Architecten, Tentoonstellingen, Architectuur en stedenbouw | Gast auteur | 07-11-2012
Joost Ector, mede-directeur van Ector Hoogstad architecten, schrijft over zijn kennismaking met een boek van Louis Kahn, dat hem tot op de dag van vandaag nog steeds inspireert.
Het boek Lou
Waarom weet ik niet, maar tijdens mijn architectuurstudie is de twintigste-eeuwse Amerikaanse architectuur voor zover ik me herinner nooit echt aan de orde gekomen. Geen Sullivan, geen Wright, geen Bunshaft, geen Johnson en ook geen Kahn.
Frank Lloyd Wright was goed vertegenwoordigd in de universiteitsbibliotheek. Rijen boeken met schitterende foto’s van vooral woonhuizen die veel leken op wat een huis (volgens mij, toen) hoorde te zijn maar dan veel mooier, met fantasievolle hellende daken, glas in lood, hout, natuursteen en grote open haarden. (Alleen kreeg je wel het gevoel dat je dit beter niet openlijk mooi kon vinden.)
Louis Kahn was in de bibliotheek minder aanwezig en pas na mijn studie, toen ik inmiddels voor Jan Hoogstad werkte, maakt ik kennis met zijn werk. Op het bureau hadden we een exemplaar van het door Birkäuser uitgegeven “Louis I. Kahn, Complete Works 1934-1974” dat ik sindsdien eigenlijk altijd onder handbereik heb gehouden. Ik durf niet te schatten hoeveel uren ik met dat boek heb doorgebracht. Veel.
Voor wie het niet kent: het is een buitengewoon ongastvrij boek - te groot, te dik ook, bijna helemaal in zwart-wit, met de binding aan de bovenkant waardoor het heel onhandig leest. Maar als je eenmaal over de drempel bent laat het je niet meer los. Nog steeds vind ik het overweldigend, die honderden bladzijden met schetsen en tekeningen van gebouwen die gaandeweg geometrischer, strenger en raadselachtiger worden.
Eerst de grootschalige Corbusiaanse visies voor Philadelphia, compleet met megastructures. Daarna een verschuiving naar sociale woningbouw en de eerste realisaties, inmiddels als zelfstandige architect. En dan wordt het écht interessant. Kahn (inmiddels 50) bezoekt Europa en wordt gegrepen door de tempels, ruïnes en kathedralen. Eenmaal terug wordt zijn werk steeds krachtiger, monumentaler en tijdlozer. Om te culmineren in een indrukwekkende reeks meesterwerken in een uniek handschrift.
Kahn liet de grote historische architectuur die hij zo bewonderde op een of andere manier met de moderniteit fuseren tot iets onnavolgbaar eigens. Dat heb ik altijd fascinerend gevonden. Hij begreep architectuur op zo’n fundamenteel niveau dat het tot was in zijn handen werd. Zijn gebouwontwerpen zijn daardoor diep geworteld in de geschiedenis en toch eigentijds, en ze lijken zowel in de VS als in India of Bangladesh volkomen op hun plaats. Ze hebben iets mythisch, het zijn fabeldieren uit verre landen. (Ook ik heb er nog nooit een in het echt gezien…)
Hoe het precies werkt is onbegrijpelijk. Zoals er aan deze gebouwen wel meer onbegrijpelijk is, hoe vaak ik ook blader. De plattegronden zijn simpele maar toch ondoorgrondelijke schema’s samengesteld uit basale geometrische vormen. Ze lijken soms op oude traditionele decoratieve patronen. Zelfs met doorsneden erbij snap je nog steeds niet hoe het ruimtelijk werkt, hoe het licht binnenvalt, hoe je je oriënteert, wat het nou precies is dat het zo fantastisch maakt.
Enige jaren geleden was er ineens die schitterende film “My Architect”. Niet alleen zijn ontwerpen zijn raadselachtig; Kahn zelf bleek dat ook te zijn. “It seems nobody really knew Lou”, zegt iemand ergens, als ik me niet vergis. Een geniale, mysterieuze schepper van moderne mythen. Betoverender dan dit kan architectuur niet worden.
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