uurimusi arhitektuurist ja teooriast
investigations on architecture and theory

Vilen Künnapu. Louis Kahn and the images of eternal architecture

We know that our existence proceeds in material bodies and material environment, and at the same time in a higher dimension as invisible spiritual beings. Today, access to the other side of the veil is by no means available to everyone. The beyond, however, is much larger and more important than the materialistic moment on planet Earth. All energy and our earthly bodies, together with the presence here and beyond in fact form one compact whole that could be called a common field. The common field is the source of strength.

Today, only few are able to bring the divine spirit of the universe to earth. There are even fewer mediums who could create constructions and buildings that would accumulate and mediate divine energy. One of these was architect Louis Kahn – a great Estonian, a great American, and a great citizen of the world. In my paper I will examine subjectively Kahn’s “divine apparatuses”, try to describe their energetic functioning and compare them with historical energetic archetypes, express my opinion about how Louis Kahn became enlightened, follow in his footsteps in Egypt, Italy and Saaremaa, describe the planet’s spiritual revolution and Kahn’s role in it, talk about the Gods’ town in the Himalayan Mountains, about eyes, flowers and the rest. I will conclude my paper with a small reflection on Kahn and Estonia.

Energy pillars
There have always been mandala-shaped energy buildings in the world, located in special places of force, which have ordered and stimulated the planet’s energy. These are temples, churches, stupas and other central buildings that are based on the divine golden section and possess a centre and symmetry. The word “mandala” comes from Sanskrit and means a circle, an image with a centre. But also a square and circle-square combinations and images derived from them, for example the octagon. A vertical axis grows out of a mandala centre, connecting us with the universe. When mandala images unite, energetic systems emerge, which could operate as extremely powerful implements.

Let us take a look at the plans of Louis Kahn’s renowned buildings. The plans of the Trenton sauna and Exeter library are pure mandalas. The plan of the Bryn Mawr building is the result of joining three equal mandalas, the Dhaka assembly complex is a complicated flower-like mandala image with a little asymmtry. The Richards labs constitute a more elaborate plan based on joining mandala-shaped images. Like the Eastern Asian temples and stupas, Kahn’s buildings are energy collectors. The master uses the structure of eternal archetypes, being a channel through which the force moves. Trenton’s sauna is an extremely powerful divine apparatus. I can see here the impact of both the Egyptian pyramids and the Kuressaare castle. It should be restored and open up for people to see. The same goes for the Exeter library. My physical body has not been there, but I still perceive the magical connection of this wondrous building with the universe.

According to some, Bryn Mawr College dormitory is weaker than other Kahn’s works of the 1960s. Difficult to say. The facades indeed seem a bit desolate, but the inner spatial structure that runs along the main axis, is superbly mystical and resembles an ancient monastery. The supporting walls, connecting the house with the surrounding landscape, are impressive. It must be added hereby that all Louis Kahn’s buildings are superbly connected with their location.

Dhaka assembly is probably Kahn’s most perfect work. This total instrument is difficult to describe. The building has so many levels. It reminds me of a flower, a kind of Lemuria temple or a cult building of another planet. It contains magical power that influences the life of entire Bangladeshi. Minerals, water, plants and people, all seem to be influenced by the building.

The complex of the Richards laboratories is the architect’s brightest energy station. The building is brilliantly connected with the neighbouring houses and the park in the south. Resembling the San Gimignano small town of towers in Italy, this building eloquently speaks about Louis Kahn’s spiritual awakening. It is that different from the projects preceding his enlightenment.

Looking at Kahn’s buildings after Richards’ research house, or reading his texts of the same period, we realise that Lou has managed to connect with a power above. Such changes in man, like lightening, occur but seldom, especially among the artists and the intelligentsia. Too great an ego and the dictate of reason are obstacles that prevent joining the higher power. Only a mighty blow to the ego can shatter that obstacle. It could be an illness, unrequited love, death of a beloved, or another difficult condition, and when emerging from that you feel as if you were joining something bigger than yourself. Awakening can of course also be reached via long-term spiritual practices, by praying and fasting, but it is most effective through great suffering. It seems that with Louis Kahn, it simply had to happen. His mother’s death obviously had a great impact on the events.

The architect has said:

What was has always been

What is has always been

What comes has always been.

This is the thinking of a person who perceives the immortality of soul.

You have to exist as everyone,

Not just yourself.

With this, Kahn perceives that via the higher power we all are connected with one another, we are one energy, one organism.

I like to feel that knowledge is not located in our brain, but outside it, like a book that can be approached.

We see that Kahn has realised that the knowledge are located in the common field. The aborigines are the only surviving nation with a common conscience. What one aborigine knows, is known to all.

A person who has gone through the state of enlightenment quickly acquires new information, which is much bigger and different from what was before. This information resembles a net. And what is essential – all previous information as unnecessary is deleted from his memory. St Francis, for example, suddenly understood the language of birds and animals after a long illness.

The whole previous life of Kahn was naturally part of that awakening. He intuitively always perceived the existence of the common field. Becoming aware of it, however, increased the power thousand-fold. It is only after the awareness that the divine dimension enters his utterances and the golden section appears in his plans.

We know that Kahn travelled to Egypt in the 1950s. He probably came upon information that belonged to previous civilisations. All we know is that ancient Egyptians were connected with the island of Atlantis before it was destroyed. According to the famous Russian clairvoyant Jelena Blavadsky, the huge pyramid was made by the people of Atlantis 78 000 years ago. Both Blavadsky and Rudolf Steiner consider the Egyptian pyramids, Karnak and Luxor to be the contemporary proofs of the Atlantis civilisation.

In Egypt Lou’s spirit probably experienced something ancient, mighty and very different from modern aesthetics. Hence the golden section and huge scale of his future projects. What was has always been, what is has always been, what comes has always been …

I am sure that everybody who travels down the Nile, from one temple to the other, experiences something indescribable and cannot continue as he was before.

In Rome Kahn experiences a city built up like a church. With an altar, nave and aisles, chapels, crypts, arcades and domes. A city with a plan like that seems to be purified by geometry. The demons flee from here, as there is no place for them on consecrated soil. The buildings of ancient Rome, such as Colosseum, Caracalla Terms and Parthenon, exude their eternal energy.

It is not known which towns and villages Kahn visited. Maybe they included the deserted Parma with its metaphysical castle and the harmonious urban space around d the cathedral; Mantua, which seems like a distant echo of another planet. Or maybe Pisa standing in the middle of flatland like an enchanting power station; Bagno Vignoni, where the central urban square is replaced by a steaming pool of hot water, and where Tarkovski shot his best film “Nostalgia”; San Gimignano, where the small group of skyscrapers resembles the towers of Richards’ laboratories; Monteriggioni, where peace and quiet form perfect geometry. From all these places Kahn could have got his inspiration for his prismatic stone astronomy.

Kahn’s central plans remind us of the image of a flower, but this is true for plans of many ancient places of worship. The plans of stupas resemble a flower. Mandala is a flower as well. The Mexican sage Epifanio Ramirez said that the flower is the most human-like manifestation of nature. This summer he conducted a flower ceremony on the Juminda peninsula in North-Estonia. It started with a procession through the village towards the sea. About fifty people carried flowers of all sort. Epifanio beat his drum and sang Mexican children’s songs. On the beach he chose an assistant and together they drew a picture on the sand depicting a rainbow, with three swallows and the wavy sea underneath. The gathered people divided the blooms of different flowers into groups according to their colour. Then the picture was painted over with flowers. The ceremony continued next morning at sunrise. A circle was formed around the picture and together with Epifanio people danced ritual dances. They then kneeled, and Epifanio sang a children’s song to Mother Earth. Then another dance. And suddenly the Mother Earth responded! The dancing people were seized by a trance-like state. Several of them felt slight trepidation, some began crying. The painting was now taken apart, people carried the flowers towards the four cardinal points and sacrificed them to the Earth. For the first time in my life I perceived that the Earth was alive and talking to us. Epifanio said that when you built a temple that communicated with heaven, you should first of all sort out everything with the Earth. He then entrusted me with several ancient secrets of temple-builders.

Looking at Kahn’s Dhaka assembly building, the master seems to have made contact with both the universe and Mother Earth.

In 1990 Drunvalo Melchizedeki published his fantastic book “The Ancient Secret of the Flower of Life” where he introduces the image of the Flower of Life, the basic pattern of the creation of the entire universe. When we, human beings, proceeded from the highest level of consciousness into darkness, we forgot who we really were. The ancient secret was preserved for thousands of years in legends and inscriptions all over the world, and the coded information survived in the cellular memory of every living organism. The author of the book claims that the time has come when we wake up from our sleep and throw out the old dated patterns of thought from our consciousness, directing our glance towards the golden light of the new dawn that pours in through the opening windows of our senses. The Flower of Life holds knowledge that leads us to resurrection and opens the doors of the next dimension.

We live at an age of spiritual revolution and spiritual awakening. Many secrets are being revealed to us now, of which it was forbidden even to talk about 50 years ago. The Flower of Life contains the divine golden section and everything else related to it.

The Lilleoru commune 25 km from Tallinn started to create a huge limestone flower of life, the entire planning of the commune is submitted to this image, and the centre of the Flower of Life is placed on the site of a natural energy pillar. The image of the Flower of Life is the basis of several houses of worship and communes in India. The best known of them is the ideal town Aeroville.

Looking at the façade of the hospital in Kahni Dhaka, we notice huge mysterious eyes on it. What do these mean? Eyes are the mirrors of a human soul. Is the spirit of the building talking to us through the eyes? In a state of heightened consciousness I once walked across the Toompea Hill in Tallinn and suddenly saw the Toompea Castle. The small windows had unexpectedly started to talk. I had never before or after experienced anything similar. I was astounded. In those eyes I saw the spirit of Toompea.

All Tibetan temples have mysterious eyes. Some think they are the eyes of Buddha. According to the Russian scientist Ernst Muldashev, author of the book “Who Do We Descend From”, these are the eyes of the people from the previous civilisation – the inhabitants of Atlantis. Muldashev who is also a world-renowned ophthalmologist, has extensively researched the image of eyes. He has produced the statistically “average eyes”, which are the eyes of our original ancestor, ancient Tibetans. This drawing earned him the trust of the Buddhist lamas and he learned many secrets about our descent, previous civilisations, the network of pyramids on our planet Earth and first of all about the City of Gods in the mountains of Tibet.

City of Gods
Ernst Muldashev organised an expedition to the Tibetan mountains in order to find out about the City of Gods. This city is thought to be the gate to the worlds between dimensions, where golden plates hide the knowledge of all civilisations, and the gene fund of the human race. In Muldashev’s drawings we indeed see huge pyramidal constructions and elaborate ensembles emerging when they merge. It is suggested that the builders of those constructions were the representatives of all previous civilisations, including the early representatives of our own civilisation. The centre of the City of Gods is the pyramidal mountain Kailas. The immense buildings were reputedly erected by using psychic energy like the Egyptian pyramids and Stonehenge. They were built by polishing natural mountains. Kailas is the most sacred monument in Eastern Asia, and thousands of pilgrims aspire to get there.

Eastern Asia has peculiar-looking buildings called stupas. They often form ensembles of various towers. Stupas are thought to imitate the sacred buildings of the City of Gods. Stupas generate cosmic energy and their geometry is the basis for the design of many church towers and temples. Kailas is thus the core of the whole spiritual architecture. Louis Kahn must have been aware of that as well.

Spiritual revolution
The human race faced its low materialistic point in the 20th century, taking the world to a dangerously critical state. In order to save the world, many are today experiencing spiritual awakening. The ancient secret knowledge emerges again. Secrecy as such has been cancelled – almost everything is now accessible. New generations, called Indigo-people, are born as exceptionally pure people, sensitive and good. It seems that a decision has been made somewhere above that the planet must be saved. The birth of new people and the change in old people will at some point cause a moment when everything is altered, and altered in an instant. What disappear are the media preferring everything negative, cynical art, criticism without creativity and selfish architecture cut off from the higher powers. It is going to happen just like that – painfully, but it will. And new people, the new society, will need new architecture. This is going to be only spiritual architecture. Architectural revolution is waiting ahead.

Louis Kahn was the forerunner, pioneer, of all that. I have never met a single critical remark or negative opinion in his writings. He was the man sitting under a tree who had no idea that he was a teacher, and those around him did not consider themselves students. This kind of model of new school is still unattainable for many today, but things are moving that way. Examining Kahn’s buildings, they seem to have always existed on these locations. These are natural, harmonious buildings, where energy moves. Once as a young man I had a dream where I was flying above the sea and I saw an underwater city. This was an eternal city with a Louis Kahn’s insight. I think such cities could have existed in Lemuria and Atlantis. They will probably be like this also in the future. What was has always been, what is has always been, what comes has always been …

Kahn and Estonia
Louis Kahn was born in Estonia. We know that the peculiarities of someone’s birthplace and his essence are closely connected. The sage Tarmo Urb has said that Estonia is like a small but deep well. According to him, Estonia is a blessed place. Blessed with a tough fate but through that with immense holiness. The country has many sensitives, shamans and sages. The good witch Ursula Liblikas claims such people take up 80 per cent of the entire population. Saaremaa, the native island of Louis Kahn, possesses special holiness.

A little pause hereby. I am driving to the Tallinn airport and take the afternoon flight to Kuressaare. It is a small comfortable plane. I have time to think how comfortably small everything is in Estonia, when the aeroplane has already taken off.

I am met in Kuressaare by an old friend, architect Lilian Hansar. For the next four hours we drive around the sacred places in Saaremaa. The first stop is at Kihelkonna settlement. Our aim here is the massive bell tower made in the 14th century, built apart from the church. Sharp senses immediately notice the strong and harmonious energy that has grasped the small clearing, church, bell tower and juniper field in its tender embrace.

And strangely enough, the feeling of this energy of silence never leaves us throughout our subsequent trip. We drive on to Odalätsi sacred springs and enjoy their virginal natural location. We take a look at Undva eagles’ nest and drive on towards the Kaali meteorite crater. Not a single car or a human being, just a dark brown sheep walking with majestic calm along the central axis of the road. The Kaali crater is monumental. It is said that when the meteorite crashed down here 7500 years ago, its flight was followed by the whole of Europe. The crash produced a round lake, and the meteorite shards surrounded it like planets surround the sun. Later Saaremaa hill-forts also became part of that astronomy. The meteorite reputedly contained an unknown metal and celestial information. Since that time Saaremaa is considered a sacred island.

The accumulators of force in Saaremaa are not buildings, but primarily the natural objects: springs, stones, trees and bushes. The entire island is in fact a transformer of force. In 1993, architect Aldo van Eyck, Louis Kahn’s old friend, visited Saaremaa. He picked flowers on Tirbi spit, which was considered as a possible birthplace of Kahn, and wished to see the concave ritual stone, which Lilian Hansar did show him.

After four hours we are back at the airport, for some inexplicable reason very brisk and happy.

Thinking about the frequency and quality of Saaremaa energy, I can say from my own experience that the energy inherent in Kahn’s works is surprisingly similar with Saaremaa energy. We can even say that his works contain more Saaremaa than Italy or Egypt, as Saaremaa was his birthplace – virginal and pure.

August Komendant who played an important role in Kahn’s work also comes from Estonia. Already in my younger years one of my favourite objects was the Kadriorg stadium built by him and architect Elmar Lohu. The stadium was organically connected with the park, and the back of the stand was especially fascinating – a powerful reinforced concrete colonnade, somewhat mysteriously connected with the steps of the stand. Prominent Estonian architects Toomas Rein and Raine Karp have analysed Kahn’s works and are influenced by them. Kahn’s plans have also been a source of inspiration to Tõnis Vint, Estonian artist, sage and mystic. Among younger artists, Arne Maasik and August Künnapu have similar frequency as Kahn, and among younger architects, Siiri Valner and Indrek Peil.

Louis Kahn’s oeuvre has played a significant role in my development as well. Not only his buildings, but also his person and the relevant inexplicable energy – mystically sweet and enchanting. I remember how the appearance of the Russian-language “L’architecture D’Aujourdhui” in 1968 on Estonian architecture landscape had an intoxicating effect on me. Kahn’s sayings, his sketches and drawings, plans, details, doors, staircases, large blocks of stone became for many years the nucleus of my life. I had Lou’s picture on my bedroom wall like an icon. Several earlier projects and my diploma paper were directly influenced by Kahn’s work. Then followed a period when I wished to be rid of all that and become modern like so many others. I soon found out, to my great consternation, that in practical life I was quite hopeless and required the help of partners. Together with them, I went through the phases of constructivism, futurism and classical architecture. I touched upon spiritual topics in a few competition works, but this happened unknowingly. On a conscious level, spirituality meant nothing to me.

Only at the start of the current century when I had experienced spiritual rebirth, my architecture managed to liberate itself from mundane convulsions. I seemed to have returned to the Kahn period of my younger days, but now on a higher level of development. Together with my colleagues we have produced several projects of spiritual centres, energy towers and conceptual mandala temples in London, Taiwan and Venice. Two residential houses with mandala plans are being built, and in co-operation with architect Ain Padrik we designed a house with three towers in Tallinn and a tower in Tartu with a spiral ground plan. These buildings are like modern stupas that regulate urban energy.

We also design energetic devices together with students of the Tallinn College of Engineering. In co-operation with the Tamkang University in Taiwan, we are currently working on a novel urban construction method called urban acupuncture.

The timeless newspaper “Epifanio” is also carried by Kahn’s eternal ideology. The paper tries to join contemporary art and architecture with mystical knowledge and spirituality.

Architecture as religion
August Komendant once wrote that architecture was like religion to Louis Kahn. This is a very exciting thought. When he was designing his works (also when talking or being silent) Kahn apparently existed in some kind of meditative, heightened state. He said that there was some special sacred place on every plan. We can assume that for Kahn every building was like a temple, and designing and building like serving God. It occasionally seems as if the entire output of Kahn was blessed. Just like Saaremaa, which has numerous sacred places and is therefore sacred all over. Every square centimetre here is sacred. Through his work Kahn could have been in direct contact with the common field. This is where he gets his knowledge, power, harmony and a sense of happiness. Visiting a Kahn building we perceive how it functions as an energy centre, temple or God’s instrument. In the British Art centre in New Haven we meet a woman poet, quite delirious with happiness, and the rest of the people and guards also seem in a heightened sacred state. And of course the Dhaka assembly house. In Nathaniel Kahn’s film “My Architect” we witness the significance of one building to the whole nation. The film is powerful because it demonstrates to us the sacred energy and spirit that always emerged around Lou and his houses.

How does sacred energy come to sacred buildings? In my opinion it is given from above through the priest-architect. I don’t think there are many of the latter, and the same gifted people are simply born again. Be it Lemuria, Atlantis or our world today. Louis Kahn was an especially high-standing holy man. His previous incarnations probably built several sacred buildings in India, Cambodia and Mexico.

Kahn’s person and work still conceal a lot of mystery. His buildings provide us with strength and hope on the endless road assigned to us, and encourage us to take creative work as a spiritual act.

Translated by Tiina Randviir.

Vilen Künnapu, architect (belongs to the Union of Estonian Architects) and artist, born 1948, graduated from the Estonian Academy of Arts in 1971, currently lecturer in architecture at the Tallinn University of Technology. He is one of the architects and owners of the architecture firm Künnapu and Padrik. He has published several books and articles in Estonian and international media.