Modernism and Louis Kahn’s Trenton Bath House

Source: TCM

What does concrete block want? Probably a sympathetic and historically accurate restoration.

Louis Kahn is considered one of the most important architects of the twentieth century, but his early career was unremarkable. When Kahn was about fifty, he traveled through Italy, Greece, and Egypt. The ancient architecture he studied there transformed him, and when he returned to the United States, one of the first buildings he designed was the Trenton Bath House, one component of the Trenton Jewish Community Center. This unassuming structure, completed in 1957, is a landmark in Modernism and marks a turning point in Kahn’s design vision, and in twentieth century architecture.

Source: TCM
Source: TCM
Source: TCM
Source: TCM


Fast-forward 50 years, and the structures were in “pretty rough shape,” says FMG preservation partner Michael Mills. “That had to do with the materials that were used, and the fact that some of the construction details were a little less than you would hope for.” But part of the problem, he says, “had to do with the poetry of the building. Kahn intended the water to run over the masonry surfaces. Unfortunately, in New Jersey with freeze and thaw, it also had a bad effect.”


Katie Gerfen, “Trenton Bath House and Day Camp Restoration”
Source: TCM

The Trenton JCC is actually in Ewing, New Jersey, a few miles outside the city of Trenton. When the JCC chose to relocate in the early 2000s, Kahn’s building faced destruction, but the entire complex was purchased and preserved by Mercer County in 2007, who also funded the restoration. The site is now used as a community center by Ewing Township.

Source: TCM

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