International Journal of Humanities and Social Science

ISSN 2220-8488 (Print), 2221-0989 (Online) 10.30845/ijhss

Louis Kahn and the Little Book of Tea: Echoes of the Tao Te Ching in Louis Kahn’s Thought
Peter Schneider

In this paper I discuss the impact that passages in Kakuzo Okakura's Book of Tea had on the transformation occurring in Louis Kahn’s thought and work after his encounter with Okakura’s book in early 1954. I suggest that it was his encounter with the sensibilities that the seven excerpts he cites in a January8 ,1954 letter embody that allowed Kahn to quickly transform his personal approach to architecture. Using Kahn’s own words, I show how those new ideas rapidly begin to manifest themselves in his words and thought as clear departures from the prescriptions of canonical modernism that had shaped his work prior to his encounter with Okakura’s book. I finally suggest that the foundations of Kahn’s novel approach to his work find their origins in the attitudes and sensibilities of the East rather than in the normative philosophiesof the West as has been suggested by some Kahn scholars.

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