a garden leading to an open-air room


After 40 years of planning, fundraising, and construction, architect Louis Kahn’s last great commission, Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park, is finally accessible to visitors of New York’s Roosevelt Island. The park, which officially opens this week, is dedicated to Roosevelt’s 1941 inaugural speech on the four universal freedoms—of speech and worship, from fear and want. It would be easy to take the opportunity to bemoan a 40-year lag for the project to be completed, like so many important works in New York City. But the truth is that the timing doesn’t matter. It proves that Kahn’s work can stand on its own, outside of time, eternal and significant. It’s difficult to imagine an architect in our time designing such a simple and reverent piece of architecture. Born Itzel-Leib Schmuilowsky into a Jewish family in Kingisepp, Saaremaa, Estonia, on Feb. 20, 1904, Kahn later emigrated to Philadelphia with his parents at the age of 2. After he graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, his early professional career involved collaborations with several architects, including George Howe for the Philadelphia Housing Authority.

more from Michael Tower at Tablet here.