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Steven Korman recalls that the design process began with a question: “How do you want to live your life?” At Kahn’s request, the Kormans sent him a four-page document outlining their lifestyle, each family member’s personality, and how they envisioned their new home.

It would need to accommodate their family of five as well as “lots of immediate family that pops in and out.” They expressed the need for “simplicity and elegance,” ample storage and an “uncluttered look, informal living.” The living room should be “glass – light – bright – cheerful.” There would be time spent together—including football games and pillow fights—but each family member should have privacy, too. Steven requested his own “hideaway” den and noted that the master bedroom area “should be separate from other bedrooms but convenient to the children.” They concluded that they wanted an “easy-to-care-for, warm, hospitable, exciting home.” One specific  need stood out: Steven’s severe allergies would require an air filtration system, and challenge Kahn to find a way to make his clients feel connected to the outdoors without actually opening the windows.1

 

Kahn’s drafts from 1971 and 1972 show him refining his ideas, working through fundamental questions of light, siting, materials, and how shared and private spaces would relate to one another.  The kitchen and breakfast room became one space, and the double-height kitchen became a single story. The living room hearth evolved from its own temple-like room to a cozy inglenook. Boys’ bedrooms first radiated outwards at angles, then morphed into a harmonious quartet converging around an open stair-hall. Kahn played with the orientation of rooms, eventually making the living space’s large windows face northeast, which drastically changed the quality of light.2 A breakthrough came when the house’s overall size was reduced by 2,000 square feet. Steven Korman recalled in a 1974 interview that this changed everything: “And all of the sudden, [Kahn said] ‘I like it. It’s a jewel.’”3 

Notes:

  1. ^  Program: “The Korman Family: A New Home,” Louis I. Kahn Collection, Architectural Archives of the University of Pennsylvania, 030.II.A.36.25
  2. ^ George Marcus and William Whitaker, The Houses of Louis Kahn (New Haven: Yale, 2013), p. 225.
  3. ^ Richard Saul Wurman interview with Steven and Toby Korman, 15 April 1974, tape #25, p. 5. Transcribed by the Architectural Archives of the University of Pennsylvania.

July 30, 1971

Photo: 030.I.A.845.2. Louis I. Kahn Collection, University of Pennsylvania and the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. Housed in the Harvey and Irwin Kroiz Gallery, the resources of the Louis I. Kahn Collection are used by permission of the Architectural Archives of the University of Pennsylvania (hereafter cited as Kahn Collection)

August 10, 1971

Photo: Kahn Collection, 030.I.A.845.4

August 10, 1971

Photo: Kahn Collection, 030.I.A.845.5

August 20, 1971

First floor

Photo: Kahn Collection, 030.I.A.845.6

August 20, 1971

Second floor

Photo: Kahn Collection, 030.I.A.845.7

August 23, 1971

Elevation

Photo: Kahn Collection, 030.I.A.845.24

September 1971

Kahn revises his August work with the note “scheme redesign of the fireplace areas.” The semicircular hearth-room has become rectangular. He expands the space adjacent to the kitchen with fireplace and grilling area, labeling it as “breakfast area and service to DR [dining room].”

Photo: Kahn Collection, 030.I.A.845.8

September 1971 scheme continued

Eyeballs mark overlooks on the second floor.

Photo: Kahn Collection, 030.I.A.845.09

March-April 1972

Boxing boys make an appearance in this sketch

Photo: Kahn Collection, 030.I.A.845.11

March 11, 1972

First floor

Photo: Kahn Collection, 030.I.C.845.1

March 11, 1972

Second floor

Photo: Kahn Collection, 030.I.C.845.1

March 1972 plan with materials

First floor. Notes do not appear to be in Kahn's hand.

Photo: Kahn Collection, 030.I.C.845.5

March 1972 plan with materials

Second floor

Photo: Kahn Collection, 030.I.C.845.5

Office memo

Photo: Kahn Collection, 030.II.A.36.28

April 29, 1972

First floor. This revised plan addressed concerns raised by Steven and Toby in March.

Photo: Kahn Collection, 030.I.C.845.1

April 29, 1972

Second floor

Photo: Kahn Collection, 030.I.C.845.1

Stair and railing details

Photo: Kahn Collection, 030.I.C.845.3

Living room window details

Photo: Kahn Collection, 030.I.C.845.3

Living room window details

Photo: Kahn Collection, 030.I.C.845.3

Joints

Photo: Kahn Collection, 030.I.A.845.44

Photo: Kahn Collection

August 1972

First floor. The house is still larger than the final October 1972 version.

Photo: Kahn Collection, 030.I.C.845.2

August 1972

Second floor

Photo: Kahn Collection, 030.I.C.845.2