Objective Beauty and Fazlur Kahn

Last week, Structures Workshop was recommended for a very small project to a new client by the daughter of the great structural engineer Dr. Fazlur Kahn, Yasmin Kahn.    This was a great honor for us to be recommended by Yasmin, also a structural engineer and prolific writer. I found this picture of them: After learning about this, I started thinking about Dr. Fazlur Kahn and how much he contributed to my profession but also to the skyline of my hometown, Chicago.  I was mesmerized as a child living in the northern suburbs of Chicago by glimpses, on clear days, of the John Hancock and Sears Tower.  I wondered to myself if those memories contributed to my desire to one day become a structural engineer.  I wanted to learn more about Dr. Fazlur Kahn and recently bought the book Engineering Architecture: the Vision of Fazlur Kahn which was written by his daughter Yasmin Kahn.  I am reading it currently and it is a terrific book. To my delight, I have something in common with Dr. Fazlur Kahn.   When he was 29, in 1958, and living in East Pakistan, two of his favorite books were Will Durrant’s Story of Philosophy and George Santayana’s The Sense of Beauty.  I was about the same age when I read the The Sense of Beauty.  It was 2001 in my case, and I was working at Thornton-Tomasetti in New York City and taking Philosophy classes at the New School at night.  I remember The Sense of Beauty well – it was much easier than the other readings required for the Philosophy of Aesthetics course I was taking, and much better in many ways.  This was a time when I thought beauty was objective – it just needed to a part of Plato’s archetypal forms.  Since architectural beauty consisted of form and extension (today what we call proportion), then it is independent of subjects (unlike smell, taste, sound, touch).  Form could be part of “the thing in itself” (Kant’s Noumenal World as opposed to his Phenomenal World of mere appearances – i.e. Plato's Cave).  I thought that if the beauty was related to form, then it could become objective and viewed within Schopenhauer’s “will” (as opposed to representation).  Another way to consider it objective is to say that beauty is part of Carl Jung’s “collective unconscious” (that is, beauty being a part the unconscious brain which is shared by all).   Then, saying that something is beautiful (or ugly) can be universally and collectively accepted as fact (if form and extension have independent realities from our selves).  I may have changed my view on this over time, but even so, I believe the Sears Tower and the John Hancock are objectively beautiful - and it is thanks to Dr. Fazlur Kahn.

• Settings >> Advanced >> Code Injection >> Footer