Black Shadow: bout… by Louis I. Kahn

A month ago,

I was working late in my office,

As is my custom,

And a man working with me said

“I would like to ask you a question

Which has been on my mind for a long while….

How would you describe this epoch?”


This man is a Hungarian, who came to this country

When the Russians entered Hungary.

I pondered his question because, somehow, it fascinates me

To answer questions to which I do not know the answer.


But I had just been reading in the New York Times Magazine of

The things that had been going on in California.

I had visited California, and I went through Berkeley.

And I noticed the size of the revolution,

And the great promises of the machine, and I felt,

As I had read recently,

That there were poets who were trying to write poems

Without words.


I sat for at least ten minutes,

Without moving,

Reviewing in my mind all these things,

And finally I said to Gabor,


“What is the shadow of white light?”


Gabor has a habit of repeating what you say,

“White light… white light… I don’t know”

And I said, “Black.

Don’t be afraid, because white light does not exist,

Nor does black shadow exist.”


I think that it is a time of our sun on trial,

Of all our institutions on trial.

I was brought up when the sunlight was yellow,

And the shadow was blue.

But I see it clearly as being white light, and black shadow.

Yet this is nothing alarming, because I believe that there will

Come a fresh yellow, and a beautiful blue,

And that the revolution will bring forth a new sense of wonder.

Only from wonder, can come our new institutions…

They certainly cannot come from analysis.


And I said, “You know, Gabor,

If I could think what I would do, other than architecture,

It would be to write the new fairy tale,

Because from the fairy tale came the airplane,

And the locomotive,

And the wonderful instruments of our minds…

It all came from wonder.”


This occurred at a time

When I was to give three consecutive talks at Princeton.

I had no title for the talks,

And I was being badgered by the secretary

To give the title for Princeton publicity.

After that night of the discussion with Gabor, I knew the titles.

(How rewarding it is to have a person who is concerned

About everything, not just the little things.)


Gabor is so concerned.

In fact, he is so in love with the meaning

Of “word” itself

That he would compare on equal terms

a piece of sculpture by Phidias

And a word.

Pg. 13 – 15


Conversations with Students

Copyright © 1998 Rice University School of Architecture


This is the intro to Louis I. Kahn’s Conversations with Student book, and from the moment I read it I have never been able to forget the positive impact it had on me. Everything starts with a dream, a “fairy-tale”, as he calls it. There is not much more to say, for the prose speaks for itself. It’s message is very appropriate and compatible to the ideals ambitious blog.

Quick Review:

A definite must read for anyone. It’s pages are full of wisdom that break the barriers of epoch and time – his outlook on world, humanity, art, light and the place in the universe of it all is timeless, ageless, and applies to all levels of complexity that humanity faces.


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