On Institutions Louis Kahn

Olivia Ahn November 8, 2011

“Institution stems from the inspiration to live. This inspiration remains meekly expressed in our institutions today. The three great inspirations are the inspiration to learn, the inspiration to meet, and the inspiration for well-being. They all serve, really, the will to be, to express. This is, you might say, the reason for living. All the institutions of man are ultimately answerable to this desire in man to find out what forces caused him to be, and what means made it possible for him to be.

Today, shadows are black. But really, there is no such thing as white light, black shadow. I was brought up when light was yellow and shadow was blue. White light is a way of saying that even the sun is on trial, and certainly, all of our institutions are on trial.

I believe this is so because institutions have lost the inspirations. The constant play of circumstances, from moment to moment unpredictable, distort the inspired beginnings of natural agreement. The institution will die when its inspirations are no longer felt, and it operates as a matter of course. Human agreement, however, once it presents itself as a Realization, is indestructible.”

-Louis Kahn

This is from a lecture given by Louis Kahn, while he was teaching at The School of Architecture, Pratt, Brooklyn, 1973.

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