Heinz Ronner / Sharad Jhaveri. (1987). Louis I. Kahn Complete Work 1935-1974. Birkhauser
Kay Kimbell, industrialist, art collector and founder of the Kimbell Art Foundation, who died in 1964 charged in his will that trustees build a museum of the first class in the city of Fort worth.Museum director Dr Richard Fargo Brown, approached Louis Kahn in early 1966. after having interviewed many wellknown architects, for the decision of the Kimbell Art Museum. The contract for the commission was signed on October 6. 1966. under the condition that Kann would work in as sociation with the local architectural and engineering firm of Preton M. Goren and Associates.
Final working drawings were expected to be ready by the end of 1967 and the construction was to have started in the beginning of 1968.In fact construction did not begin until the June 29,1969 ground- breaking. The museum officially opened on october 4 1972.
Dr August Komendant worked as a consulting structural engineer for the project. During the three-year evolution and refinement of the museum design, Kahn developed four distinct plans: he worked on the Square-plan until spring 1967,the Rectangle-plan until June 1967; the H’-plan until August 1968 and the ‘C-plan until the summer of 1969.
Plan view of site model, spring 1967, showing a fourteen-bay.V-shaped folded plate roof structure (420 feet square) with top light slits, aligned on a north-south axis, light courts and sculpture-gardens preserving existing trees; the entrance with water pools to the west of the square and The Amon Carter Museum of Western Art to the left.
Perspective view of the site model, spring 1967, showing arched south facade, v-shaped folded plate girders forming vaults (30 feet high) and toplight slits: the entrance with the reflecting waterpools to the left.
Section sketches, spring 1967, showing’v-shaped folded plate girders forming vaults and top-light slits. The ‘v’-shaped ducts and the light rays (dotted lines) indicate Kahn’s concern for preventing direct natural light from entering the galleries.
Section sketches, March 1967.showing studies of various light reflectors in curved vaults. (For similar studies refer to YCB. 25- 29.p.384.)
Structure is the giver of light.
Site plan sketch, 1967, showing fifteen-bay curved vault roof structure without toplight slits but with light courts, existing trees and entrance plaza with water-pools (to the west). Land for the site of the KimbellArt Museum was donated by the city of Fort Worth, and was part of the nine and one half acres of The Amon Carter Square Park-the city cultural center accommodating The Amon Carter Museum of Western Art, The Fort Worth Art Museum, The Fort Worth Museum of Science and History, The william Edrington Scott Theater, The Will Rogers Memorial Coliseum and Auditorium, and The Casa Manana Theater.The Kimbell Art Museum site is surrounded by Camp Bowie Boulevard to the north, Arch Adams Street to the east, West Lancaster Avenue to the south and Will Rogers Street to the west (refer to KAM. 36).
H-PLAN: FIRST VERSION
KAM. 7 KAM.8
First floor plan at entrance level. summer 1967, showing thirteen-bay structure: four-bay entrance and auditorium building to the left; six-bay gallery building to the right; and three-bay connecting building with a stair in the center. The east-west corridor defines the central entrance axis and allows the separation of the museum into north and south sections.
Longitudinal section, facing north, through light and sculpture courts, summer 1967, showing light-reflecting waterpool and en-trance portico to the left, the light and sculpture courts, and curved vaults with toplight slits and ducts to the right.
- 1 Entrance portico
- 2 Reception, book store and shop
- 3 Special exhibition gallery
- 4 Auditorium
- 5 Arcade and stair
- 6 Galleries (office, library and conservation below)
- 7 Light and sculpture courts
View of a study model, 1967. The long span of each 120 feet bay was to be covered by a pair of cylindrical shells supported by columns. The 34-foot-wide shell structure was to be designed as a beam and not as an arch. The shells were to be connected to form vaults leaving slit openings to allow toplight. The duct space was provided between two vaults at the bottom level of the shells.
“My mind is full of Roman greatness and the vault so etched itself in my mind that, though I cannot employ it, it’s there always ready. And the vault seems to be the best. And I realize that the light must come from a high point where the light is best in its zenith. The vault, rising not high, not in an august manner, but somehow appropriate to the size of the individual. And its feeling of being home and safe came to mind.”
“A painting that you don’t see as well one day as you do another has a quality which the painting itself wants you to realize. It doesn’t want you to have the one-shot image. Even it was painted in moods. So, there is a definite demand that natural light be manifest. Windows cause glare; so windows were not considered.But the light from above, which is the most brilliant, was considered as being the only acceptable light. The window became a slit, and the device for modifying the light spread itself over the vault-like cycloid structure which needed no support except at every 100’, because it could act as a beam.”
Perspective sketch, 1967, showing entrance plaza, portico and waterpool viewed from west. A special niche at the edge of waterpool is proposed for the large Maillol sculpture.
Perspective sketch, 1967, alternate version showing three-bay entrance/auditorium building (refer to KAM. 16-21)as viewed from southwest. During this phase of design refinement, the auditorium building including portico was reduced to three bays. Since the space and the estimated cost exceeded the client’s program and budget, the building was constantly reduced during each phase of the project development.
Site plan sketches, 1967, showing studies of the relation of open and covered spaces for versions with a four-bay and a three-bay auditorium. There is the obvious problem of letting the park flow through the museum without cutting it in two separate parts.(KAM 25 12. original size 56.5 x 56.5 cm refer to Introduction).
Perspective sketches, 1967. Showing studies of gallery interiors at day time and at night：vaults without toplight slits. During the day there is natural high from light courts, and at night the exhibition is artificially lit.
H-PLAN: SECOND VERSION
C-PLAN: FIRST VERSION
Perspective view of site model, fall 1968. During the summer of 1968 the three-part’C’-plan was developed: the museum building of the’H’-plan was divided into north and south parts, and a four-bay entrance building in be-tween, increasing the north-south length by 60 feet, and turning the corridor 90 degrees. This allowed two entrances to the building: the main entrance from the west court at the first floor level and the service entry from the east parking lot at the lower level. Each long vault measured 125 feet in length and 25 feet in width.
Site plan, September 25, 1968, showing existing trees, entrance court and square water pool to the left and parking to the right.
“Added to the skylight from the slit over the exhibit rooms, I cut across the vaults, at a right angle, a counterpoint of courts, open to the sky, of calculated dimensions and character, marking them Green Court, Yellow Court, Blue Court, named for the kind of light that I anticipate their proportions, their foliation, or their sky reflections of surfaces, or on water will give.”
First floor plan, at main entrance level
- Plaza/entrance court
- Entrance gallery
- Stair to lower level
- Book store and shop
- Light courts
- Upper part of two-story conservator’s studio
- Snack bar
Site plan sketch, June 25, 1969
“Mrs. Kimbell, I hope this sketch will help you visualize at least the main elements of the garden setting of the K.A. M, -Lou”
In a separate letter Kahn explained the garden setting for the museum:
“Dear Mrs. Kimbell: Wednesday, June 25,1969.
The entrance of the trees is the entrance by foot which links Camp Bowie Boulevard and West Lancaster Ave, Two open porticos flank the entrance court of terrace. In front of each portico is a reflecting pool which drops its water in a continuous sheet about 70 feet long in a basin two feet below. The sound would be gentle. The stepped entrance court passes between the porticos and these pools with a fountain, around which one sits, an axis designed to be the source of the portico pools. The west lawn gives the building perspective.
The south garden is at a level 10 feet below the garden entrance approached by gradual stepped lawns shaped to be a place to sit, to watch the performance of a play music or dance the building with its arched silhouette is doing as the back drop of a stage, When not so in use it will seem only as a garden where sculpture aquired from time to time would be.
The north garden though mostly utilitarian is designed with ample trees to shield and balance the south and north sides of the buildings.
The car entrance and parking is also at the lower level, recessing parallel to Arch Adams Street. This end too is lined with trees designed to overhang the cars as shelter. For this we must choose the right tree whose habits are respectful to the car tops. “
View of entrance court, porticos and light-reflecting pool from southwest.
“You know what’s so wonderful about those porches? They’re so unnecessary.”
Interior view, from the entrance hall of a gallery, showing cycloid vault with’natural lighting fixture’, air-conditioning duct and access to light court (to the right). White oak under the vault area and travertine under the ducts areas are used as flooring materials.
“An architect’s most worthy offerings come from the presentation of a nature. It’s the biggest fun of an architect when he realizes that he has gotten something out of his singular angles of the intuitive.”
View of north facade, from Camp Bowie Boulevard.
“Because of the open porches, how the building is made is comptetely clear before you go into it. It is the same realization behind Renaissance buildings, which gave the arcade to the street, though the buildings themselves did not need the arcade for their own purposes. So the porch sits there, made as the interior is made, without any obligation of paintings on its walls, a realization of what is architecture. When you look at the building and porch, it is an offering. You know it wasn’t programmed; it is something that emerged.”
“The combination of concrete and travertine makes the building monolithic-not entirely so, of course, because we wanted to make the structure of the building manifest through the use of materials: the concrete is always structural, the travertine is always infill.”