10/20/2014 08:21 am ET Updated Oct 20, 2014

The Great Architects: Louis Kahn

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Modern architecture produces truly innovative work: glittering, staggeringly tall buildings, opera houses that look like folded origami, even museums that look like spaceships. However, in turning towards everything new, architectural modernism also dogmatically left behind much of what makes buildings lovely. The best architects of the modern age have managed to avoid this pitfall, discarding older, dull conventions while retaining the meaningful and beautiful aspects of tradition. Perhaps one of the most successful architects at finding this balance was a whimsical, absent-minded American named Louis Kahn.

Kahn was born in 1901. As a young man he studied architecture at the University of Pennsylvania, but his career truly blossomed in the 1950s after a trip to Rome led him to a new appreciation of ancient designs. Kahn’s important contribution to modern architecture was to include these older and even ancient elements in his work without losing the innovation and clarity of modernism.

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