The building that serves as the entrance to the swimming pool of the Trenton Jewish Community Center (JCC) is a pivotal work in the career of Louis I. Kahn, one of the towering figures of post–World War II architecture. Kahn’s influence has been compared to that of Frank Lloyd Wright, Le Corbusier, and Mies van der Rohe. In these buildings, it is possible to see the first hints of the modernist use of ancient geometric forms that would become Kahn’s signature.
Often called Kahn’s Trenton Bath House, the building, which opened in 1955, is located in Ewing Township, four miles from downtown Trenton. It consists of a basket room, atrium, changing rooms, and a porch that leads up to an Olympic-sized outdoor pool. When Kahn designed the Bath House, he envisaged an entire campus for the JCC, which was moving from the city center to the suburbs. He drew many plans for the site, but the JCC built only the Bath House, the swimming pool it accompanies, and, in 1957, a day camp. The community center building was ultimately designed and constructed by a different architect.
The cross-shaped Bath House consists of four square concrete-block rooms with pyramidal roofs that surround an open-air atrium. It illustrates Kahn’s key innovations in modern architecture: the use of geometric shapes, reliance on basic building materials, and focus on maximizing natural light. In designing the Bath House, Kahn found his celebrated way of dividing and relating space. Reflecting on the Bath House, the influential art historian Vincent Scully, Jr., wrote, "The impression becomes inescapable that . . . architecture began anew."
Take an audio tour of the Bath House