Louis Kahn's Fisher House

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  • Topic: Louis Kahn
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  • Published : June 30, 2007
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The building selected for this project is the Fisher House In Philadelphia By Louis I. Kahn. It took Kahn seven years and many different designs to complete this work starting from 1960. Though the Fisher House is one of the few private residences designed by Kahn that came to completion, it serves as a great instance of his architectural achievements through the underlying stylistic forms and philosophical values. For various reasons such as the recession caused by the second World War and stylistic differences of his Beaux Arts training, Kahn struggled to find commissions until two decade before his death in 1974. The projects completed during this period however are of great importance since Kahn was finally able to incorporate his training In Beaux Arts with those of the elements of modern and International style architecture. The intention of this paper is to explore through analytical investigation of the Fisher House, Kahn's articulation of his stylistic forms and spaces.

The Fisher House is located in Hatboro, a quite residential suburb of Philadelphia with idyllic greenery and tall century old trees. The site of this building consists of a sloped rectangular plan that runs in the northeast-southwest direction. It is bounded on the southwest side by the rural road and on the opposite side by a gentle stream and the woods behind it.(Figures 1 and 2)

Fig. 1 Section diagram of the Site Fig. 2 Plan diagram of the site

In the house built for Norman and Doris Fisher By Louis Kahn, issues regarding site planning are dealt with utmost devotion to the integration of structure and landscape. Upon entrance to the site from the rural road, the observer is encountered with three cubical volumes. These are the living and service areas. The two larger masses that make the living areas are connected to each other at forty five degrees angle and the service and storage area which is the smaller cube is located to the side. The facade visible from the rural road is comprised of two cubes the "living" cube which is parallel to the road and is set in the background, and the "sleeping" cube which is at forty five degrees to the road in the foreground. The facade visible from this point of view in comparison to the northeast side is closed off and with the exception of few slits stretching vertically is completely void of windows (Figures 3 and 4). This baring of the exterior from windows is a mean to draw the attention to the scenery on the northeast side and also to maximize the interplay of light and shadows throughout the house. The residence area set atop a quarry masonry, is distanced from the road and is situated on a garden area that slopes down towards the riverside. This sloping down to the Fig.3 Southwest view of the facade northeast makes the stone foundation hidden from the view point of entry to the site which intensifies the cubical form and volumes of the building with respect to the surrounding environment.

Through analysis of site planning it is evident that the relationship between the building and its surrounding landscape was of great importance to the architect. In fact the composition and the positioning of the living area of the house is a direct result of this relationship to nature. In contrast to the customary southwest orientation of the house, the organizational composition of the house is directed towards the stream in the northeast direction. This alteration is done for accommodating aspects of living and creating a better space for living. With detailed attention to elements such as Light, planes of view and the location of the road Kahn has designed his plan and forms. He has constructed a human environment physically expressive, and similar to that of the surrounding landscape.

With technological advancements and development of new modes of construction, new architectural characteristics appear that influence structural and...
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