s original Kimbell, which put the institution. The Kimbell Art Museum by architect Louis I. Kahn was built in Fort Worth, Texas, United States in Past show featuring works by Louis Kahn at Kimbell Art Museum Fort Worth, Camp Bowie Boulevard Mar 26th – Jun 25th
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Kahn and opened to the public for the first time inhas become a mecca of musuem architecture. Working closely with the Kimbell’s first director, Richard F. The main west facade of the building consists of three foot bays, each fronted by an open, barrel-vaulted portico, with the central, entrance bay recessed and glazed.
The porticos express on the exterior the light-filled vaulted spaces that are the defining feature of the interior, which are five deep behind each of the side porticos and three deep behind the central one. Additionally, three courtyards punctuate the interior space. Though thoroughly modern in its lack of ornament or revivalist detail, the building suggests the grand arches and vaults of Roman architecture, a source of inspiration that Kahn himself acknowledged. The principal materials are concrete, travertine, and white oak.
Each architect has an luois approach to developing that initial concept. In the case of the Kimbell, muswum Richard Brown provided an initial list of important considerations for generating ideas for the structure.
Kahn Building | Kimbell Art Museum
Kahn determined the exact shape of the mueeum through his collaboration with a structural engineer, Dr. As opposed to semicircular vaults, the cycloid vault has gently rising sides that give the impression of monumentality without overpowering the visitor. By mathematical definition, the cycloid is the curve traced by a point on the circumference of a circle that rolls on a straight line without slipping. This geometric form is capable of supporting its own weight and has been likened to an eggshell for its ability to withstand heavy pressure.
At the ,imbell, the weight for each vault is directed through four corner columns measuring two square feet. Additionally, Kahn and his engineers aart long steel cables inside along the length of each vault. After the concrete had hardened for a week, hydraulic jacks were used tighten the cables to create a system of post-tensioning that distributes and supports the weight of the roof—similar to a suspension bridge.
The basic plan is composed of sixteen cycloid vaults x 20 feet that are arranged in three parallel units of six, four, and six in the Kimbell. Other elements are based on a ratio of 20 to For example, on the floor, wood sections measure 20 feet and travertine sections are 10 feet.
Within the Museum, visitors see that vaults cover the galleries, an auditorium, and the Buffet Restaurant. Kahn also varied the size of the courtyards. The North courtyard is 40 square feet, while the South courtyard is 20 square feet.
The space, in fact, was designed to be as flexible as possible within the confines of the vaulted spaces. Kahn preferred simple forms and natural materials.
Louis Kahn / Kimbell Art Museum
To achieve a sense of serenity and elegance in the Kimbell, Kahn selected materials that complemented each other in tone and surface: Simple and unadorned, each of these materials shows its innate character by its variation of texture. Creating the right look to the concrete was a matter of serious importance to Kahn, who went kimbe,l great lengths to select the proper color soft gray with lavender tones determined by the mixture of sand and cement.
Numerous wall tests were poured arh allowed to cure in the Texas sun until they found the right surface qualities and perfect match for the soft tones of the travertine.
Kahn believed that buildings should tell the story of how they were made and that incidents of the construction process should be left as a visual record. Accordingly, when they occurred, lois from plywood mold forms, bits of rubber, and air pockets remain for all to see although the workmen practiced to attain perfection. Kahn even called it wall paper.
Glass and wood are also non-weight-bearing materials in louls Museum. The travertine a type of colored limestone used for the Kimbell was imported from Tivoli, near Rome, Italy. This material is riddled with irregularly shaped holes left by gases and pieces of vegetation trapped in hardened layers of calcium carbonate.
Kahn was deeply influenced by monuments and ancient ruins that he studied as a student and sketched on his travels khn Italy, Greece, and Egypt. In his own buildings, Kahn used such materials as travertine to emulate the timeless and monolithic qualities he so admired in those ancient structures. Fissures and openings were not filled.
Lead was selected for the roof cover for its color, dull sheen, and discreet, natural appearance. Because this soft metal ages quickly, Kahn believed that it would look consistent with the travertine and concrete. In keeping with his palette of warm and cool tonal harmonies, Kahn also selected white oak for the gallery floors, doors, and cabinetry; anodized aluminum a light-weight metal noted for its high reflectivity that has been covered with a protective oxide coating for the soffits and reflectors; and mill-finished steel for windows and door frames, elevators, and handrails, as well as in louiz kitchen, conservation studio, and darkroom.
In many buildings, and especially at the Kimbell Art Museum, light performs a crucial role—illuminating the space and creating a mood. In his teachings and designs, Louis I. Kahn constantly stressed the importance of light in relation to structure. Many museum designs primarily rely on artificial lighting to prevent direct sunlight from damaging priceless and delicate works of art. Kimbell director Richard Brown, however, felt that natural light should be used to illuminate museum spaces so that visitors may be able to relate to nature and the effects of changing weather while inside the Kimbell.
This type of lighting also enables the visitor to see the work of art more similarly to the way it would have been viewed by its creator, under conditions of natural light. However, the works of art are not illuminated entirely by natural light—lamps bolster the daylight to give a mixture of natural and artificial light that is ideal for viewing works of art.
Lighting kouis worked with Kahn to devise gull-wing shaped reflectors that are now installed in the Kimbell. For works of art that require very low levels of light drawings or Asian scroll paintings, for exampleblack felt can be used to cover the skylights to further reduce the amount of light reflected into the gallery. Kahn incorporated slender lunettes at either end of each vault for more light. The lunette also acts as an important liuis that separates distinct parts of the structure and is, in turn, shaped by those parts.
Its underside echoes the cycloid, while the topside is shaped by the concrete shell that thickens at its apex. Therefore, the topside of each lunette expands at the bottom and lpuis thinner at the top. Light slots run along the entire bottom length of the vault to allow indirect sunlight to enter Museum spaces. Kahn also designed three courtyards, named after the kind of light that he anticipated that their proportions, foliation, or sky reflections would give: Green, Yellow, and Blue Courts.
Visitors can easily recognize the Green Court, with its vine roofing, or the Museu Court, with a splashing fountain that reflects sky and water off its travertine enclosure. Skip to main content.