Crowdfunding campaign for reissue of The Notebooks and Drawings of Louis I. Kahn enters the homestretch

You Kahn Do It!

Crowdfunding campaign for reissue of The Notebooks and Drawings of Louis I. Kahn enters the homestretch

1956 study for center city Philadelphia, ink on tracing paper by Louis Kahn (Courtesy Designers & Books)

A laboriously produced reissue of the long-out-of-print The Notebooks and Drawings of Louis I. Kahn published by the Brooklyn-based Designers & Books has just under two weeks to reach its crowdfunding goal of $124,000.

As of writing, supporters have pledged $70,592 to back a 96-page facsimile reproduction of the book , which is accompanied by an expansive Reader’s Guide featuring additional photos, rare archival material, original essays, and tributes to the late, great Philadelphia-based architect, educator, and critic. If the Kickstarter-based campaign, which launched on February 17 and finishes March 31, reaches its goal, the new edition and Reader’s Guide will go into production over the summer and be released in November of this year.

Created by the then-25-year-old Kahn protégée Richard Saul Wurman in collaboration with printer Eugene Feldman, The Notebooks and Drawings of Louis I. Kahn was first published by Falcon Press in 1962 with a print run of 1,800 copies. In 1973, MIT Press published a second edition with a print run of 3,000 copies. It features a four-page introduction that takes the form of a handwritten letter from Kahn to Wurman and Feldman. The 2021 edition is an exact reproduction of the 1973 edition, which can also be viewed in full online.

two book covers
The Notebooks and Drawings of Louis I. Kahn, 2021 Facsimile and Reader’s Guide (Courtesy Designers & Books)

Wurman, now 85, served as a key collaborator on this latest edition and penned an essay for the roughly 120-page Reader’s Guide. Joining the essay by Wurman (the architect, designer, and author is perhaps best known as the creator of TED), are new writings from, among others: William Whitaker, curator and collections manager of the Architectural Archives of the University of Pennsylvania, including the Louis I. Kahn Collection; Jonathan Salk, the youngest son of Jonas Salk, the famed virologist and founder of the Kahn-designed Salk Institute for Biological Studies in San Diego; Kahn’s three children, painter Alexandra Tyng, flutist Sue Ann Kahn, and award-winning documentary filmmaker Nathaniel Kahn, and architecture critic Paul Goldberger, who wrote Kahn’s March 20, 1974, New York Times obituary after the architect passed away at 73 after a heart attack at Penn Station in New York City.

Born as Itze-Leib Schmuilowsky in present-day Estonia in February 1901, Kahn immigrated to the United States with his family as a young child. In 1935, he established his Philadelphia architectural practice and, somewhat late in his career, designed a slew of late-modernist buildings known for their poeticism and striking monumentality. They include the Yale Art Gallery in New Haven, Connecticut (1951–1953); the First Unitarian Church in Rochester, New York (1959–1969); the Indian Institute of Management Ahmedabad in Ahmedabad, India (1962–1974); Jatiyo Sangshad Bhaban in Dhaka, Bangladesh (1961–1982); the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas (1967–1972), and San Diego’s Salk Institute (1959–1965).

portrait of louis kahn
Portrait of Louis I. Kahn, from a photograph by George Pohl (Courtesy Designers & Books)

In addition to the essays, images, and archival material, tributes from past recipients of the Louis I. Kahn Award—David Adjaye, Norman Foster, Tadao Ando, Steven Holl, Jeanne Gang, Denise Scott Brown, Frank Gehry, and Moshe Safdie among them—are also included in the Reader’s Guide.

As for The Notebooks and Drawings of Louis I. Kahn itself, the book contains 76 drawings divided into two sections. The first section is comprised of sketches, mainly of buildings Kahn observed on his international travels, reproduced at actual size. The second is populated by early sketches and completed renderings depicting many of Kahn’s most famous buildings. Throughout the book, Wurman, acting as editor, included the text of transcribed and unpublished speeches penned by Kahn in the early 1960s as well as other writings. The exact reproduction also includes the four-page introduction/letter included in the 1973 edition.

architectural sketch of a medical building
A.N. Richards Medical Research Building, University of Pennsylvania (1957) (Courtesy Designers & Books)

“I didn’t choose what were considered his best, most finished drawings,” Wurman explained in a press release for the project. “I chose those that 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 addition to Wurman, the full Louis I. Kahn Facsimile Project team includes Nathaniel Kahn; Designers & Books editor-in-chief Steve Kroeter and executive editor Stephanie Salomon; Whitaker along with Heather Isbell Schumacher and Allison Rose Olsen of the Architectural Archives of the University of Pennsylvania, Weitzman School of Design; Larry Korman, current owner of the Kahn-designed Steven and Toby Korman House in Fort Washington, Pennsylvania, and project creative director Jenn Shore.

Backers of the project will receive both the third edition of The Notebooks and Drawings of Louis I. Kahn and the Reader’s Guide for pledges starting at $79 with larger pledges fetching multiple copies of the book and Reader’s Guide, private virtual tours of Kahn-designed buildings, and more.