Ray Kappe, FAIA | Iconic Southern California Modern Architect
The Los Angeles Conservancy will be hosting a virtual benefit on December, 3rd celebrating 1970s architecture and design through the lens of the visionary architect Ray Kappe.
Born in 1927 to Romanian immigrants, Kappe spent his formative years in Minneapolis, an environment that sparked an indelible love of nature that would dramatically impact his future work.
In 1940, Kappe’s family moved to Los Angeles where he attended Emerson Junior High School. This proved to be another formative environment for Kappe, as the school was notably designed by architect Richard Neutra.
Upon graduating High School, Kappe attended UCLA one semester before being drafted into the US Army Corps of Engineers. It was here, while serving as a topographical surveying instructor, Kappe discovered his love for teaching.
After discharge from the USACE, Kappe studied architecture at UC Berkeley, graduating in 1951 with honors.
Out the gate, Kappe made an impression in the world of architecture. While working under architect Carl Maston, Kappe designed his earliest work, the National Boulevard Apartments – a series of modern post-and-beam structures that won Kappe an AIA design award, and publication in Arts & Architecture magazine.
In 1954, Kappe launched his own architectural practice, designing multi-family, prefab, educational, public, industrial and commercial structures. As he progressed in his career, Kappe experimented with spatial fluidity and modern design, winning many awards and accolades along the way.
In the 1960s, Kappe set out to construct his own personal home on a sloping hillside lot in the Pacific Palisades with an active underground stream saturating the land. The natural elements, while stunning, posed a significant architectural challenge, which Kappe tackled by drawing on his depth of topographical, engineering and design knowledge, as well as with his love of – and reverence for – nature.
What resulted was a 4,000-square-foot glass-and-wood structure set on a series of concrete towers to allow for the free flow of the underground stream. The home’s rooms stagger up the hillside, and massive windows allow for full appreciation of the surrounding natural landscape.
The Kappe Residence, completed in 1967, stands as one of the region’s most notable modern structures. The home, in fact, is such a celebrated artifact that Kappe himself quipped it was his “most public, private space.”
Following the completion of his home, Kappe became a partner at the esteemed Kahn Kappe Lotery Boccato design firm, and the Founding Chair of the Department of Architecture at Cal State Poly University, Pomona. Though his tenure there would be short lived. In 1972, Kappe would organize an exodus of faculty and students to form what would become the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc) — currently regarded as one of country’s top architectural institutes.
In 1985 Kappe Lotery Boccato dissolved and Kappe set out to form Kappe Architects Planners. Then, in 2003 he partnered with LivingHomes, bringing his expertise to bear on the arena of modular homes.
As expected, Kappe was the recipient of many awards throughout his career. Most notably, the Richard Neutra Medal for Excellence, the California Council/AIA Bernard Maybeck Award for Design, the Topaz Medal, and the AIA-Los Angeles Gold Medal.
Kappe passed away last year from respiratory failure at the age of 92.
The LA Conservancy’s event, Levels of Kappe, will explore Kappe’s significant role in the Modernist movement, with “virtual tours of LA area residences he designed in the ‘70s, and remarks from architecture experts — including his wife, architectural historian Shelly Kappe.”
Tickets start at $35 for LA Conservancy members, and $75 for the general public (which includes a year-long individual membership). Sponsorships begin at $500 and include benefits, such as ’70s-themed gifts. Sponsors at $1,000 and above receive Wolfgang Puck Catering gourmet hand-delivered meals, accompanied by cocktails.