Transcendence and permanence





Modern Movement, Modern architecture, Modern housing


Louis I. Kahn fascinate us all with his passion for Mediterranean culture. Precisely at the moment when the center of the dominant culture moved from Europe to North America, he was able to immerse himself in the Roman brick structures of the great classical buildings, interpreting the timeless forms of antiquity. When the glass curtain of the bureaucratic International Style became trivialized, he turned to the archaic sources of architecture to discover light, matter and desire, in the pyramids of Gis. or in the ruins of the Caracalla Baths. Kahn is a unique case in the history of 20th-century architecture: he introduced the question of monumentality, a matter heretical to the Modern Movement, and emphasized the value of permanence, and the tectonic character and materiality of constructive elements. He was able to read History creatively, interpreting the permanent value of the monuments for the community and rescuing their public sense of place. Posing questions such as “what do you want, brick?” or “does the inside of a column contain a promise?”, he produced an impressive body of work and a doctrine with originality, often appearing philosophical, poetic or even mystical. Moving away from dogmas, but never losing the functional and constructive sense of modulation, he broke the systematic use of fluid space and reintroduced a sense of ritual and the value of solemnity, while achieving the most suggestive syntheses between modernity and tradition, as Otávio Paz recognized, between the use of technique and memory.

How to Cite

Tostões, A. (2018). Transcendence and permanence. Docomomo Journal, (58), 2–3.




Author Biography

Ana Tostões, University of Lisbon

Ana Tostões PhD is an architect, architecture critic and historian, and is president of Docomomo International and Editor of the Docomomo Journal ( Her mandate in Docomomo International, since 2010, has been marked by the transformation of the organisation into a truly worldwide network and the Docomomo Journal into the only international periodical which regularly provides a critical look at the contemporary context focused on a broad vision of the Modern Movement Architecture and its reuse. She is a Full Professor at Técnico, University of Lisbon, where she teaches Theory of Architecture and Critical History, and coordinates the Architectonic Culture research group.


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PAZ, Octávio, Los Hijos del Limo, Barcelona, Biblioteca de Bolsillo, 1998 [1974].

KAHN, Louis, “Louis Kahn Letter to Anne Tyng", 22 November 1953, in Anne Griswold Tyng (ed.), Louis Kahn to Anne Tyng: The Rome Letters 1953-1954, New York, Rizzoli, 1997.