eCite Digital Repository

Revisiting Kahn: a theological case for kenotic design

Citation

Lindstrom, RS, Revisiting Kahn: a theological case for kenotic design, Fabulation: Myth, Nature, Heritage, 5-8 July, University of Tasmania Launceston, Tasmania, pp. 590-604. ISBN 978-1-86295-658-2 (2012) [Refereed Conference Paper]


Preview
PDF
Restricted - Request a copy
518Kb
  

Copyright Statement

Copyright 2012 Society of Architectural Historians Australia and New Zealand

Official URL: http://www.sahanz.net/conferences/

Abstract

When Louis Kahn fabulated his conversation with brick, he bequeathed to modern architecture one of its best-known myths. His interest in the brick’s ‘desires’, coupled with his broader question, ‘What does the building want to be?’, reveals Kahn’s philosophy of deference to an essence preceding design. Kahn’s approach has been extensively examined in the arenas of history, theory and philosophy. Theology, however, offers an alternative means to amplify our understanding of submission in the creative process. Although a non-observant Jew, Kahn was not without religious instincts. He viewed the universe as being animated by a creative spirit and, in his own description of world origins, employed Biblical-like prose, imagining ‘an ooze without shape or direction’, wherein a prevailing, metaphysical ‘force of joy’ is ‘the essence of creativity’. He would have been familiar with a sixteenth-century Kabbalistic concept of creation called ‘tzim-tzum’, meaning ‘self-withdrawal’ or ‘self-contraction’, but an antecedent Christian concept further illuminates the connection between theology and the role of submission in creativity. This paper explicates a central construct of Christian theology, the paschal mystery, with particular emphasis on its grounding in kenosis – Greek for ‘emptying’, but theologically applied as ‘self-emptying’ – and its inextricable link to creation and the creative act. In that light, it is argued that Kahn’s design philosophy is a kenotic one, in which strength (solution) is, paradoxically, found in weakness (deference), and in which essence is found in immanence. The analysis then turns to contemporary philosopher Gianni Vattimo, whose paradigm of weak thought, and nihilistic interpretation of Heidegger’s end-of-metaphysics philosophy, sees secularisation as kenosis and, consequently, as the fulfillment of an always kenotic but, now, non-metaphysical and immanent Christianity. Finally, the paper considers the dynamic between this postmodernist view of kenosis, and the kenosis demanded by Kahn’s modernist search for essence.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Conference Paper
Keywords:kenosis, architectural design, secularisation
Research Division:Built Environment and Design
Research Group:Architecture
Research Field:Architectural History and Theory
Objective Division:Expanding Knowledge
Objective Group:Expanding Knowledge
Objective Field:Expanding Knowledge in Built Environment and Design
Author:Lindstrom, RS (Mr Randall Lindstrom)
ID Code:83141
Year Published:2012
Deposited By:Architecture
Deposited On:2013-03-04
Last Modified:2014-11-04
Downloads:0

Repository Staff Only: item control page