The Esherick House and its friendly owners

[One Week One Pic-k]

Esherick House by Louis Kahn


Louis Kahn was one of the most important architects of the 20th century in the United States. Not only was Philadelphia the city where he grew up, but also where he opened his architectural firm in 1935. Thus, in our trip to the city, we visited some of his work.

Here you have the Esherick House, commissioned by Margaret Esherick in 1959 and completed in 1961. It has a rectangular floor plan, only changed at the lateral facades by including two chimneys. The interior is organized in a very practical and usual way from Kahn’s architecture. He divided the house into served and servant spaces.

An unexpected surprise

The house is located in a residential neighborhood called Chestnut Hill, far away from the center of Philadelphia. Even though I knew that the house is private and the owners do not offer public tours, we went to see it from the exterior. Nevertheless, I was not even close to imagine what would happen later.

One of the friendly owners of the Esherick House walked out the door that you can see in the picture. When he saw that I was taking pictures of the facades, he invited me to visit the interior of the house. Even today, I cannot believe my luck. It was amazing visiting all the rooms and living spaces.

Visiting the Esherick House

The interior of the Esherick House is outstanding. Besides the exquisite taste of the owners for the furniture and decoration, all the details and finishes are superb. The floor plan -a perfect rectangle- is simple but fully functional. But what I liked the most was how the natural light came into all the rooms. Kahn designed an unusual configuration with windows and shutters to control exterior light and also provide natural ventilation.

The current owners assured me that it was a pleasure to live in the Esherick House. And with good reason, as this is one of the most studied of the nine built houses designed by Louis Kahn.

To conclude, I can only hope that some day the owners find this space and decide to invite me again. Only then could I bring you interior photographs of the Esherick House and post a whole Architectural Visit.

4 thoughts on “The Esherick House and its friendly owners

  1. I had the exact same experience in 1976 as an architecture student attending the AIA convention. I have no idea if the same owner lives there, but my friends and I. were invited in and had the best experience of the trip, if not of my college career. I remember the framed photo the owner had of “Lou.” After, we walked around the corner to find the Vanna Venturi house, but we didn’t get invited inside.

    1. Hi David! I bet it was a great experience!
      However, I don’t think they are the same owners. The current ones were young, and bought the house only some years ago. I’m happy to hear that the former owners were as nice as the new ones!

      By the way, I also tried the same with the Vanna Venturi House, but with no luck either…

      Thank you for your comment!

  2. I went to the Esherick house as a student about 20 years ago. I grew up in the area so it was exciting to see something architecturally stimulating in a fairly conservative. I much preferred it to Venturi’s mothers house down the street. The connection between the two is evident and I believe that Venturi was a teaching assistant to Louis Kahn so it’s great to see this discourse between modernism and post modernism. We didn’t go into the Esherick house but I think we were invited into Mothers House and spoke with the owner. It’s been so long now that the details are a blur. But it was pre internet so would have been great to have a blog to replay the experience.

    1. Wow! Thank you so much for your comment!
      I did not know that Venturi worked with Louis Kahn… But I totally agree that it is great to have both houses in the same area. Unfortunately I couldn’t visit the Vanna Venturi House, so I hope to be able to do it in the future! I would really like to see the interiors and how you can feel inside.
      I’m happy to bring back your memories of your student years! I hope to keep doing it 😉
      Best.

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