Related Archival Materials
Scope and Content of Collection
Title: Ray Kappe papers
Date (inclusive): 1954-2007
Kappe, Ray, 1927-
374.3 Linear Feet
(105 boxes, 372 flatfiles, 28 rolls)
The Getty Research Institute
1200 Getty Center Drive, Suite 1100
Los Angeles 90049-1688
Los Angeles architect Ray Kappe is one
of Southern California's preeminent designers of modern residential architecture and a
long-time educator who founded the influential Southern California Institute of Architecture
(SCI-Arc). Consisting of drawings, documents, photographs, client correspondence, and
writings, the Ray Kappe papers provide a record of Kappe's contribution as an architect in
private practice, as a partner in various firms and as an educator. The archive is an
important resource for the study of postwar California modernism, and in particular the
development of prefabrication and sustainability in modern housing, as well as a valuable
resource for studying the recent history of architectural education.
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Language: Collection material is in English.
The son of Romanian immigrants, Raymond Kappe was born on August 4, 1927 in Minneapolis.
After his family relocated to Los Angeles, Kappe attended Emerson Junior High School in West
Los Angeles, which had been designed by Richard Neutra in the late 1930s. The two-story
steel-framed building with sliding glass doors for outdoor classrooms and rooftop terraces
made a valuable impression on him, as did Neutra's apartments in Westwood. These early
experiences with modern architecture, combined with his love of drawing and talent in
mathematics and science, helped shape his career path while he was still a teenager. He
spent a single semester at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) in 1945 before
he was drafted into the postwar U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, where he served for two years
as a topographical surveying instructor. After his discharge, Kappe attended the University
of California, Berkeley, earning his B.Arch in 1951.
After graduation, Kappe worked as a draftsman for the San Francisco firm of Anshen and
Allen, where he was involved in the design of the Eichler tract homes. Later that year, he
moved back to Los Angeles to work with Carl Maston, a lesser-known but highly practiced
modern architect. In 1953, the pair each designed a six-unit apartment building side-by-side
on National Boulevard in West Los Angeles. The success of the project led Kappe to open his
own firm, which he operated as a private venture until 1968.
Most of Kappe's early houses consisted of small post-and-beam structures with flat or
shallow-pitched roofs. Inspired by the postwar housing boom in Southern California and the
Case Study House program, Kappe envisioned the single-family house as the ideal medium for
experimentation in prefabricated construction. The objective was to produce a prototype that
could be duplicated and slightly altered to meet the needs of individual sites and clients.
By the early 1960s, he had developed a structural system that rooted six or eight
steel-reinforced concrete or wooden towers into the ground, effectively reducing the
footprint of the home. Also, while many of his contemporaries distanced themselves from the
construction process, Kappe embraced a system of design-build throughout his career. The
design for Kappe's own residence, completed in 1967, typified the architect's interest in
multi-level and cost-effective modular construction on outwardly "unbuildable" sites. The
muscular Douglas fir composition and reliance on the surrounding landscape reflected his Bay
Area training, as well as his appreciation for vernacular traditions dating to the local
Arts and Crafts movement. He would echo this complex treatment of light, space, materials,
and texture, along with the complete integration of site, in many of his other hillside
projects throughout Los Angeles.
In the early 1960s, Kappe became interested in urban design issues. He joined the America
Institute of Architects' Urban Design Committee and began working with future partners Herb
Kahn and Rex Lotery on a variety of planning and design issues, including the development of
new methods of hillside building. Their successful collaborations in this context led the
formation of a firm. Kahn Kappe Lotery Architects Planners (1970-1973), Kahn Kappe Lotery
Boccato Architects Planners (1974-1978) and Kappe Lotery Boccato Architects Planners
(1979-1981) undertook a number of large-scale planning and residential projects throughout
California. Concerned with energy efficiency and new state environmental laws, much of the
work reveals a newfound reliance on steel and concrete construction, as well as natural
light and heating elements. With the advent of postmodernism and the movement away from
planning studies towards developer-driven implementation strategies in large cities by the
early 1980s, however, the partners amicably agreed to dissolve the firm in order to uphold
the integrity of their design philosophies.
Since 1982, Kappe has worked under the firm name Kappe Architects Planners both
independently and in collaboration with others, including his sons Finn and Ron Kappe, on
numerous projects. In recent years, he has returned to his interest in prefabricated modular
design. In 2003, developer Steve Glenn approached him about producing a line of
prefabricated, sustainable houses called LivingHomes. In 2007, he completed the first
residence to be awarded the platinum LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design)
rating of the U.S. Green Building Council through this partnership.
In addition to his architectural and planning practice, Kappe has enjoyed a long career as
an educator. He entered the teaching profession in the mid-1960s as an instructor at the
University of Southern California (USC). In 1967, Bernard Zimmerman, a landscape architect
at California Polytechnic University, Pomona (CalPoly), approached him about creating an
architecture program there. Kappe built a successful program based on the principle of
experimentation, but left the school in 1972 as a result of fundamental differences with the
dean. Along with a group of like-minded faculty and students, he founded the avant-garde New
School, later renamed Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc). Kappe
encouraged invention, exploration, and criticism among his students, integrating courses in
the social and behavioral aspects of architecture into the design curriculum. His central
interests in urban issues, technology and environmental response concerns remained at the
forefront of the program until postmodernism began to dominate architectural discourse in
the 1980s. Kappe stepped down from his director position in 1987, though he continued to
teach there and at USC.
Open for use by qualified researchers, with the exception of the student records in Box 56A
which will remain sealed until 2062. Contact the repository for information regarding access
to the architectural models.
Ray Kappe papers, 1954-2007, The Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, Accesssion no.
Gift of Ray Kappe. Acquired in 2008.
In 2011 with grant funding from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR),
Laura Dominguez and Suzanne Noruschat processed the collection and created the inventory
under the supervision of Ann Harrison. In 2014-2015 Ann Harrison refined Series I separating
the projects into subseries by firm.
The processing of the collection remains preliminary. Drawings in flatfile folders 174**,
189**, 252**-252A**, 267**, 269**-270**, 289**, as well as Rolls 25** - 26** need
conservation treatment for the removal of adhesives. Also some materials in Series III are
Related Archival Materials
The papers of Kappe's partner, Rex Lotery, are held by the Art, Design & Architecture
Museum of the University of California, Santa Barbara.
Scope and Content of Collection
The Ray Kappe papers offer comprehensive coverage of his long and varied career, which
began in the 1950s and encompassed roles as architect, planner, and educator. The archive
highlights Kappe's role in furthering the strong California tradition of designing buildings
in tune with nature, of experimenting with prefabricated building components and modular
planning, and of addressing such issues as sustainability. The collection is therefore a
valuable resource for studying important developments in post-war California modernism,
including the development of what is today known as "green" architecture. The collection is
also a useful resource for studying the recent history of architectural education, as Kappe
directed programs at both California Polytechnic University, Pomona and Southern California
Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc), one of the country's most influential and experimental
schools of architecture.
The project records in Series I form the core of the collection. Representing the first 50
years of Kappe's career, the series encompasses the majority of the architect's oeuvre.
Included here is Kappe's early independent work and his later work under the firm name of
Kappe Architects Planners, as well as projects from the intermediate period of his career as
a partner in the firms of Kahn Kappe Lotery Architects Planners, Kahn Kappe Lotery Boccato
Architects Planners, and Kappe Lotery Boccato Architects Planners. The archive does not
contain Kappe's most recent work initiated or completed after 2003, such as the
energy-efficient residences designed for Steve Glenn's LivingHomes. Comprising over 300
executed and unexecuted projects ranging from large and small residences to office buildings
and parks, the archive holds drawings and models, in addition to sketches, photographs, and
project files, and it provides documentation on major projects from the early, middle, and
later phases of Kappe's career. Included, for instance, is the groundbreaking house Kappe
designed for his own family in the Pacific Palisades area of Los Angeles in 1965, which
heralded the architect's expert use of post-and-beam construction and an elevated design
system that allowed the building to nestle sensitively on its awkward hillside site.
Represented, too, is the 1977 Borghei House (Santa Monica Canyon) in which Kappe responded
to new building code restrictions by using concrete-block construction and smaller window
apertures, and the 1993 Shapiro House (Santa Monica Canyon) that saw Kappe experimenting
with steel frames and poured concrete while still emphasizing his core principles of uniting
interior and exterior spaces and foregrounding energy efficiency and modularity. A
particularly interesting portion of the archive consists of planning projects undertaken by
the partnership firms, such as those prepared for the cities of Inglewood and Compton, that
highlight a commitment to revitalizing urban neighborhoods and commercial districts.
The two subsequent series document other facets of Kappe's professional life. Series II
comprises his teaching materials and administrative records during his tenure at Cal Poly
Pomona and SCI-Arc. This documentation reveals Kappe's interest in redefining architectural
education through experimental curriculum and practice. Series III is composed of all other
materials, aside from the individual project files, relating to Kappe's professional
affiliations and role as a leading Southern California architect and planner. He maintained
ample records of his decades-long involvement with the American Institute of Architects
(AIA) and with the Los Angeles Goals Program, including his Urban Design Committee
collaborations with future partners Herbert Kahn and Rex Lotery, in addition to preserving
documentation of others citing his work in a variety of media. The series also highlights
his interest in energy conservation, urban design, and affordable housing.
Arranged in three series: ; ; .Series I.
Project records, 1954-2003, undated
Series II. Faculty papers, 1966-2002, undated
Series III. Other professional papers,
Subjects - Names
Kappe, Ray, 1927-
Subjects - Topics
Architecture, Modern -- 20th century -- California, Southern
Architecture -- California -- Los Angeles
Architecture -- Study and teaching
Modern movement (Architecture) -- California
Architect-designed houses -- California
Architects -- California -- Los Angeles
Subjects - Places
Los Angeles (Calif.) -- Buildings, structures, etc. -- 20th
Genres and Forms of Material
Photographic prints -- California -- 20th century
Architectural drawings -- United States -- 20th century
Kappe Lotery Boccato Architects
Kappe Architects Planners
Kahn Kappe Lotery Boccato Architects
Kahn Kappe Lotery Architects
Kappe, Ray, 1927-