January 14, 2019 - Academy of Architecture - USI Mendrisio - Louis Kahn and Venezia
e-flux Architecture
January 14, 2019
January 14, 2019

Academy of Architecture - USI Mendrisio

View of Louis Kahn and Venezia entrance hall, Teatro dell'architettura, Mendrisio, Switzerland, 2018. Photo: Enrico Cano.

Louis Kahn and Venezia
October 12, 2018–January 20, 2019

Open day: January 19, 12–6pm, free guided exhibition tours with curators

Teatro dell'architettura
6850 Mendrisio


Curated by Elisabetta Barizza in collaboration with Gabriele Neri

Exhibition promoted by Università della Svizzera italiana, Accademia di architettura and Fondazione Teatro dell’architettura Mendrisio

With the contribution of stituto di storia e teoria dell’arte e dell’architettura, USI

The exhibition
The exhibition Louis Kahn and Venice, which inaugurates the new Teatro dell’architettura Mendrisio, stages for the first time the profound link between the American architect and the Italian city. Since 1928, when he arrived in Europe on his first Grand Tour, having left Estonia as a child when his family moved to Philadelphia, Kahn had kept up close ties with Venice. There were to be many close encounters: with its architecture—the Doge’s Palace, Piazza San Marco, the anonymous streets and bridges suspended over the water—as well as with its eminent inhabitants, such as Carlo Scarpa and Giuseppe Mazzariol. This network of experiences and relationships led him, in the late sixties, to become involved in the city’s cultural life, culminating in the commission to design an ambitious Palazzo dei Congressi in the Giardini della Biennale, where he had already exhibited his works. The project remained on paper, but it still appears one of the most interesting examples of his unbuilt architecture, as well as a chapter in the history of the Venice that failed to materialize, together with projects by Palladio, Frank Lloyd Wright, Le Corbusier, and many others.

Louis Kahn and Venice: human relationships, projects, presentations, exhibitions, encounters with students, lectures and special lessons, such as the one held on the roof of the Doge’s Palace, overlooking the domes of the church of St. Mark. Each chapter of this relationship opens reflections on complex themes: the connection between the memory of the past and the revitalization of a city that is, as Kahn said, “a pure miracle”; the rereading of ancient architecture by a modern architect; the construction of a building devoted to cultural life in a symbolic location of international civitas; the reception of Kahn's work in Italy; the relationship between architecture and engineering.

The sum of these experiences reveals how Louis Kahn read Venice, based on a consideration of the relations between people and nature, translated into a vision of architecture that still deserves to be explored both in terms of history and in relation to the problems of the city in the lagoon. The approach indicated by Kahn is, in fact, a lesson that, in its validity, is still worth listening to.

“Venice is architecture of joy. I like a place as a whole where each building contributes to the other. An architect building in Venice must think in terms of sympathy: working on my project I was constantly thinking as if I was asking each building I love so much in Venice, whether they would accept me in their company” (Louis Kahn).

The Lenders
Louis I. Kahn Collection The Architectural Archives of the University of Pennsylvania School of Design Philadelphia; August Komendant Collection The Architectural Archives of the University of Pennsylvania School of Design Philadelphia; Archivio Graziano Arici Venezia; Archivio Cameraphoto Epoche-Carlo Pescatori Bergamo; Archivio Fotografico Guido Pietropoli Rovigo; Archivio Giuseppe Mazzariol; Fondazione Querini Stampalia Onlus Venezia; Archivio Progetti Università Iuav di Venezia VeneziaK; Archivio Università Internazionale dell’Arte, UIA Venezia; Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library, Columbia University New York; Canadian Centre for Architecture, CCA Montreal; Centro Internazionale di Studi di Architettura Andrea Palladio, CISA Vicenza; Collection of Alexandra Tyng Narberth; Collezione Luciano Gemin Treviso; Collezione Martina Mazzariol Roma; Collezione privata Mendrisio; Collezione Renzo Salvadori Venezia; Fondation Le Corbusier Paris; Sue Ann Kahn Collection New York

The exhibition catalogue
Louis Kahn and Venezia - The project for the Palazzo dei Congressi and the Biennale building

edited by Elisabetta Barizza and Gabriele Neri
Mendrisio Academy Press / Silvana Editoriale
27 x 27 cm
222 pages Hardback
200 illustrations in b/w and colour
Bilingual edition ITA/ENG
ISBN 9788836641628

Introduced by Mario Botta, the book presents critical essays by the curators together with others by Werner Oechslin and Fulvio Irace. It also contains two iconographic sections: a photo album with images of Louis Kahn in Venice and a portfolio with reproductions of drawings and sketches made by Louis Kahn for the project of the Palazzo dei Congressi and the Biennale Building.

Academy of Architecture - USI Mendrisio
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