Architectural Archives

  • Point Counterpoint II

  • Harbor concert, Odense, Denmark, July 22 1989 (Herb Ferguson photo)

  • Sketch of Thames Barge sounding board by Kahn, 1961

Louis I. Kahn, Barge Architect

Monday, August 28, 2017Friday, November 17, 2017
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Harvey & Irwin Kroiz Gallery, Architectural Archives
220 South 34th Street, Philadelphia

This exhibition traces 14 years of artistic collaboration between conductor Robert Boudreau and architect Louis Kahn. Together, they created two concert barges that served as floating stages for Boudreau’s American Wind Symphony Orchestra (AWSO). The organization, founded in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with the support of the Heinz Foundation, offered experience and mentorship to young performers while connecting waterfront communities with great music. They began their journey in the summer of 1957 aboard a converted coal barge.
In 1960, after three years of successful summer tours, Boudreau made a bold pitch to his patrons to bring the AWSO to the River Thames in England. For this, he said, a custom designed barge was necessary. They accepted and with Kahn’s selection as architect their collaboration began. Within a year, just in time for the July 4, 1961 London debut, the so-called Thames Barge was completed. Concerts in London, Oxford, Eton and Henley used the picturesque backdrop of the English landscape, newly commissioned music, and firework finales to draw communities to performances. Promotional materials noted Kahn’s role as “Barge Architect,” a title that satisfied the architect greatly.
Back in the United States, Boudreau’s ambitions for the American waterways grew. As early as 1964, Kahn began studies for what would come to be called Point Counterpoint II, a 195 foot long, state-of-the-art, self-propelled vessel shaped as much by the dimensional limitations of the Erie Canal as by the lore of the American vernacular showboat. The informality of meeting at the water’s edge to hear music transcended divisions: urban to rural, white and blue collar, even the racial divisions of black and white. Although Kahn would not live to see Point Counterpoint II’s christening in 1976, or attend a performance of the AWSO, the spirit of democratic engagement with art certainly captured his imagination. What he saw was a vessel that moves art and transforms artists.
Works on view include original design sketches, models, film footage, historic photographs.
This exhibition has been organized in support of the preservation and continued use of Point Counterpoint II, the concert barge of the American Wind Symphony Orchestra designed by Louis Kahn and completed two years after his death in 1974. It is presented in conjunction with a major retrospective exhibition,  Louis Kahn: The Power of Architecture organized by the Vitra Design Museum and shown here in Philadelphia at the Fabric Workshop and Museum from August 11 to November 5, 2017.  
Questions? Please contact the Architectural Archives at 215.898.8323.
Louis Kahn, Barge Architect has been made possible by the generous support of the Georgia Hencken Perkins Endowment and the Friends of the Architectural Archives. Funding for model conservation came from the Shedd Endowment for the Architectural Archives.
The Architectural Archives extends a special recognition to the Kroiz Family for their early and enduring support of the Louis I. Kahn Collection, the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission for securing the funds for preserving the Kahn papers in the Commonwealth, and Larry Korman for his enthusiasm for all things Kahn.