Ray Kappe 1927-2019
We honor the life a California architect who ensured his life’s work would become a reminder to seek out diversity, to share common resources and to leave the world a more beautiful, equitable place.
“Throughout my architectural career the house and housing has been a vital part of my practice... Southern California has always been the nation’s leader in modern housing. One of my goals from the beginning was to develop repetitive modern housing for the “masses.” My earliest work was comprised mostly of small wooden post and beam houses, and I completed 50 of these homes in the first ten years... I was interested in the possibility of diversity within a common system both in terms of plan relationships and spatial qualities.
My own “dream house” (your term) for my family, was based upon this system, designed in 1965, and built on an uphill site, with underground springs, in Rustic Canyon, Pacific Palisades, in Los Angeles... My architecture is about resolving problems related to the site, the client’s program, structure and construction systems, environmental response, progression through space and space itself.”
An excerpt from an interview of Ray Kappe by Curbed LA on December 11, 2006.
There’s one particular line that sticks: “diversity within a common system”. Though this related directly to the democratic application of shape and material, it lends itself broadly to much more. It’s what made Ray Kappe’s vision for Southern California architecture so aspirational. Each structure was not to be dismissive of its plot, but was designed to serve as a unique opportunity for preservation and enhancement of the common (eco)system. Though Kappe focused largely on urban planning projects and public use spaces, at the foundation of his practice and this vision were residential projects. Each one was approached in the same careful, considered manner, underscored by his respect for the land. The “diversity” of each structure followed organically, and none was as encapsulating as his personal home in the Rustic Canyon neighborhood of Los Angeles. Built between 1965 and 1967, the house sits above the topography of the land on a series of clever concrete pillars traversed by redwood beams. As described on his website, it “tiptoed over the site, sparing trees, stream, and the delicate beauty of the topography”.
Thank you, Ray Kappe, for reminding us to distinguish and share the common resources we have. Thank you for reminding us to seek out diversity within these resources, and to utilize the planning of space to enhance our collective lives. Thank you for reminding us to tip toe instead of stomp.