“Architecture is an act of optimism.”
—from the SCI-Arc website
In 1972, in an act which could be described as revolutionary, or sheer optimism, or both, the influential midcentury modern architect Ray Kappe quit his position as the Founding Chair of the Department of Architecture at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona and founded a competing, unaccredited school. This new school (which was its name until they changed it to SCI-Arc) was entirely independent, unbound by bureaucracy, and sought to innovate urban design through unbounded experimentation while maintaining a high ethical code.
Ray Kappe still embodies this paradigm—ethical innovation—in all his work. While he considers himself a modernist, it’s only because he’s inspired by experimentation, rather than the unnecessary, wasteful, and egocentric use of space and materials that some of his contemporaries are known for. Ray Kappe’s designs, from the Benton Residence to the Truckee Public Works Administration Building and Corporation Yard, solidify his importance in the 20th and 21st century canon. But his founding of Sci-Arc cannot be minimized in his importance because this act of defiance in the face of the architecture establishment changed the game and made it acceptable for a whole new generation of architects to think outside the box.
Known for his rigorous and demanding educational model which forced students to exceed their expectations for themselves, SCI-Arc’s alumni include Pritzker Prize Winner Shigeru Ban, the directors Juan Azulay and Todd Fisher, and many designers and artists who have impacted life in Los Angeles and beyond.
The Value of Architecture is very proud to be featuring one of Kappe’s designs: Fredonia Apartment No. 4, 1963, a “striking mid-century modern home [that] represents the best of the award-winning architect’s signature style: clean straightforward design, tall ceilings, floor-to-ceiling glass, a strong connection to the outdoors, and an abundance of natural light.” You can view the complete listing here.
Ray Kappe is an architect’s architect, but he’s also a generous educator and a sympathetic artist whose devoted his life to his environment, family, and to the honest application of his work. The reason why the SCI-Arc website says that “architecture is an act of optimism” is because Ray Kappe is an optimistic person. In his “Ten Most Important Principles of Architecture” the first one is, “Think positively, not negatively.” He’s that special kind of devoted artist who keeps persisting because he truly believes that his work can make the world a better place.
By: David Plick