Honor the Material

A new friend recently gifted me with the book, Between Silence and Light: Spirit in the Architecture of Louis I. Kahn, by John Lobell.

I vaguely knew about Kahn. He is the subject of the 2003 documentary, My Architect, and he designed the Kimball Art Museum in Ft. Worth, TX that I’ve been meaning to visit. Other than that, my knowledge was slim. Now that I’ve read more about him and re-watched the documentary, I still won’t do him justice with my words, so I won’t even try. He was a complicated man. Just as we all are.

But there are passages from this book that I want to share. Things that have me thinking about who we are. How we each come into this world as unique individuals. How we need to honor our individuality: we need to recognize the holiness in our uniqueness. And how that spirit extends to our homes and everything around us.

Lobell writes:

Kahn lived during a new “time of uncertainty and loss of spirit, a time of corporate anonymity and bureaucratic banality…. So he turned instead to the eternal, to that which transcends the circumstances of any given moment, where he found Order and from which he brought Spirit back into our world.” (p3)

I think this is true of us today as well. Each of us, in some way and to varying degrees and at different times, feels uncertainty in a world of banality. Conforming to the norms of our culture. Trying to make our lives fit into what is expected, even celebrated, by the masses.

Too often, we don’t listen to Spirit. The spirit inside us and all around us. We make ourselves small. We do not allow the silence, the time, or the space to hear the uniqueness in our beings or in our surroundings.

Kahn said:

Consider the nature of the brick… You say to brick, “What do you want, brick?” Brick says to you, “I like an arch.” If you say to brick, “Arches are expensive, and I can use a concrete lintel over an opening. What do you think of that, brick?” Brick says, “I like an arch.”

It is important that you honor the material you use.”


“The beauty of what you create comes if you honor the material for what it really is.”

We are each unique. And every home is special. Honor the material, be that body or brick. Therein lies the beauty.

Between silence and light is Spirit. Listen to what it has to say.

Honor what It is. Honor what It wants to become.

Photo taken at Museo Archeologico Palazzo Panitteri in Sambuca di Sicilia, Italy. May, 2020.

If you are considering building your own home, check out Always by Design (AxD). Ed Barnhart is an architect in the spirit of Kahn. He is present to the spirit of home.

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