Exploring the Estonian Roots of Louis Kahn

From L-R: Valev Laube, Jaanika Peerna, David Rothenberg, Diina Tamm, James Koroni, Evan Basta. (Photo by Siiri Lind via Vaaba Eesti Sõna)

From L-R: Valev Laube, Jaanika Peerna, David Rothenberg, Diina Tamm, James Koroni, Evan Basta. (Photo by Siiri Lind via Vaba Eesti Sõna)

An “interdisciplinary performance piece” about the Estonian-born architect Louis Kahn, drawing connections between his childhood on the island of Saaremaa and the work he did in later years after immigrating to the U.S. was presented at a fundraiser on Oct. 29 by the Foundation for Estonian Arts and Letters at the New York Estonian House on East 34th Street.

David Rothenberg, one of the artists who contributed to the performance, writes in Vaba Eesti Sõna about the impulse motivating the artists:

Louis Kahn, one of the 20th century’s greatest architects, was born in Estonia in 1901 and emigrated to the US at the age of five in 1906. In recent years Estonia has become interested in wondering in what way Kahn’s aesthetic and approach to architecture might connect to something inherently Estonian, in particular because he spent his earliest years in a small apartment in Kuressaare, on the island of Saaremaa, with a view of the famous Kuressaare Castle, a rather strange and modernist-looking castle even though it dates from the fourteenth century.

Kahn’s work is known for its geometrical abstraction, delicacy, and a certain poetic quality. One of his greatest buildings is the Jatiyo Sangsad Bhaban, the national parliament building in Dhaka, Bangladesh, begun in 1962 and finished after Kahn’s death in 1974. This extraordinary building, often on lists of the greatest architectural masterpieces of the twentieth century, takes the form of a mysterious modernist castle in the midst of a glassy lake — perhaps a realization of Lou’s earliest memories of Saaremaa?

Jatiyo Sangsad Bhaban, the parliament building in Dakha, Bangladesh, designed by Louis Kahn. (Photo by Sajeeb Ahmed Photography, Creative Commons license)

Jatiyo Sangsad Bhaban, the parliament building in Dhaka, Bangladesh, designed by Louis Kahn. (Photo by Sajeeb Ahmed Photography, Creative Commons license)

The performance piece, entitled “Kahn: Islander” was conceived and directed by artist Jaanika Peerna. Performers were: Diina Tamm (movement),  Valev Laube (sounds), Evan Basta (sounds), David Rothenberg (words), Jaanika Peerna (drawing), and James Koroni (movement).

To read more about the performance, and about the forthcoming Estonian Cultural Days planned for the spring in NYC, go to Vaba Eesti Sõna.

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