February 20th marks the 120th birthday anniversary of noted architect Louis Kahn. Kahn was a modern architect who designed with a distinctive style that set him apart from other architects of his time. His most notable projects include the Yale University Art Gallery in Connecticut, the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas and the posthumously completed FDR Four Freedoms Park right here in New York City. In addition to the many buildings around the world Kahn completed throughout his career, there were others that never left the drawing board. One of Kahn’s designs that never came to fruition was his proposal for the General Motors Pavilion at the 1964 World’s Fair. A sketch of the never-built building will be included in the reissue of The Notebooks and Drawings of Louis I. Kahn.

To acknowledge the anniversary of Kahn’s birthday and celebrate his legacy, the Weitzman School of Design in partnership with Designers & Books will host a special virtual talk with Kahn’s three grown children! Insiders get unlimited access to all Untapped New York virtual events, and access to 100+ on-demand webinars. Become an Untapped New York Insider today for as low as $10/month!
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Louis Kahn's sketch of the GM Pavilion for the World's FairKahn’s sketch of the General Motors Pavilion for the 1964 World’s Fair, Courtesy of Designers & Books

The design General Motors ultimately went for was much different than Louis Kahn’s vision. Kahn’s plan called for multiple round buildings with an hour-glass-like shape. The General Motors Pavilion at the fair was one large structure that started with a sweeping 10-story canopy at one end, had a long rectangular center, and ended with a saucer-shaped pavilion at the other. The Times estimated the 3-acre building cost around $50 million to build, the most expensive pavilion at the fair. The General Motors Pavilion built in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park was designed by the “General Motors styling staff in Detroit and put together by H. B. Stubbs and Company,” according to the New York Times. The team received assistance from the Detroit-based architecture firm of Albert Kahn, no relation to Louis, who designed the 1939 General Motors Pavilion. It was assembled on-site by the Turner Construction Company.

1951, Delphi from Marmaria, Greece, crayon in notebook, Courtesy of Designers & Books

Designers & Books has just launched a Kickstarter Campaign to reissue Richard Saul Wurman’s 1962 publication, The Notebooks and Drawings of Louis I. Kahn, which includes sketches from Kahn of his never built World’s Fair building, as well as travel sketches from Kahn’s trips abroad to Italy, Egypt, Greece and France, drawings of selected projects, and text from Kahn’s personal notebooks and unpublished speeches. The title, which was one of the first to acknowledge Kahn’s incredible body of work, has been out of print for almost fifty years. It was created by one of Kahn’s former students, Richard Saul Wurman. Wurman also worked in Kahn’s Philadelphia office. Printer Eugene Feldman helped Wurman create the book.

1956 study for center city Philadelphia, ink on tracing paper, Courtesy of Designers & Books

“I didn’t choose what were considered his best, most finished drawings,” Wurman notes. “I chose those what spoke to me—much in the same way that Lou would say you had a conversation with the building. . . the drawings that told me what they were trying to be.” In the drawings, you can see Kahn making note of forms found in ancient structures and see the early formation of plans for projects including the sculpture court of the Yale University Art Gallery.

Designers & Books hopes to raise $124,000 in the Kickstarter Campaign to release a Facsimile and an extensive Reader’s Guide. The Facsimile will be an exact replica of the 1972 edition of Wurman’s book, which includes a four-page handwritten introduction that Louis Kahn wrote in the form of a letter to Wurman and Feldman. The Reader’s Guide will include writings by a variety of critics and colleagues such as Norman Foster and Peter Reed, as well as personal recollections, and additional visual material. You can view the full book online here!

1950 Doges’ [Doge’s] Palace, Venice, Italy, crayon in notebook, Courtesy of Designers & Books

Learn more about the work of Louis Kahn in a special virtual talk featuring his three grown children on Thursday, February 18th! Insiders get unlimited access to all Untapped New York virtual events, and access to 100+ on-demand webinars. Become an Untapped New York Insider today for as low as $10/month!
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Next, check out The Top 10 Secrets of FDR Four Freedoms Park in NYC