The Los Angeles–based architect and modernist Raymond Kappe, founder of the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc), died on Thursday, November 21, at the age of ninety-two, the Los Angeles Times reports. The renowned theorist and educator built hundreds of residences, advocated for modular systems and prefabricated homes, and challenged the status quo of architectural schools in the late 1960s and ’70s. “The world of architecture would not be what it is without him,” said SCI-Arc’s director, Hernán Díaz Alonso.
Born in Minneapolis on August 4, 1927, Kappe moved to Los Angeles with his family in 1940. He attended the University of California Berkeley and worked for the San Francisco firm Anshen + Allen upon graduating in 1951. During his time there, he helped the firm with several revitalization projects, including an affordable housing project in Pasadena, the master plan for the Watts Community Arts Center, and a conservation and land use plan for the city of San Clemente. A few years later, he opened his own practice, Kahn Kappe Lotery Boccato Architects/Planners, in Santa Monica, which eventually became Kappe Architects Planners.
In 1968, Kappe started the architecture program at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, but was fired as department chairman. Kappe claimed that his program was too “free-swinging” for academics at the time. Following this hiccup, he enlisted six peers in the fieldPritzker Prize winner Thom Mayne, Ahde Lahti, Bill Simonian, Glen Small, Jim Stafford and his wife, Shellyto serve on the faculty at the New School, which opened in 1972 and would grow into SCI-Arc. Kappe helmed the institute for fifteen years and served as chair from 1998 to 2002. He would later launch its European program in Vico Morcote, Switzerland.
Between the years of 1985 and 1990, Kappe partnered with his two sons, Ron and Finn Kappe. Together they built the University Faculty Office building for Cal State San Bernardino and the Hilton Beach Hotel in Oxnard, as well as various custom homes. Despite his many projects, one of Kappe’s most famous structures is his own four-thousand-square-foot, redwood house in the Pacific Palisades, which has since been designated a historic cultural monument by the city of Los Angeles. He built the residence on a site he purchased for $17,000 in 1962the lot was originally considered unbuildable. On the same street as the house are six more of his designs.
Over the course of his career, Kappe was awarded many accolades, including the LA Architectural Lifetime Achievement Award, the Richard Neutra International Medal for Design Excellence, and the Topaz Medal, the highest award in architectural education. In 2007, he donated his archive, which comprised thousands of drawings, architectural models, and notes, to the Getty Center so that it would be accessible to scholars and the general public.