Martin Filler at the NYRB:
How odd that the towering genius of architecture during the third quarter of the twentieth century—when his most conventionally successful colleagues prized innovation over tradition, analysis over intuition, and logic over emotion—was a mystically inclined savant who sought to reconnect his medium with its spiritual roots. Indeed, he ran wholly counter to prevailing images of the modern architect. Rather than casting himself as a technocratic superman along the lines of the young Le Corbusier, or a conduit between man and nature like the twinkling Frank Lloyd Wright, he made his name with an architectural gran rifiuto, rejecting the commercial blandishments of an increasingly corporate culture in favor of a quixotic quest to recapture the archaic power of shelter at its most elemental.
This charismatic anachronism was Louis Kahn, who by the time he died in 1974 at the age of seventy-three was widely and correctly considered America’s foremost master builder, even though his mature career spanned little more than two decades and he executed only about a dozen important buildings. In recent years Kahn’s messy personal history has threatened to overshadow his immense professional accomplishments, yet his aura has grown steadily, not just for what he achieved but also because of what has taken place in the built environment since his death. After he almost single-handedly restored architecture’s age-old status as an art form, his legacy was quickly squandered by younger coprofessionals. From the mid-1970s onward they have careened from one extreme, short-lived stylistic fad to the next—Postmodernism, Deconstructivism, Blobitecture—and lost sight of the profound values Kahn wanted to convey: timelessness, solidity, nobility, and repose.