AD Classics: Esherick House / Louis Kahn

© Ludvík Koutný

An architect celebrated for his breathtaking studies of light and materiality in the creation of memorable architecture, Louis Kahn did not fail to maintain his rigor in the Esherick House of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Admired for it’s spatial and luminous qualities, this is the first residence of its kind to convey the grand ideas of Kahn-style architecture. The two story dwelling, which is one of only nine private houses designed by Kahn to come into realization, rests on a lively six acre garden.

More information on the Esherick House after the break.

© Todd Eberle

Kahn’s fusion of materials, natural Apitong with manmade beige , is true to his geometrically simple style which allows more emphasis to be placed on lighting and environmental context. The very orthogonal, monolithic composition is punctured by an irregular pattern of windows, revealing the warm interior. As is common in many styles of architecture, the interior walls are primarily white to accentuate the richness of the wood.

© Todd Eberle

Designing the residence for a book lover, Kahn’s open floor plan allows natural light to penetrate every corner through the floor-to-ceiling windows. The living room features built-in bookshelves that stretch up to the ceiling of the double-height space. A staircase that is reminiscent of Japanese architecture overlooks this living room space.

© Todd Eberle

Kahn breaks the boundaries of the box in only two instances, both of which are chimneys that symmetrically protrude from opposite ends of the dwelling. His seemingly simple floor plan can be further analyzed into four strips which house the service spaces, dining areas, circulation, and living room.

Courtesy of Ronan Beckerman
Courtesy of Ronan Beckerman

When experienced from the outside, the windows hint to the contents of the internal double height spaces. Their primary purpose is to allow the flow of light while permitting views to the beautiful surrounding landscape.

© Todd Eberle

In 1992, the house was awarded the distinguished honor of a Landmark Building Award from the Philadelphia chapter of the American Institute of Architects in 1992. Photographer Todd Eberle was brought in by Richard Wright to capture the beauty of the dwelling, to be published in the auction catalogue. It was put up for sale in May of 2008, and sold for an estimated three-million dollars.

Architect: Louis Kahn
Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 
Project Year: 1959-1961
References: Colin Davies, Klaus-Peter Gast
Rendering: Ludvík Koutný
Photographs: Todd Eberle, Ronan Beckerman

Cite: Sveiven, Megan. "AD Classics: Esherick House / Louis Kahn" 30 Jan 2012. ArchDaily. Accessed 27 Aug 2014. <>


  1. Thumb up Thumb down +4

    I did not know this house by Louis Kahn until 3d artist Ludvik Koutny showcased it on my blog… that feature image you use here on this post is actually a 3D RENDER of his, and not a photo… Although I’m sure he would take that as a complement!!! ;)

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    Great project, always loved Kahn’s use of concrete and timber.

    ps. That first picture is a render not a photo, guess you used it for it’s “luminous qualities”.

  3. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    this house is undeniably great architecture. The use of materials and the planning alone are a reminder of why Kahn has become a seminal charachter in the study and teaching of architecture.

  4. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    Louis Kahn’s Esherick House is fantastic but I would not much like to live there, like previous owners. Many modernist residential homes have been bought to museums as historical landmarks for people to come tour so they do not get torn down. For this I am glad, Louis Kahn design a gorgeous, simple elegant home that should be remembered and will teach us young designers what to look towards. Louis Kahn designed a great modernist house, with its open plan, creative use of lighting and garden spaces.

    • Thumb up Thumb down +1

      Since June of 2012, I have been living in a copy of the Esherick House built in the early 1960s outside of Pittsburgh. Of course, the materials, etc are not as fine, but as I write this I have the most beautiful views to the outdoors and light flooding in from almost every angle. Living in this home is an aesthetic wonder. This winter it often felt like we were inside a snow globe. The house is on 3.5 wooded acres. I so love it. The builder modified the plan to include 3 bedrooms upstairs and the fireplaces are in the central stack in front of the stairs. The gallery remains off of the master. Wish we has the wood Kahn used. Maybe we will slowly upgrade.

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      Savanah, I am just now reading your comment on the Esherick house and despite your misgivings about living there, it will be my home as of Friday. I hope we find living in the original as wonderful as Janine, below, finds living in the copy. It is a magical place.

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    Kahn’s Esherick House is an interesting example of how the human element can be taken into consideration when designing. The house has many similarities with Kahn’s other work (monument style mixed with modern materiality and technology) including his recognition as to how interior spaces should not only look, but feel. One thing that sparked my interest was how each interior space’s form responded to the function that it was thought to have. For example the living room space has a much higher ceiling to allow the sound of multiple people to fill the space comfortably.

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    i think that the Esherick House is not a house that has a room & living room & ….
    no, it is a room that we want to created her to house.

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