Opening Night: Louis Kahn In Venice



Louis Kahn is most known in California for his Salk Institute overlooking the pristine Pacific just at the trailhead to San Diego’s infamously nude, Black’s Beach. This simple-yet-strong modernist structure has always resonated as something special to me, and not (only) because of it’s charged location.

It was a treat for me to see the opening night exhibit about Louis Kahn at the Institute for Italian Culture  in Westwood right near UCLA for a couple reasons.  First, I’m a huge Louis Kahn fan, and his National Assembly Building in Bangladesh is one of my favorite built structures in the World.  Secondly, I got to talk to Louis Kahn’s and Richard Neutra’s sons at the event, both of whom revere the memories of their famous dads.

The exhibit, “Kahn in Venice,” showcases Kahn’s 1968 design for the Palazzo dei Congressi in Venice. Models, sketches, and a variety of travel watercolors and charcoals demonstrate Kahn’s amazing artistry and his fascination with Italy. 

The Palazzo dei Congressi was designed as a theater in the round, sliced lengthwise to accommodate a narrow park site.  The proposed design included a bridge-like structure to deal with soil condition in Venice and to spare trees.  It’s later placement spanned the water… unfortunately the project was never built.  

At the event,  I chatted with Nathaniel Kahn, Louis Kahn’s  son who was screening his soulful film, “My Architect” which explores his complex relationship with his uber-talented dad. ‘This is one of dad’s lightest buildings,” the younger Kahn explains “most of his buildings had a solid heaviness about them…this one floats’. 

Dion Neutra, son of Richard Neutra was also in attendance at this opening night party.  He explained the Robert Alexander designed the white, two story Instituto where the event took place, after he left partnership with his famous dad.  Dion also told me stories about his life with his dad, including spending the three first years of his life at the Kings Road House:  I wish I had more time to chat with him about his dad’s infamous dispute with Rudolph Schindler.  


Exhibit continues through March 19, 2011.  


John Ellis creates images of the design world—showcasing products, interiors, architecture, people and the lifestyle they purport.  More of his work can be seen at


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