From Mies to Kahn, I love my architects

I still remember the outrage in the voice of my friend, Lino Bottaro, trying to defend his native city, Venice, against the Las Vegas Venetian hotel: “how dare you suggest that they did an ok job in Vegas? Haven’t you heard of great architects like Palladio or Brunelleschi?”

mies van der rohe cigar barcelona chair seagram building michele roohani

Of course I have heard of those two great Italians but I have a weakness for the 20th century STARchitects like the great Mies van der Rohe above, who’s more known for his Barcelona chair than his great buildings! Mies’ visionary architecture has ushered in the glass-and-steel skyscraper era.

I fell in love with Louis Kahn’s work after watching the movie, My Architect.

louis kahn bangladesh Margaret Esherick House michele roohani

A density of purpose, a phenomenal sense of place and an intense spirituality define his works. There is a silence about his buildings, they have a sense of quiet…

Knowing Oscar Niemeyer was a beautiful surprise from an article in NY Times; he’s 101 years old and still working!

oscar niemeyer Museum of Contemporary Art rio staircase michele roohani

Just look at this enchanting blue staircase in Brasilia…

Cutting-edge buildings designed by globe-trotting architects have changed the face of today’s cities and there is no monopoly of architecture, a sensuous and intellectual art, like in the time of Frank Lloyd Wright or Mies:

frank lloyd wright falling water guggenheim michele roohani design

Of all of today’s self-indulgent “star architects”, I still have a soft spot for Frank Gehry’s curves; you have to be in one of his buildings to see the frozen poetry in Bilbao, Prague, Los Angeles, etc…

frank gehry michele roohani bilbao spain prague tiffany

His Bilbao museum is the 20th century’s iconic architecture according to the architecture critic, Ada Louise Huxtable.

Last but not least, Rem Koolhaas’ unconventional designs are a force to reckon with:

rem koolhaas michele roohani seattle public library

I shouldn’t even get into the Diva, Zaha Hadid or Jean Nouvel, Herzog and de Meuron or Tadao Ando (the great light and water architect)…Those will be for another post, another day. Richard Meier, Taniguchi and the phenomenal Charles Gwathmey have to wait their turn too.  As you can see I am passionate about architecture…

Saint Mark’s Basilica venice michele roohani

“Less is more.” Mies van der Rohe

“The mother art is architecture. Without an architecture of our own we have no soul of our own civilization.” Frank Lloyd Wright

p.s. Renzo Piano is missing from my list because I have not forgiven him for his wild Pompidou Center design and his Broad Contemporary Art Museum in Los Angeles has not helped his case!

the photos of Prague, Bilbao, Venice and Seattle are from my own archives.

10 thoughts on “From Mies to Kahn, I love my architects

  1. This is lovely work. Well done.

    If you had not mentioned FL Wright and Louis Khan would never have spoken to you again.

    Don’t, however, forget Christopher Wren, Sir John Vanburgh and Hawkmore (Blenheim Pakace, Oxfordshire, England) Michelangelo all of whon impacted the work of the 20th century greats.

    Thank you for your blog. Chuck

  2. Beautiful architecture, from the Starchitects yes. But many seem to have sacrificed the livability, sustainability, and longevity of their works on the altar of “Wow” architecture.

  3. If there was a Pharaoh among the Archtiechts , then Louis Kahn would be the Pharaoh. He believed in making Monuments not just buildings, his works were in some way spiritual and earthy. They were expressions, prayers, poems of monumental proportion.

    My favourite Louis Kahn building is Salk Institute and the building in Dhaka.

    Nimesh Dadia
    P.s Do watch “My Archtiecht , a son’s journey by nathaniel Kahn ( his son from his third wife)

  4. Ah, what a topic Michele!! My heart goes for it. As an architect, I grew up with these giants of modern architecture. Although many names are missing among the list but you did good enough job to take me back to the good old days at the Faculty of Fine Art, Tehran University. A school inspired and directed by the Bauhaus influence in architecture. Founded by Walter Gropius and directed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Bauhaus inspired many students like Le Corbusier and Frank Lloyd Wright to revolutionize the back then architectural trends. I am lucky who studied in such an era though do not consider myself an architect than I do as a poet. I built a dream house in my thought many years ago a portion of which is below. As a poet now, if I get a chance, I can do better architecture for thoughts create not the knowledge.

    One day so drunken, of the crimson red wine you brought
    I constructed a house, made with the stone of the thought
    In the solid of the good bitter dirt, did so quick
    I dug its foundation, with hundred strokes of a pick
    On royal splendor with intellect, its pillars based
    High to the celestial constellation, those I placed
    As long as I was bound to the lover’s mirthful hair
    I remained pleased and nimble of the love in the air
    As soon as the sweetheart abandoned the house of thought
    My house of thought turned completely dark apt to distraught
    Mehr 3/13/2005


    “A density of purpose, a phenomenal sense of place and an intense spirituality define his works. There is a silence about his buildings, they have a sense of quiet…”

    One sees a similar quietude and spirituality, more of an eastern expression yet very modern in Tadao Ando’s work.

    Michelle , you must se the India Institute of Management, Ahemdabad in India, the only building done by Kahn. It was my first interaction with the works of a modern architecht, i was dumbfounded by its majestice size and humbled by its modesty.


  6. Dear Michele,

    Great Post,subject close to my heart.

    I agree with Benjamin’s comment, some of the Starchitects have created the structures, which are merely an extension of their egos and for the sake of making a statement.They arealso exorbitant, grotesque & unnatural.

    As such they are more of structural and expensive engineering challenge, and not work of art and aesthetics. In the process the architectures basic premise – “Form Follows Function” being undermined.

    Architecture is arguable highest attribute of human being, fusion of art, science aesthetics and imagination, expression of man’s exploration of nature (including his own nature.)

    As always Great work Michele

  7. Very nice post Michele. I had forgotten my own passion about architecture, until I walked into the Bradbury building a few months back in downtown LA. It is all about the feeling of time and space when one walks into a brilliant building that gives me Goosebumps.

  8. Pingback: The Louis Kahn Connundrum | Mid-Century Modern Furniture Then and Now

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