Louis Kahn’s Platonic Approach to Number and Geometry

  • Steven Fleming


Recent studies of the work of Louis Kahn appear to confirm claims by various scholars that Kahn was a Platonist. However, using simple mathematics, this paper demonstrates that earlier geometrical analyses of three of Kahn’s buildings do not tally with the dimensions indicated on the working drawings for those projects. These discrepancies prompt an inquiry into Kahn’s approach to number and geometry which takes its direction from scholarship linking Kahn’s ‘form and design’ theory to Plato’s theory of Forms. The interpretation of number and geometry in Kahn’s work offered here provides an explanation of his intentions, which is intrinsic to his own dualistic metaphysics. Kahn’s buildings invite conflicting readings, reminding viewers not to trust their senses. As Kahn says, a great building evokes the ‘unmeasurable’ realm of ‘form,’ just as the sight of fingers, according to Plato, evokes the purely intelligible realm of Forms.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Architecture and DesignUniversity of TasmaniaLauncestonAustralia

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