Esherick House

Esherick House

The Esherick House in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is one of the most studied of the nine built houses designed by American architect Louis Kahn. Commissioned by Margaret Esherick, it was completed in 1961.

The house is noted especially for its spatial organization and for the ventilation and natural lighting provided by its unusual window and shutter configuration. A kitchen of wood and copper was created for the house by Wharton Esherick, a nationally known craftsman and artist.

The Esherick House is one of the most studied of the nine built houses designed by American architect Louis Kahn. Located at 204 Sunrise Lane in the Chestnut Hill neighborhood of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S., it was commissioned by Margaret Esherick in 1959 and completed in 1961. Its copper and wood kitchen was created by Wharton Esherick, a nationally known craftsman and artist who was also her uncle. The Esherick House received the Landmark Building Award from the Philadelphia chapter of the American Institute of Architects in 1992 and was added to Pennsylvania Register of Historic Places in 2009.

The 2500 sq feet (230 sq m), single-bedroom house is a flat-roofed, rectangular solid with its long side facing the street. The primary building material is concrete block with stucco facing.

Kahn designed an addition to the house in 1962-1964 for its subsequent owner, Mrs. C. Parker, but it was never built. Designed to blend seamlessly with the existing house, the addition would have increased the house’s size significantly by extending the house to the left as one faces the front door.

Spatial organization

Kahn often divided his buildings into what he called served spaces (primary areas) and servant spaces (corridors, bathrooms, etc.) The Esherick house is organized into four alternating served and servant spaces, which in this case are parallel two-story strips that run the full width of the house between front to back.

The most prominent served space is the two-story living room that occupies all of the house to the right of the front door. Most of its front wall is occupied by a built-in bookcase (Margaret Esherick was a bookseller) that reaches up to the horizontal window at the second story. The side wall contains a deep fireplace.

The adjacent servant space is a thin communication strip that contains the front and back doors plus the two balconies above them, all of which are set in alcoves. This strip also contains the house’s stairway and a gallery at the top of the stairs that overlooks the living room.

To the left of the front door is a served space occupied by the foyer and dining room on the ground floor and the bedroom on the upper floor. Like the living room, the bedroom runs the full width of the house from front to rear.

At the far left of the house is the remaining servant space, occupied on the ground floor by kitchen, laundry room and bathroom, and on the upper floor by bathroom and closets. All the plumbing of the house is in this strip. On the upper floor, the bathtub is located not in the area with the toilet but in an adjoining area that contains a fireplace. The bathtub has a sliding wooden cover that can be pulled over it to convert it into a sofa beside the fireplace.


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