A MEASURE OF SILENCE: LOUIS I. KAHN AND THE TRANSFORMATION OF THE WALL
Many attempts have been made in the architectural discourse to define and analyze the role of the wall in architecture. Some maintain that the wall is where architects create beautiful facades; others see the wall as the element that allows for a separation between the inside and the outside; and yet others see it as a recipient for the state of the arts technology of insulation. In this study all of these considerations are ultimately seen as an expression of society's attitudes. This allows for a definition of architecture as society's attempts to fabricate places of well-being that are given definition and proportion by the wall.
In the same manner that society's attitudes are subjected to transformations, the wall reflects these in a solid or skeletal expression. The place of well-being is therefore one that has interiority when limited by the solid wall cetegory or one that has expansion when limited by the skeletal wall category. These categories are divided into wall-types which range from extreme solidity to extreme openness. The passage from one category to another describes a transition stage.
Three of these transition stages are determined in the transformation pattern. Even though the characteristics of the wall during these periods of overall crisis are of ambiguity and contradiction, it is during these periods that great innovations are seen in the development and use of materials, techniques and forms. The last of these stages begins during the mid-eighteenth century and includes the present state of architecture.
The work of Louis I. Kahn serves as a particular example of this transition stage. His development of the three concepts of the wall: the "hollow stones", the "hollow column", and the "ruins" is an example of how a period of crisis can produce contradictory and ambiguous architecture. This study survey's Kahn's work from his early stages in association with other Philadelphia architects to his later phase where he finds the key to his Treasury of Shadows. The analysis of these beginnings prompt this study to investigate deeper into the traditions that uphold Kahn.
The results of this study show that the wall in architecture is a direct result of the beliefs and ideas that are held by a society in a specific time and place. (Abstract shortened with permission of author.)