The floating concert hall designed by Louis Kahn in danger of demolition


Perhaps one of the strangest projects in the work of architect Louis Kahn faces an untimely end. The special one Point Counterpoint II, a 195-foot-long floating concert hall commissioned by the American Wind Symphony Orchestra, may land for the last time in its current form. Without a new buyer, the concert hall could soon be ripped off and turned into scrap at the end of the month, with the underlying barge transformed into a simple vessel to move cargo.

The boat is an extreme outlier in the Kahn’s work, dominated by a powerful and imposing modernist architecture such as the Salk Institute. The stainless steel barge first set sail in 1976. Conductor Robert Austin Boudreau commissioned his friend Kahn to design the unique floating music hall in the 1960s. The project was completed after the the architect’s death in 1974, just as the country’s birthday celebration was reaching its climax and served as a daring and whimsical way to celebrate the bicentennial. He has since helped the group “make cultural waves on the waterfront”, serving as a mobile venue.

The centerpiece of the self-propelled double-hull river showboat is the hydraulically operated 25-foot-high stage that opens like a clam shell when the boat is docked and ready for a performance, and lowers after the concerts in order to that the ship can slide under the decks.

The boat stage opened dramatically at the start of the concerts

Since its debut in Biloxi, Mississippi, in 1976, the odd-looking ship has sailed many miles on rivers, lakes and oceans, docking and staging shows in many places along the waterfront. water throughout the United States, as well as along rivers in northern Europe and the Caribbean. , the Baltic Sea and the Irish Sea. In 1989 he even sailed to Russia and performed near St. Petersburg.

It is by no means a fast boat, with a top speed of 6 to 8 knots depending on the current. But it’s a big step up from the previous ship in the symphony. The first counterpoint, which Boudreau bought for $ 4,000, was a sunken ship dredged from the bottom of a river in Pittsburgh.

According to a recent letter from New York Book Review written by cellist Yo-Yo Ma, after five decades Boudreau decided he could no longer afford maintenance. Unless a buyer shows up by the end of July, the boat will be scrapped in a Louisiana shipyard. Ma calls the ship, “a powerful and living testament to American creativity and the fundamental role that culture plays in human life.”

Flickr / Creative Commons: Joseph

The ship is currently docked in Ottawa, Illinois, where Boudreau and others have sought potential buyers. In 2015, the conductor suggested making the ship part of the first Chicago Architecture Biennale, by making it appear on the Riverwalk for a concert, and even discussed the possibility of selling it to the city of Chicago.


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