Architect Louis Khan: Artist and Designer of New FDR Memorial

NEW YORK—Long familiar with the Salk Institute in La Jolla, Calif., I somehow was never aware of the work of architect Louis I. Khan (1901-1974) until I saw the documentary “My Architect.” Made by Nathaniel Khan, his son from an extra-marital affair, the 2003 film is a search for Khan, considered one of the most important architects of the late 20th century. Seeking to get to know his father by studying his projects, the film beautifully reports on both the man and his designs.

Khan’s monumental buildings, including the Salk Institute, the Kimball Art Museum in Ft. Worth, Texas, the Phillips Exeter Academy Library in New Hampshire and the National Assembly Building in Dhaka, Bangladesh, exemplify his modern designs that respond to each project’s function, site and light paths and innovative use of materials such as concrete.

In the early 1970s, Khan also designed a memorial to Franklin D. Roosevelt. Forty years later, the project, Four Freedoms Park, was finally completed on Roosevelt Island and dedicated on Oct. 17 with a ceremony that included President Bill Clinton, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The entrance to the granite memorial is lined with tree that frame views of the Manhattan skyline and the harbor.

Architect Louis I. Khan also expressed himself through art—watercolors, drawings and paintings.

To coincide with the unveiling, Lori Bookstein Fine Art is exhibiting model of the monument along with many of his drawings of parks, trees and landscapes. Kahn executed the 15 watercolors, drawings and paintings in “Louis I. Khan: In the Park” during his travels in the United States and abroad from the late 1920s to the late 1950s.

Detail of “Street of the Elms No. 3,” Gloucester, Cape Ann, Mass., 1932-33 (oil on canvas).

In a release, the gallery states: “Just as parks can best be described as intermediate zones that are both feral and domesticated, natural and manicured, so too did Louis I. Kahn maintain his dual identity as both artist and architect.”

Four Freedoms park opened to the public on Oct. 24. The exhibit at Lori Bookstein is on view from Oct. 11 to Nov. 10, 2012 and was presented as a part of Archtober, architecture and design month in October.

All photos © Arts Observer

From left, “Tree Study No. 1,” Italy 1928-29 (graphite on paper) and “Borghese Gardens,” Rome, Italy 1929 (watercolor on paper).

“Village Carcassone,” France 1959 (pen and ink on notebook paper).

A model of the new FDR memorial on Roosevelt Island is the centerpiece of “Louis I. Khan: In the Park” at Lori Bookstein Fine Art.

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