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Louis Kahn

(Leiser-Itze Schmuilowsky)

20. II. 1901 (Kuressaare/Pärnu) - 17. III. 1974 (New-York)

Louis Kahn

The world famous architect Louis Kahn was born on 20/2/1901 (old style) in Kuressaare (Isle of Saaremaa, Estonia) or in Pärnu. The birth was registered in Pärnu, may be because Kuressaare had no jewish community.

© photo Robert Lautman

His father Leib Schmuilowsky (born in Lithuania around 1875) served as a paymaster in the Tsarist army. In 1900 he retired and married Beila-Rebecca Mendelowitsch (born in 1872 in Riga). mother The young couple settled in Kuressaare probably joining part of Mendelowitsch family that already lived there.


Leiser (later Louis) was born in 1901, followed by his sister Sara (in 1902) and brother Oscher (later Oscar) in 1904.

Very little is known about the occupation of the head of the family. It could be that Leib Schmuilowsky worked as a secretary in the local bank. Because of the low income, or out of fear to be recalled into the army, Leib decided to look for his luck in the big world.
In 1904 he went to Philadelphia, USA. His wife Beila (later called Berta) followed him with 3 children in 1906.

In May 1914 the family got the american citizenship and changed the name to Kahn. grandmother

Louis visited Estonia only once in 1928 on his big european trip. He spent a month on Saaremaa living with his grandmother Lina (Rocha-Lea) Mendelowitsch and sleeping on the floor in her one-room apartment.

Many find that some of the architect's great works were influenced by the memories of the Castle of Kuressaare and the Estonian landscapes.

salk institute

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