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Kappe (Ray) Papers
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Biographical/Historical Note
  • Administrative Information
  • Related Archival Materials
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Indexing Terms

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Ray Kappe papers
    Date (inclusive): 1954-2007
    Number: 2008.M.36
    Creator/Collector: Kappe, Ray, 1927-
    Physical Description: 374.3 Linear Feet (105 boxes, 372 flatfiles, 28 rolls)
    The Getty Research Institute
    Special Collections
    1200 Getty Center Drive, Suite 1100
    Los Angeles 90049-1688
    URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10020/askref
    (310) 440-7390
    Abstract: 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.
    Request Materials: Request access to the physical materials in this inventory through the catalog record  for this collection. Click here for the access policy .
    Language: Collection material is in English.

    Biographical/Historical Note

    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.

    Administrative Information


    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.

    Publication Rights

    Preferred Citation

    Ray Kappe papers, 1954-2007, The Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, Accesssion no. 2008.M.36

    Acquisition Information

    Gift of Ray Kappe. Acquired in 2008.

    Processing History

    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 water-damaged.

    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, 1959-2007, undated

    Indexing Terms

    Subjects - Names

    Kappe, Ray, 1927-

    Subjects - Topics

    Architecture, Modern -- 20th century -- California, Southern
    Architecture -- California -- Los Angeles
    Architecture -- Study and teaching
    City planning
    Modern movement (Architecture) -- California
    Prefabricated houses
    Sustainable architecture
    Architect-designed houses -- California
    Architects -- California -- Los Angeles

    Subjects - Places

    Los Angeles (Calif.) -- Buildings, structures, etc. -- 20th century

    Genres and Forms of Material

    Architectural models
    Negatives (photographic)
    Photographic prints -- California -- 20th century
    Architectural drawings -- United States -- 20th century


    Kappe Lotery Boccato Architects Planners
    Kahn, Herbert
    Kappe Architects Planners
    Kahn Kappe Lotery Boccato Architects Planners
    Kahn Kappe Lotery Architects Planners
    Boccato, Clelio
    Lotery, Rex
    Kappe, Ray, 1927-