Nexus Network Journal

, Volume 8, Issue 1, pp 33–52 | Cite as

Timely Timelessness: Traditional Proportions and Modern Practice in Kahn’s Kimbell Museum

Research Articles


The twentieth century witnessed declining interest in architectural proportioning systems, which were virtually eclipsed by technical, social and fiscal agendas. Louis Kahn is a seminal architect, whose most acclaimed building, the Kimbell Art Museum (1966–72), represents a compelling case-study in the use proportions by twentieth-century architects. In spite of a raft of peculiarly modern restrictions (both technological and programmatic), Kahn appears – despite his espoused ambivalence concerning proportion – to have intentionally produced a building with an array of approximate geometrical as well as precise harmonic proportions.

This two-part paper presents the findings of a multifaceted research project that examined the Kimbell’s proportions from numerous standpoints. Part 1 presents a textural analysis of Kahn’s statements regarding proportion, as well as the findings of an archival study of correspondence between the architect and his client and consultants. Part 2 presents a prima facie geometrical analysis of the construction drawings for the project. The division into parts reflects an apparent discrepancy between Kahn’s buildings and what he had to say about them.


Louis Kahn Kimball Art Museum proportion Modernism geometric analysis textural analysis 

Copyright information

© Kim Williams Books 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of NewcastleCallaghanAustralia
  2. 2.Mill ValleyUSA

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