Louis Kahn’s Fort Wayne Performing Arts Center

This is one of Louis Kahn’s least known structures and his only theater, among an already small number of completed structures in the United States. Like many architects, he was a late bloomer, with numerous projects barely finished or under construction at the time of his untimely death in 1974. I suppose that he was one of the first starchitects, contributing buildings primarily on a grand scale, campuses, government centers, and museums. Today, forty years after his death, his buildings have lost none of their visual punch.

Completed in 1973 after over a decade in the planning stages, it’s the centerpiece of the Arts Campus in Fort Wayne. This is unmistakably Kahn, monumental, his way of “wrapping ruins around buildings” in his own words. In this structure, the plain, nearly unadorned facade of brick and concrete surrounds the theater inside. The front entrance is characterized by shallow arches, vaguely anthropormorphic in character, and the interior is livened by the sunlight coming in through the windows. His structures are nearly devoid of ornament, relying on simple geometric forms, circles, triangles, rectangles, arches, that contribute to a tension between being monumental and weightless all at the same time.

Front and side elevation

Front and side elevation

Front facade

Front facade


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