Louis Kahn

I guess I should mention that my book on this great American architect, You Say To Brick: The Life of Louis Kahn, just appeared this past week from Farrar, Straus & Giroux.  I hope you will feel tempted to buy it at your local independent bookstore, but in case there are none left in your neighborhood, here is the Amazon link to the book. And here is a sampling of my favorite reviews thus far: from Booklist (a starred review); from the Washington Post; from Architect (the magazine of the American Institute of Architects); and from the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

(Not to mention one from the good old New York Times.)

I would be very curious to hear from any of my regular blog-followers who happen to read the book, so please don’t hesitate to put your comments below, if you have any. For the next few weeks I will be touring for the book—a March 25 appearance at the Kimbell Museum in Fort Worth, an April 6 event at the Philadelphia Free Library, and so on—but I hope not to let these activities blot out my usual performance-attending, concert-going, reading life.  In other words, I promise I will soon get back to reporting on the various cultural events taking place around me!


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14 Responses to Louis Kahn

  1. mc says:

    My friend, an architect, is reading the book currently and raves about it daily. Where else will you be appearing for the book tour after Philly?

    • Wendy Lesser says:

      Great to know — thank you! So far the only date after Philly (on April 6) is at Books Inc in Berkeley (on May 31). But more events may arise as time goes on. You can stream a talk I gave at Roosevelt House in New York and a radio program I did on KERA in Texas, if you can find them online.

  2. Budge Gierke says:

    I’m working on a biography of Anne Tyng and upon release of your book I called Bill W at the Penn Archive for his take. He loved it and so do I. You convey wonderfully the experience of moving though Kahn space along with a sense of how it came thus to be. It would be fun to cross paths with you, but I won’t soon find myself in Berkeley. Dang. I live three hours west of Chicago. Please let me know if you plan a visit there.

  3. Susan Rafter says:

    I just saw you on The Charlie Rose show tonight talking about your new book ‘You Say To Brick: The Life of Louis Kahn’. I found your discussion and your knowledge fascinating, and will look up further information. Charlie Rose asks such exquisite intelligent questions, of which you were able to give such interesting answers, depth of knowledge, and vivid descriptions. So eloquent you are! I will also look up your other writings and books. Thanks!

  4. Bridgette S. Beinecke says:

    Ms Lesser,
    You are a remarkable woman! Thank you for your research and writings.
    I just finished watching your interview with Charlie Rose on my PBS station in Austin,TX.
    While I have not yet read your newest book about Louis Kahn, I too was very inspired by Mr. Kahn’s work and intrigued by Daniel’s documentary about his father.
    I wish that I had known you were writing your book about him. I have a story about the Kimball that might have interested you.
    While working with Linbeck Construction Company in Houston, Texas I read their files regarding the proposed additions to the Kimball Museum in Fort Worth. The company was hired to prepare the estimate of probable construction costs for building the proposed addition to the museum. This estimate was to be used in the fund raising campaign. The expansion was to be built in accordance with (what was thought at the time) Mr. Kahn’s intention to add more barrel vault structures. Perhaps in your research you saw the press surrounding the outcry raised by many architects and architectural critics about the proposed addition.
    I was a member of the AIA at that time and recall that the AIA’s Committee on Historic Resources circulated a petition and was seeking signatures from architects around the country to advocate against the museum addition.
    All of what I described above had transpired before I went to work for Linbeck as a pre-construction planner and project manager in 1990. As a licensed architect I acted as a liaison between the design consultants and the construction personnel. I was curious about this subject because I vaguely remembered that Philip Johnson was one of the signatures of that petition. Linbeck was about to commence a project with Mr. Johnson who was engaged to design a chapel and science building for the small liberal Catholic college, St. Thomas Universtiy in Houston. He had planned the campus in 1951 and these two buildings were to complete the quadrangle that was designed in the International style of architecture based on Thomas Jefferson’s University of Virginia.
    After working with Mr. Johnson a few months, I had the courage to ask him why he had objected to the Kimball addition. His signature on that petition and its widespread publicity had forced the Kimball board to abandon the original addition plans and to spend several more years creating a new design and raising the funds for the expansion.
    When I asked Mr Johnson about this, he told me “I was really pressured , that was a big mistake on my part!” He further explained that he had not been shown Louis’ drawings for the possible future expansion.
    Mr. Johnson went on to describe how he had based the design for his Glass house in New Haven on a model that Louis showed him. I think that he said that this occurred before they planned the Kahn exhibit at the MOMA.

    I realize that you have a great deal to do currently for your book tour. I am curious if you already have your next book project in mind.

    When your time permits, I would like to converse with you about an idea that was inspired by you remarks to Mr. Rose that you had an interest in urban planning as a college student but chose not to pursue it. When it is convenient, please contact me via email and we can set a time to talk. Alternatively, if you are coming to Austin, San Antonio or Houston as part of your tour, we might possibly meet briefly in person.
    Warmest regards,
    Bridgette Beinecke
    (Mrs. Walter Beinecke Jr.)

  5. Milad Zabeti says:

    Dear Wendy Lesser,

    I am Milad Zabeti, architect practicing in Cambridge, Massachusetts. I have been collaborating with Iranian magazines of architecture for last 5 years. I mostly write on architecture and urban design.

    I would like to thank you for your wonderful book ‘You Say to Brick’ on the life of the great Louis Kahn. I’m in the middle of the book and I’m enjoying reading it a lot. It is full of inspiration with important details on Lou’s personality and his architecture. I am impressed by your vast knowledge both on Kahn’s life and his profession as an architect. I found relationship between the craftsman (Kahn) and his crafts very meaningful in your book. Last year I had the chance to visit Phillips Exeter Academy Library in New Hampshire which was my first experience being in a space created by Kahn. Now while reading your book, I can see myself walking through his buildings, no matter how remote, in my imagination with the help of your writing.

    Louis Kahn has always had remarkable impact on Iranian architects through years, where Iranian modernists followed him and this is obvious on many of their works in 70s. I believe Iranian readers would find your book very inspiring in many aspects. Having said that, I would like to ask if you would be interested in translating your book in Persian for Farsi-speaking society of architects and architecture lovers in Iran. I’m very determined to work on this project if there would be any possible opportunity.
    I know about your busy schedule so I would like to thank you in advance for your consideration of my request and your time.

    Best regards,
    Milad Zabeti

  6. John McWhorter says:

    Ms. Lesser — I teach linguistics at Columbia and write on language, culture, and race for various publications, and have written various books. I could not resist telling you — and I do not write mash notes as a rule — that your Louis Kahn biography is sincerely one of the most wonderful books I have ever read. Your craftsmanship is utterly astounding on every page; the whole gameplan of the book, the tone, all of it is just splendid — as perfect as Kahn’s buildings. I am sincerely in awe and am reluctant to write a book of my own ever again because I could never write on your level. THANK YOU. I am now a devoted fan. John McWhorter

    • Wendy Lesser says:

      Wow! I can’t tell you how much pleasure this response gives me. Glad to have created another Louis Kahn fan.

  7. James Naples says:

    Ms. Lesser,
    I just finished your book, and tomorrow I get to see the Kahn exhibition at the Kimbell. Thank you so much for your diligent research and graceful writing about this great, complicated man.

  8. John says:

    Hi Wendy-

    I just finished reading “You Say To Brick” that I stumbled upon at my local independent bookstore. As a contractor, “armchair architect” and a fan of Louis Kahn I found your book very enjoyable. The storyline was intriguing and didn’t get bogged down with superfluous architectural details or language. One of the best architectural biographies that I have read – thank you!

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