New York/Kahn Bath House

Louis Kahn bath house, Trenton, New Jersey — © Brian Rose

Here are a couple of before/after photographs of the Louis Kahn bath house in Trenton. The older pictures were made on a cloudy day in February 2010 while being shown around by Michael Mills of FMG Architects, the firm heading up the restoration of the bath house.

One of Kahn’s earliest commissions, this small project–changing rooms and showers for the adjacent swimming pool–served as an opportunity for Kahn to try out ideas that were later incorporated into his major projects. The bath house, originally built in 1955 for a Jewish community center, had fallen into disrepair, and eventually came into the hands of the local county government.

The entrance to the bath house was through an unobtrusive opening marked by a mural of Kahn’s design. It, too, had deteriorated and was painted over. The mural has been repainted based on Kahn’s drawings, a splash of color and decoration in an otherwise austere structure.

Kahn mural and bath house entrance — © Brian Rose

Louis Kahn bath house, Trenton, New Jersey — © Brian Rose

Most of the original structure has been retained in the restoration. The cinder block wall to the left had to be replaced, but the pyramidal wood roofs were in excellent condition and needed little work. The circular shape at center echoes the complex’s original pebble garden, which was later paved over. Michael Mills speculates that Kahn may have had some kind of water feature in mind for the circle, perhaps a fountain for rinsing one’s feet. Whatever the case, a circle inside a square is typical of Louis Kahn architecture, and returning it to the center of the bath house–even as a wheelchair accessible flat surface–is an important move.

2 thoughts on “New York/Kahn Bath House

  1. Mike C

    Here in the San Diego area the Salk Institute is one of my favorite Kahn designed buildings.

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