Architecture museum hosts exhibition of noted Estonian-Americans' work

August Komendant (1906-1992).
August Komendant (1906-1992). Source: Museum of Estonian Architecture

The Museum of Estonian Architecture is running an exhibition of works by structural engineer two Estonian Americans noted in the field, structural engineer August Komendant and architect Louis Kahn.

August Komendant (1906-1992) was born in Mäo, Järva County, and was a pioneer in the field of prestressed concrete. Louis Kahn (1901-1974) was born in Kuressaare, Saaremaa and spent his early years on the island. His family emigrated to the U.S. when he was a small child.

The exhibition, which runs to late April, also hosts dozens of Komendant's personal effects, as well as 20 unique structural and architectural models and more than 200 photographs (see gallery). Many of the exhibits have not been shown publicly before, according to a museum press release.

Komendant and Kahn collaborated for close to 20 years during their careers, including on projects such as the University of Pennsylvania's Richards Medical Research Laboratories (1957–1965), the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in San Diego, California (1959–1965- see picture), the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas (1966–1972), the Olivetti-Underwood Factory in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania (1966–1970), and the Palazzo dei Congressi in Venice, Italy (1968–1973).

The Salk Institute for Biological Studies in San Diego. Source: ERR

The pair's collaboration was documented in Komendant's bestseller 18 Years with Architect Louis I. Kahn, first published in 1975.

Other significant projects Komendant worked on himself include the dining halls at Yale University's Ezra Stiles and Samuel Morse colleges at Yale University (where the architect was Finn Eero Saarinen, (1960–1961), and Kadriorg Stadium, whose grandstand was an example of early reinforced concrete work, in Tallinn (1936–1938, architect Elmar Lohk).

Komendant was an innovator in both pre-stressed and precast reinfoced concrete, and is regarded as one of the most significant structural engineers in the eyars immediately following world war two. His approach included strict requirements for the makeup of the concrete mix being used.

Komendant, who began his professional career in 1934 during the first Estonian republic, had studied at the Technical University of Dresden, Germany. He left Estonia following the Soviet occupation in 1944.

The "Miracles in Concrete. Structural Engineer August Komendant" exhibition runs until April 26. The curator is Carl-Dag Lige.

The museum's website is here.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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