Kahn, Louis I. (1901-74), architect

Born Estonia / educated at U. Penn (1924) where he studied with Paul P. Cret / independent practice from ca. 1932 on / AIA and RIBA gold medalist

click here for Wikipedia bio of Louis Kahn

Thesis on Kahn  written in 2009 by Pierson William Booher while at the Graduate Program in Historic Preservation at the University of Pennsylvania.  It has great background on Kahn residential archicture with a focus on the Fisher.

Residential architecture of Louis Kahn in the Philadelphia area

Oser House 1940-1942


from The Architecural Forum August 1945

'It is rare when architect and client are lifelong friends and find that they think alike on most questions that arise in the building of a house..  But such was the case here, and the unity of design may well have stemmed such mutual agreement.

The site is a wooded slope in an estate recently opened for developement near Philadelphia.  The house has been placed to let the sun into the windows of the principal rooms, and high enough to allow a basement garage with a terrace level on the southern facade. Economy demended that the plan be compact and the house two-stories high, but interior spaciousness has been achieved by throwing many of the family funtions together.  The emphasis on outdoor living is expressed by the kitchen door opening directly on the dinning terrace, and by the big outdoor firplace on the terrace itself.

The essentially box-like appearance of the house, inevitable where strict economy dictates maximum cubage at minimum cost, is somewhat relieved by the projecting living room deck.

Original Owner's Comment  We feel that to the architect goes all the credit for giving us a house that cost no more than a ready made design, yet one that met our tastes and specifications.

Roche House 1947-1949

This home is similar to other new post war ranch style homes being built at the time



Weiss 1947-1950  AIA gold medal winner

This home is at the beginning of Kahn's use of materials to help define the structure. The checkerboard widow pattern could be adjusted with the large panels sliding up and down in the living room wing.  The home has a 'bi nuclear' floor plan with the bedrooms well segregated from the entertaining wing



Genel 1948-1951  

This home incorporates cedar and stone in a unique design.                                     



Shapiro 1956

The home is built as a series of pods.  The Kahn collection at the Archives at the University of PA found on the PAB website show the various arrangements considered

Greenbelt Knoll project 1956

Kahn was involved in the overall design of the preoject of 16 homes, but the firm Montgomery & Bishop were responsible for the details of the plan.  Each of the 16 homes had the same original floor plan.

Barlow Residence of Greenbelt Knoll photos 2010 in original 1957 condition, including original kitchen and bath.

Esherick 1959-1961


Louis Kahn said that his work as an architect is "the sum of all my works." The noted Yale professor Vincent Scully, an early champion of Kahn's work, wrote that Kahn was "gifted in every imaginable way, most of all as musician and painter." Kahn's greatness as an architect is a measure of the richness and quality of his gifts and experience.

The house he designed for Margaret Esherick, niece of sculptor Wharton Esherick, at 204 Sunrise Lane is one of few residential commissions that were actually built. His spirit and guiding hand touch those who live there. The size of the windows and their carefully considered placement fill the house with light that is choreographed by the time of day and the seasons.

Kahn described the many considerations that went into its design. "Beauty and logic" were two. They form a house that is clean, direct, and warm. The warmth is created, in part, by the richness and variety of the wood, within and without?in the cypress shutters, the teak bookcases, the oak wall in the living room, and the rough oak beam supporting the balcony.

The setting made its own contribution to its design. The house has two faces, which "suggest two different houses." The street side is private and the back opens to Pastorius Park.

Economy was an element, too, along with "the desires of the client." He added, "A building reaches excellence when the client knows what she wants, and the architect knows how to interpret it."

Shirley Hanson
Founding Member

Chestnut Hill Historical Society

interior photos of the Esherick



Fisher 1960-1967                                              


Clever 1968

Korman 1971-1973

Steve Korman was turned down by Kahn multiple times prior to accepting finally accepting this commission. In 1971 Kahn was working on some of his larger well known commissions at the time but agreed to work with Mr. Korman on weekends due to his busy schedule.  They did meet often over the next two years. Kahn was asked for rooms big enough to play football in, and for a home with a great indoor outdoor connection. The home is now lived in by one of his sons and his family, maintained in incredible condition.



Overview of Philadelphia Area Mid-Century Modern Residential Architecture  (below on this page)   Photo overview   followed by brief written overview of Philadelphia mid-century architects  .

Time Line  of area modern homes from 1930's to today
 Mid-Century Modern Homes
Architects Who Designed Mid-Century Modern Homes in the Philadelphia Region    
 photographs of the regional homes designed by each architect are included
 Allan Berkowitz  Louis Kahn  George Nakashima
 Edward Bernstein  Vincent Kling  Richard Neutra
 Robert Bishop  Thaddeus Longstreth  Norman Rice
Frank Boyer  William Lescaze  Paul Rudolph
 Marcel Breuer  Joel Levinson  Galen Schlosser
 Armand Carroll  Thomas Mangan  Harry Sternfeld
 Albert Clauss  Irving Maitin  Irwin Stein
 Nathan Cronheim  George Mebus  Oscar Stonorov
 George Daub  Ehrman Mitchell  Frank Weise
 Kenneth Day  Newcomb Montgomery  Frank Lloyd Wright
Agoos/ Lovera LaVardera, Greg Re:Vision Architecture
Bloomfield and Associates M. G. Leach Rosenblum, Martin
Bower Lewis Thrower Metcalfe Architecture Stanev Potts
Culbert, Doug McDonald, Tim/Onion Flats Tarantino Studio
Erdy McHenry Moto Design Shop Verner, Steven
Interface Studio QB3 Webber, Brett
Jibe Design Michael Ryan Architects Wesley Wei Architects
Kieran Timberlake Rasmussen/Su Wesley Architects
Krieger & Associates
Wyant Architecture



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