His family immigrated to the United States when he was four, settling in Philadelphia, where they had relatives already living nearby. From an early age, Kahn displayed a gift for drawing, but his parents were too poor to buy art materials, so he improvised and sketched with burnt twigs and matches. He favored the quality of the charcoal line so much that even after he had become a celebrated architect he continued at times to draw with burnt matches. His obvious intelligence and early talent for art prompted his teachers to enroll him in competitions for gifted students throughout his public schooling. Despite winning a full art scholarship from the Pennsylvania Academy of Art, a required course in architectural history during his final year in high school led him to study architecture. Kahn received Beaux-Arts training at the University of Pennsylvania, where one of his teachers was the French-born and French-educated Paul Philippe Cret, who practiced a brand of classical modernism noteworthy for its dignity and restraint.

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The element of natural light is the main focus of the design, and creates elegant spaces that are perfectly suited for the art that it houses. Save this picture! To diffuse this light, pierced-aluminum reflectors shaped like wings hang below, illuminating the smooth surfaces of the concrete vault while providing elegant and enchanting light conditions for the works of art.

The building is punctuated by three courtyards, allowing for more light, air flow and relationships between interior and exterior spaces. These were made possible by the use of concrete, travertine and white oak, all the key materials of the project. Most of the galleries are located on the upper floor, to allow for most natural lighting. Air ducts and mechanical services are located in the spaces where edges of vaults come close to meeting.

Upon his death in , they had collected one of the best selections of old masters, and so the estate was bequeathed to the foundation with the intentions of building a first class museum. A "Policy Statement" by the foundation director Richard Brown set clear guidelines regarding the new building as a work of art.

He specified that "natural light should play a vital part" in the design, and interviewed many architects including Marcel Breuer, Mies van der Rohe, Pier Luigi Nervi, Gordon Bunshaft, and Edward Larrabee Barnes, but commission was awarded to Kahn in late


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