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Ray Kappe (April 3, 1991)03:08:06

Michael Rotondi introduces Ray Kappe as the conceptual creator and main constructor of SCI-Arc, in addition to his accomplishments as a practicing architect and builder.

Ray Kappe reviews the architects that established the modern Los Angeles and California style: Charles and Henry Greene, Irving Gill, Rudolf Schindler, Richard Neutra, Raphael Soriano, and Harwell Hamilton Harris. Kappe defines himself as an architect specializing in wood post and beam construction, emphasizing a strong connection between interior and exterior, achieved by large expanses of glazing, most influenced by Harris and Neutra. Kappe describes architectural practice in the 1950s as being much less concerned with minute details than contemporary architecture.

He makes the case for fully glazed houses by arguing that in a hilly environment such as Los Angeles, your view can be much larger than your property, and he wants the view to be dynamic, not framed. Kappe recounts the genesis of his modular systems in low income housing, which he regrets are no longer being produced on any significant scale.

Kappe calls himself a deconstructivist architect since his houses involve the manipulation of beams and planes sliding past each other, and the expression of structure. He works from the inside of the house outwards and doesn’t worry about the elevations. He feels that the total effect of lighting and glazing cannot be captured in drawings or renderings since they are static representations.

After fifteen years of building, Kappe became involved with urban planning, dealing with infrastructure and transportation issues. Kappe feels that the collaboration produced from this effort was the highly valuable.

Kappe recounts how SCI-Arc was founded, when it split away from Cal Poly Pomona. Kappe’s desire was to create a multidisciplinary school, which was impossible at Pomona. SCI-Arc’s founding idea was to be the best school possible, and hire practicing faculty. The student participation was essential. They assisted in refurbishing the building for the new school.

The energy crisis in the 1970s gave sustainability tremendous significance, which Kappe incorporated into his designs. He notes that even buildings he designed without explicit energy considerations were pretty efficient, despite their high degree of glazing. Kappe describes several projects that integrate thermal masses, and daylighting to achieve energy efficiency. Kappe feels that every architect should integrate these concepts into their work.

Kappe describes a variety of larger projects, which incorporate sustainability, and accomodate multiple uses. He urges students to be active citizens, and to participate in interdisciplinary projects that get you involved with the world beyond architecture.