Theses (Historic Preservation)

Document Type

Thesis or dissertation

Date of this Version



A THESIS in Historic Preservation Presented to the Faculties of the University of Pennsylvania in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements of the Degree of MASTER OF SCIENCE IN HISTORIC PRESERVATION 2009


The preservation of architecturally significant structures has begun to experience a shift in both style and future use. No longer are Jeffersonian and Antebellum homes the focus of young preservationists and the ‘little old ladies’ that preceded them; rather, the tide has shifted towards structures that were both disdained and revered during their time. Modernist structures, while simplistic in form and function, contain a high degree of embedded meaning and significance. While the study focuses on the work of Louis I. Kahn – specifically the Norman Fisher house – an understanding of the design intent and overall role of the details within Mid-Century Modernist designs can contribute to future preservation practices involving similar structures. The purpose of this study is to gain an understanding of Kahn’s maturation as a designer and his approach to both embedded truths and the layering of meanings within his designs. In the end, the goal was to further the understanding of the Fisher House, its detail work, and its place within the larger context of Kahn’s career. Kahn’s use of traditional forms – augmented by the precision of modern technology – throughout his late work represents his multifaceted approach to design, attempting to appeal to both the psyche and the materials, themselves, in order to maintain their ‘trueness to Form’. Kahn was not merely recycling traditionalism, but rather retranslating ‘known’ forms – in both assembly and aesthetics – in order to convey a certain aura.



Date Posted: 20 October 2009