IntroductionAttempting tofully understand all specific methods and practices within the realm ofarchitecturehas proven to be adifficult, if not impossible task. For this reason, it is important thatarchitects,and thoseinterested in architecture, take time to learn about and comprehend some of themainideals in order tointelligently and appropriately design, or admire, buildings.
In order to come toan understandingof one of these ideals, the relationship between form and function inarchitecture, onemust critically examine the practices of these concepts in various designprocesses. Onespecific design process is that of creating a central feature which all otherspacesrevolve around.For Louis Kahn, in his designs of the Indian Institute of Management and theSalk Institute,this central and defining feature is the courtyard. The courtyard is usedwidely inarchitecturaldesign as a critical planning element because of its typical size and scale andtheendless variety ofpotential uses. In attempt to better understand how this largely influentialspace assists, orchallenges, Kahn in his methodology of planning, this paper will be analyzingthe reasoningbehind the designs of these two projects and how they succeed (or not) in theirattempts to caterto the needs of the space and its users. I will be looking closely at thesimilarities anddifferences of both of these projects and hopefully come to an understanding ofhow tosuccessfully utilize the courtyard as a central organizing feature.Additionally, a study ofthe relationshipof form and function and how these components influence the design process ofKahn, will providesupplement to the analyzation of the courtyard.
The CourtyardThe concept of thecourtyard was fundamental to Kahn’s institutional architecture, as his”courtyardsdoubled as places of community and contemplation.” Throughout the duration of1Kahn’sprofessional career, the presence of landscape in architecture was seen insporadic waysthrough what hedesigned, wrote and drew. It seems he was always considering it on some level,in everything hedesigned. Landscapes, contrary to popular belief, do notmean strictly2horticultureelements, as they can be hardscapes or include water.Courtyard spaces,as landscape3pieces, areencouraged in design due to the flexibility in their geometry and dimensions,and howthey can help tocreate a unified whole. Courtyards, also referred to as patios or atriums, canbeeither interior orexterior and are typically an enclosed and protected space that promotegathering and acontinuity of outside and in. A ‘successful’ courtyard considers naturallighting41?James, Kathleen.
“Louis Kahn’s Indian Institute of Management’s Courtyard: FormversusFunction.” ?Journal ofArchitectural Education (1984), ? no. 1 (1995), 38.2?Ashraf, KaziKhaleed. “Taking Place: Landscape in the Architecture of Louis Kahn.
“?Journal ofArchitecturalEducation(1984-)? 61, no. 2 (2007), 48.3 Ibid., 49.4?Al-Hussayen,Mohammed. “Significant Characteristics and Design Considerations of theCourtyard House.”Journal ofArchitectural and Planning Research? 12, no.
2 (1995), 93.1 of 8MakaylaPeterson | Term Paper | Arch 323: ?Theories ofArchitectureRelation of LouisKahn’s courtyard spaces to form and functionand ventilationalong with landscaping as a critical component to prevent the courtyard fromfeeling hard anddull or without life. For Kahn, there were two primary challenges indesigning5around acourtyard, and one is the matter of the kinds of spaces that would besurrounding it. Ininstances such asthe Salk Institute, the program was fairly simple. There was not a complexityor variety ofspaces with which to consider for the designs of these courtyards. However, thedesign for theIndian Institute of Management consisted of very complex programming,particularly inregards to the school building on campus.
The other major challenge Kahn facedwas how toincorporate the proper balance of natural and constructed elements to reflectthefeeling he wantedthe spaces to emulate. This was especially prevalent in his design of the SalkInstitute, as hehad to chose to incorporate additional landscaping or let the courtyard be inexisting nature.The Salk Institute”AD Classics: SalkInstitute / Louis Kahn.” ?ArchDaily?, 29 Aug. 2017,Louis Kahn wasfirst approached by Dr. Jonas Salk in 1959 to design a research basedinstitutionthat would “invitePicasso to the laboratory.” The institution’s intent, as designated bySalk, was6to provide abeautifully crafted and artistic space for the study of a variety of scientificissuesthat not onlydealt with medical science, but the human condition, rather than simplyfocusing onone task. Kahn’s initial design for the instituteconsisted of three main components: the research7laboratories, theresidences and a meeting house.
He and Dr. Salk both greatly believed inarchitecture’sability to “allow for personal withdrawal while encouraging participation inthecollective hive.” It was for this reason that Kahn felt stronglyabout the importance of these8three spaces, andsought to ensure they would relate to one another by use of negative spaces inthe landscape.
Kahn went through three major design schemes, amongst countless other changes,that would resultin the two linear laboratory buildings of today’s Salk Institute. His first5?Ibid.6?Treib, Marc.”To End a Continent: The Courtyard of the Salk Institute.” ?Journal of theSociety of ArchitecturalHistorians? 65, no.
3 (2006), 403.7?Ibid.8?Ibid.
, 406.2 of 8MakaylaPeterson | Term Paper | Arch 323: ?Theories ofArchitectureRelation of LouisKahn’s courtyard spaces to form and functionproposal was thatof three main building types mentioned previously. In this design, the labswere situated asclusters along the eastern edge of the site, while the residences were to thesouthand the meetinghouse on the western limits. However, after presenting and discussing thisdesign with Dr.Salk, Kahn came to the realization that this design did little to address themoredynamic componentsof the land, nor the essence of community and engagement Salk wishedfor. From there, he altered the design of thelaboratory section, instead designating four separate9lab “blocks”, twostories each, to be divided by linear, shaded garden areas that would create aconceptualconnection between the land and sea. Throughout the rest of his design process,10Kahn paid carefulattention to this idea of landscape as an established architectural element.Thisfocus helped guidehim in what would be his final design of the Salk Institute, which consists oftwo mirroring, sixstory blocks.
His main reasoning for reducing the number of lab blocks wasprimarily becauseof what he wanted the courtyard to mean in this design. Kahn wrote that:11″one garden isgreater than two because it becomes a place in relation tothe laboratoriesand their studies. Two gardens were just a convenience.But one is reallya place; you put meaning in it; you feel loyalty to it.”12Kahn wanted thiscourtyard to blatantly and specifically exemplify what he and Dr. Salk hadinitiallydiscussed in regards to community and engagement. From this, we understand thatthecourtyard of theSalk Institute was not just an incidental in the design process, but anintegralcomponent thatwould help drive the design to be what it is today.Kahn’s finaldesign for the courtyard at Salk was influenced by Luis Barragán, a Mexicanarchitect, whomKahn so admired and sought out to assist in designing the space.
However,Barragán wouldclaim the only thing he offered to Kahn was advice. When Barragán first visitedthe site in 1966,the shells of the two laboratory blocks were already standing, and all thatexistedof the courtyardwas an empty, undetermined landscape, and “he read the space as an almostsacred void intowhich nothing should intrude.” Kahn took this advice and retracted his ideas13for additivelandscaping, such as trees, that would intrude on the view of the sea. The courtyard,as seen in aprevious image, is long and wide, with limited noticeable features at firstglance.
However, uponfurther examination, we can see that the courtyard is carefully designed andarticulatedthrough subtle elements and a specificity of materiality.9?Ibid.10 Ibid., 407.
11 Ibid., 408.12 Ibid., 409.13?Ibid.
, 413.3 of 8MakaylaPeterson | Term Paper | Arch 323: ?Theories ofArchitectureRelation of LouisKahn’s courtyard spaces to form and functionAlthough Kahn’sdesign for this courtyard has been seemingly praised since its introduction,there are some whodoubt the design due to the way it deals with the natural elements of the site,most specifically,the sun. One concern of the staff at the institute was that of the physicaldiscomfort of theprimary courtyard found in the early morning and later afternoon hours.
However, in thesmaller courts found in various areas of the design, Kahn dealt with this issueby”using layers ofloggias, stair towers, and office blocks to filter direct sunlight whileeffecting amysterious play ofshadows.” Other than this complaint and few others, theSalk Institute is14known to be anincredible example of the connection of architecture and landscape, and itspresence is trulyremarkable. The continuity of land and sea and sky through the frame the twolab buildingscreate is something only a true master can accomplish. The sublimity of thecourtyard comesfrom an intent to create community and a desire to develop a very specificlanguage of builtversus natural, both of which were carried out successfully.The IndianInstitute of Management”AD Classics:Indian Institute of Management / Louis Kahn.
” ?ArchDaily?, 24 Oct. 2010,The IndianInstitute of Management is located in ?Ahmedabad,Gujarat, India. Louis Kahn, beingresponsible forthe design of the entire campus, was given the challenge of linking multiplebuildings togetherthrough use of materials and spatial organization. His greatest challenge wasthat of designingthe school building, a space which originally required the incorporation ofclassrooms, alibrary, faculty and administrative offices, a dining hall and a kitchen. Kahnhadnot previouslybeen tasked with designing a building with such complex programming.15Anotherrestriction Kahn had to work with was building materials, as the clientslimited him tobuilding inlabor-intensive brick, allowing reinforced concrete only for the floor slabs.
16Knowing this fromthe beginning, he was very aware that designing welcoming, relaxingcourtyard spacesfor students and faculty would be a challenge. Throughout his design process,Kahn had adifficult time relieving the tension “between a humanistic understanding of14 Ibid., 415.15 James,??”?Louis Kahn’sIndian Institute of Management’s Courtyard”, 39.
16?Ibid., 41.4 of 8MakaylaPeterson | Term Paper | Arch 323: ?Theories ofArchitectureRelation of LouisKahn’s courtyard spaces to form and functioncommunity andvisions of sublime spaces.”After twenty-twodrawn versions of the school17building, Kahnrealized that in every “successive version of this scheme the abstract geometryofthe whole wasfurther eroded by function until the underlying organization became almostundetectable.” It seems that Kahn was getting lost in hisinitial grandeur scheme, and was18struggling torelate it to the function of the spaces required.
This is where we can begin tounderstand thatform does not follow function, as Kahn had to work and rework his design overand over to findthe balance between the two and to encourage them to build off of one anotherto create a spacethat serves and appeals.In the summer of1963, Kahn received a memo indicating that he was to remove the library fromthe center spaceof the building and turn it into an open courtyard. Kahn had just began to19finalize hisdesign of the Salk Institute courtyard where he was able to rely on existingnature tohelp establish thecourtyard. At the site for the Indian Institute of Management, no such naturereally existed asit is located in a city. Thus became what would be his biggest challenge in thedesign of thecourtyard at IIM.
This introduction of the courtyard was influenced by Kahn’searlier designsfor the rest of the campus, where he laid out a “succession of three-sidedcourtyards strungalong diagonal axes,” which was modeled, per the institute’s buildingcommittee’srequest, after the Harvard Business School. Here, four small courtyards and twolarge ones flank acentral lawn feature. In Kahn’s beginning attempts to design theschool20building, “his desire to give individual expression tothe varied functions surround-ing the courtyardoften diverted his attention from the central space.
Throughout thedesign process, he was particularly apt to experiment withthe light wellsand exterior features of the blocks of faculty offices, indepen-dently of theirrelationship to the courtyard.”21After variousiterations of the design, Kahn did eventually attempt turning his focus to thecentralcore of thebuilding. He focused on adding asymmetrical stair towers and library, howeverdidnot consider theelevational issues these additions would pose. Throughout the rest of thedesignprocess, Kahnbounced back and forth between designing the courtyard and the spaces aroundit.Unfortunately, itseems that every time he focused on the surrounding spaces, the aesthetic andspatial qualitiesof the courtyard would be disregarded and lost.
Because of this, when Kahn wasunable to resolvehis designs for the dining hall and kitchen facility, Anant Raje, another17?Ibid., 38.18 Ibid., 42.19?Ibid.20 Ibid.21 Ibid.
5 of 8MakaylaPeterson | Term Paper | Arch 323: ?Theories ofArchitectureRelation of LouisKahn’s courtyard spaces to form and functionindividualinvolved with the project from the beginning, decided to build his own diningfacilities on acompletely separate site and left that side of the court open. Still to this day,22Kahn’s schoolbuilding remains unresolved. The focus of the courtyard is compromised becauseof the randomnessseen throughout its facades, and its odd notion that patrons should walkaround rather thanthrough it. Also, because some of the intended buildings were not built there,there is a feelingof emptiness throughout the space as one will find random openings andfacades untouchedby design because of the intent for another building to occupy the in betweenspaces. Overall, the project seems very haphazard andnever truly gained the sense of flow first23intended. It isunsuccessful in these ways and also in the sense that Kahn drasticallyoverbuilt theproject byover-stressing the areas made for circulation, and under-developed theinteriors.
ResponseAfter analyzingthese projects, it seems safe to say that courtyards can be and, more oftenthannot, should becarefully considered and well thought-out in architectural design. Being thatcourtyards may beinterior or exterior, large or small, their presence can completely alter andimprovecirculation and spatial qualities of a building. In general, Louis Kahn’simplementationsof the courtyardhave been successful, as he always strived to create spaces that promotedgathering and anexchange of thoughts, ideas and experiences. His most successful projects arethose with whichhe spent a great deal of time and effort to create these kinds of spaces basedonthe initialprogram and intent of the project. AsKahn learned throughout his career, whendesigning anybuilding, it is always important to consider landscape, and courtyards reallysolidify theconnection of landscape to architecture, this continuity of exterior andinterior, andthe natural versusman-made. Perhaps what has made his design for the Salk Institute sosuccessful is thathe rejected the addition of landscaping as plants, but rather, created anarchitecturallandscape using the facades of the buildings, the sea, and the paved ground tocreateboundaries, whileallowing the surrounding landscape to be present and admired.24Comparatively,what made his design for the Indian Institute of Management less of a successwas perhaps thisvery reason as well.
Kahn used a similar strategy in designing the IIM, for heused limitedadditive landscaping and tried relying on the architecture to do the work.However,based on the scaleof the site, the region and the simple fact that he did not have an existinglandscape ofbeautiful natural elements, this method became the opposite of ideal. He hadalsolost a sense ofcontinuity in the facades of the courtyard’s surrounding spaces, for some hadlargewindows, somesmall, some no windows at all. This seemed to create a very unorganized andirrational feelingin the courtyard space. This comparison in his work lends itself to the ideathatwhile form is notan effect of function, it is important for architects to consider the functionpriorto designingspaces based off of existing precedents or the intended end result. Kahnpracticed22?Ibid. 43.23?Ibid.
, 44.24?Treib, Marc.”To End a Continent: The Courtyard of the Salk Institute.”, 420.
6 of 8MakaylaPeterson | Term Paper | Arch 323: ?Theories ofArchitectureRelation of LouisKahn’s courtyard spaces to form and functiondeigning thecourtyard, and then the surrounding spaces, back to the courtyard, and aroundagain.Thisinterdependent relationship between form and function is a method difficult tofullyunderstand andapply, but when used as Kahn did for the Salk Institute, pretty incrediblebuildings andspaces can result.ConclusionBoth of theseprojects are excellent examples of the relationship between form, function andthecourtyard.
ThroughKahn’s process of trial and error, we find that architectural design is not asstraightforward as”form follows function.” Specifically in the design of a courtyard, there is aseeminglyneverending process of taking one step forward and two steps back, in order toachieve theidealized outcome. It is critical to realize and understand that the presenceoflandscape inarchitecture is an important determinant in designing courtyard spaces, andKahn’sacknowledgement ofthis helps others understand the decisions he made in finding the form andfunction of hiscourtyards.Throughout each of these projects, it becomes clear that designatingacentral organizingfeature will change the spatial qualities of that building, and furthermore,thatselecting theproper form for that space can either make or break a design. With so manyitems totake intoconsideration, it seems reasonable that Kahn, or any architect for that matter,wouldstruggle withdesigning a courtyard space.
Although courtyards appear simple in their nature,typically as plainopen spaces interwoven through architectural pieces, they are much more thanthat. Courtyardshave a complex history of being a useful, and sometimes necessary,architecturalelement that controls the circulation of a space and assists in clearlydefiningaesthetic andspatial qualities of spaces that encompass it. Courtyards become spaces withendlesspossibilities of users and activities, which makes intentionally designing themfor onething or another, a near impossible task.