Oral Histories

Interview of Raymond Kappe

Architect; California State Polytechnic University, Pomona professor of architecture; and director of the Southern California Institute of Architecture.
Architect, Planner, Teacher
Interviews not in a series, part one
Architecture, Landscape Architecture, and Design
Biographical Note:
Architect; California State Polytechnic University, Pomona professor of architecture; and director of the Southern California Institute of Architecture.
Smith, Andrew B.
Kappe, Raymond
Persons Present:
Kappe and Smith.
Place Conducted:
Kappe's home in Los Angeles, California.
Supporting Documents:
Records relating to the interview are located in the office of the UCLA Library's Center for Oral History Research.
Interviewer Background and Preparation:
The interview was conducted by Andrew B. Smith, UCLA Oral History Program; B.A., American studies, UC Santa Cruz; M.L.S., UCLA; M.A., history, UCLA; C.Phil., history, UCLA.Smith prepared for the interview by consulting a résumé, publicity pamphlets, and client and project lists provided by Kappe. He also read articles and book chapters by and about Kappe and his role in Southern California architecture. In addition, he visited several structures of Kappe's design.
Processing of Interview:
Peter Limbrick, editorial assistant, edited the interview. He checked the verbatim transcript of the interview against the original tape recordings, edited for punctuation, paragraphing, and spelling, and verified proper names. Words and phrases inserted by the editor have been bracketed.Kappe reviewed the transcript. He verified proper names and made a number of corrections and additions.Kristian London, editor, prepared the table of contents and interview history. Limbrick assembled the biographical summary. Swapna Sundaram, editorial assistant, compiled the index.
11.4 hrs.
Regents of the University of California, UCLA Library.
4233240 (OPAC number)
Family background--Childhood interests--Decides on a career in architecture--Serves in the United States Army Corps of Engineers--Employment at the Donald R. Warren Company--Attends the University of California, Berkeley, School of Architecture--Kappe's independence as a student--The advantages of working independently.
More on Kappe's independence as a student--Employment at Anshen and Allen--Dissatisfying employment experiences at larger firms--Moves to Los Angeles with wife, Shelly Diamond Kappe--Works for Carl Maston--Designs apartments on National Boulevard--Kappe establishes his own firm--Architectural influences on Kappe and other architects of his generation.
More on family background--Origins of Kappe's interest in social issues--The role of religion in Kappe's life--His interest in sports--Changes in urban life since Kappe's youth--The atmosphere in Maston's office--The correlation in architecture between fame and self-promotion.
The need to find satisfaction in one's work rather than constantly seeking outside recognition--The importance of a positive mind-set--Receives attention for the National Boulevard apartments--Subjectivity in the awarding of architectural prizes--Consumer magazines' role in increasing an architect's client base--Establishes an office in Brentwood--Early projects and clients--The rationale behind post and beam construction.
Develops guidelines for working with clients--Kappe's belief that his involvement in education is more important than his practice--The Hayes residence--Temperature-control technology in the sixties and seventies--Kappe's desire to open his architecture to the outdoors--The Handman residence--Security in Kappe-designed homes--Situating bedrooms in residences.
The Pregerson residence--Photographer Julius Shulman--The importance of good architectural photographs to an architect's career--The history of post and beam construction in Southern California--Kappe's unwillingness to compromise his design principles--The press's influence on architectural trends--Developers' impact on architecture--The failures of modern architecture--The cyclic nature of architectural trends.
More on developers' impact on architecture--Kappe's approach to design shifts--Use of towers and a service core in Kappe's own residence--Private residences Kappe designed from the mid-sixties to mid-seventies--Plans larger housing projects--The difficulty of producing well-designed mass housing developments--Kappe's satisfaction with his residence.
Visitors' reaction to the Kappe residence--Kappe's intended movement flow through his home--The importance of incorporating movement and touch in architectural design--Architectural influences on the Kappe residence--The Sultan residence--The Harris residence--The Katzenstein residence.
The Hattenbach and Penn residences--Louis I. Kahn's influence on Kappe--Prefabrication and the Sonoma State University project--Kappe studies the energy efficiency of residences he designed--Focuses on designing energy-efficient buildings--Problems with California's energy code--The impact of government support on energy-conscious design--Kappe's enjoyment of the complexity that energy considerations add to design--California architects' general lack of interest in energy-efficient architecture.
Energy-efficient architecture in New Mexico and Arizona--The Borghei/Cookston residence--Obstacles to building Kappe's energy-efficient designs--The Block residence--The Freedman residence--The question of how important it is to fit a building into its context--The Scheimer residence--The difficulty of transferring design elements from Kappe's single residences to mass housing--Kappe's sons Ron and Finn Kappe.
Establishing Kappe Architects Planners with Ron and Finn Kappe--The firm disbands--Kappe's desire to devote more time to planning and teaching--His recent residential designs--Working with students at University of Southern California on housing issues--The transportation and land development projects for the American Institute of Architects (AIA)--Formation of Kahn, Kappe, Lotery Architects/Planners--Kahn, Kappe, Lotery planning projects.
Kahn, Kappe, Lotery serve as consultants for a proposed transportation plan in downtown Los Angeles--Advantages of working in a partnership--The Loyola Marymount University gymnasium--The Santa Monica Municipal Bus Lines administration building--Opposition to two of the firm's projects--Action for a Better Los Angeles Environment--The sense of satisfaction Kappe finds in designing buildings even if they remain unbuilt--Dissolution of Kappe, Lotery, Boccato Architects/Planners--Kappe's satisfaction with his career.
Disappointments in a California State University, San Bernardino, faculty office building project--The difficulty of turning a profit on university projects--Affirmative action's effect on the assignment of public projects--Involvement in the Southern California Chapter of the AIA's urban design committee--The AIA California Council state environmental committee--Serves as the chair of the housing committee of the Los Angeles City Goals Council--Problems with public housing--The advantages of racially diverse communities--The Las Vegas Housing for the Homeless project.
More on the Housing for the Homeless project--Contributes to a Watts Towers Arts Center design--Interaction with University of Southern California and UCLA faculty members--Becomes the founding chair of the Department of Architecture at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona (Cal Poly Pomona)--Convincing the State of California that Cal Poly Pomona should have an architecture program--Establishing the program--Kappe is asked to resign as department chair--Faculty and students of Cal Poly's program found the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-ARC).
Kappe's involvement with Barrio Planners--Recruits Richard J. Neutra to teach at Cal Poly Pomona--The early days of SCI-ARC--SCI-ARC students' desire for more structure--Kappe's desire to have SCI-ARC students interact with people outside of the school--The impact of computers on architectural education.
More on the impact of computers on architectural education--Uses of video in architectural training--Encouraging independent work at SCI-ARC--Balancing students' needs for structure and autonomy--The freedom to experiment that SCI-ARC offered--Changes at SCI-ARC over the years--Faculty--More on changes at SCI-ARC over the years--Establishment of SCI-ARC's European campus.
Kappe's desire to promote social responsibility among architects--Architects, Designers, Planners for Social Responsibility--Kappe's satisfaction with his life and career--Professional disappoint-ments--The character of architecture and planning in Los Angeles--Difficulty of planning attractive cities in a democratic society--Hopes for the future of Los Angeles--Kappe's family.