Concept of Silence and Light in Architecture

Topics: Phillips Exeter Academy Library, Louis Kahn, Phillips Exeter Academy Pages: 9 (3931 words) Published: February 24, 2011
Between The Silence and The Light Introduction Architecture is a meeting place between the measurable and the unmeasurable. The art of design is not only rooted in the aesthetic form, but in the soul of the work. In Phenomena and Idea, Stephen Holl once wrote, The thinking-making couple of architecture occurs in silence. Afterward, these thoughts are communicated in the silence of phenomenal experiences. We hear the music of architecture as we move through spaces while arcs of sunlight beam white light and shadow. Undoubtedly, Holl adopted this concept from its author, Louis I. Kahn. Unquestionably, I am referring to Silence and Light, a concept created and nurtured by Khan, and one that dominated the later half of his work. Kahn had chosen the word Silence to define the unmeasurable or that which has not yet come to be. According to Khan, the unmeasurable is the force that propels the creative spirit toward the measurable, to the Light. When the inspired has reached that which is, that which known, he has reached the Light. Eloquently expressing the architect's passion for design, Khan wrote Inspiration is the of feeling at the beginning at the threshold where Silence and Light meet. Silence, the unmeasurable, desire to be. Desire to express, the source of new need, meets Light, the measurable, giver of all presence, by will, by law, the measure of thing already made, at a threshold which is inspiration, the sanctuary of art, the treasury of shadow. Khan believed that in order for architectural theory to be credible, it had to be constructed. Thirty years ago, Khan began one of his most successful executions of the Silence and Light with the Library at Phillips Exeter Academy. This New Hampshire landmark physically illustrates and ideologically embodies many of Khan's concepts and incorporates many of his beliefs, synthesizing them into a tight little package with a powerful punch. The subtleties of materiality coupled with multiple plays of light truly embody the spirit of Khan's philosophy at Exeter Academy. As Stephen Holl concisely expresses Architecture is born when actual phenomena and the idea that drives it intersect…Meanings show through at this intersection of concept and experience. It is exactly Khan's blending of idea and design that makes this building a model for theoretical execution in design. The following essay will explore the many architectural implementations of Khan's theories from materials, to form, to function and to the Silence and Light. This investigation shall probe the ideology in conjunction with its realization to the approach, the circulation, the enclosure and the details. Additionally, the Library at Phillips Exeter Academy shall be analyzed in relationship to his theories on education, institutions and learning. As the quote I asked the building what it wanted to be has been often attributed to Louis Khan, I shall ask the question, What did Khan want the building to be, and how did he approach this challenge? Institutions and Education Khan believed that Institution stems from the inspiration to live. This inspiration remains meekly expressed in our institutions today. The three great inspirations are the inspiration to learn, the inspiration to meet, and the inspiration for well being. The architecture of Exeter Library captures the essence of these inspirations, offering opportunities for all of them to blossom. Khan continued They all serve, really, the will to be, to express. This is, you might say, the reason for living. It is this inspiration that enlivens the spirits of the students, and motivates them to study and learn. I may suggest then, that if the purpose of the institution lies within the Silence, then its physical materialization becomes the Light. If we assume that the desire to seek truth and universal knowledge is rooted in the Silence, then we may accept the school building to be the Light, more precisely spent light. Khan believed that the first schools emerged from...
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