Managing Expectations – Contemporary Design Culture, Conservation and the Transformation of The Richards Laboratories
David N. Fixler

Louis I. Kahn’s Richards Laboratories at the University of Pennsylvania are a paradoxical building. At the same time that they perhaps represent the epitome of Kahn's literal expression of structure and material hierarchy, servant and served spaces and the role of mechanical systems in determining architectural form, these powerful ideas never came together programmatically to enable a fully functional, complete work of architecture. This paper describes the quest to solve the functional conundrum and technical shortcomings of Richards, to bring the architecture and program closer together. Through a synthesis combining transformation — a significant change in use that allowed the opening of the laboratory floors to the unique light and views that were always latent in the promise of Kahn’s essential architectural idea — and rehabilitation, where the best aspects of Richards — the glazed, vitrine-like facades and the beautiful logic of the building services distribution, were renovated for enhanced performance, Kahn’s original architectural vision and present function were able to be successfully reconciled.

Modern Movement, Modern architecture, Louis Kahn, Modern monumentality, Conservation of modern architecture, Rehabilitation of modern architecture, Richards Laboratories, USA modern architecture.

Issue 58
Year 2018
Pages 20-29

PDF (English)