Weekly Top Ten Real Estate Hot List Tue: 09-18-2012
Although he's been dead for over 38 years, world-renowned architect Louis Kahn is back in the news with the October 24th opening of his Four Freedoms Park design in New York City. In the 1960’s national urban renewal movement, New York Mayor John Lindsay and Governor Nelson Rockefeller were early supporters of an idea to rename what was then known as Welfare Park to honor President Franklin D. Roosevelt with a modern public park and landmark. In 1972, Philadelphia based architect Louis Kahn was given the commission to design the new park on a four-acre landfill at the southern tip of the renamed Roosevelt Island. However, Kahn died suddenly of a heart attack in New York’s Pennsylvania Station in 1974. The completed sketch work for the park was found in the briefcase Kahn was carrying when he died.
After Kahn's death, the park plan faced numerous political, economic and business roadblocks for years before New York civic leaders, especially former Robert F. Kennedy adviser and current chairman of the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute, William Vanden Heuvel, were finally able to get the project moving in 2010. The triangular-shaped park was derived in inspiration from Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms speech in 1941 and is Kahn’s only New York work. Kahn designed the park with his customary use of clean lines, abundant light, precise angles, natural materials and clear views, including the Statue of Liberty and the East River. Critics say this may be Kahn’s best work and puts an exclamation point on his reputation as one of the most influential architects of the last century.
Another Kahn design in the news is his Esherick House in Philadelphia’s Chestnut Hill neighborhood, which is currently for sale. Louis Kahn and Wharton Esherick, who was an artist and furniture designer, were close friends, and Kahn designed the 2500 square foot house for Wharton’s niece, Margaret Esherick. Constructed of warm beige concrete, rectangular style, a flat roof and natural Apitong wood, this 1 bedroom, 1 bath home is a classic example of mid-century design and functionality. Divided into two parts by a central strip, the house contains what Kahn referred to as served spaces which were the main living areas and servant spaces of hallways, closets and bathrooms. Margaret was a bookseller and Kahn designed large built-in shelving into the plan contributing to the home’s unique character. Other features that have become a staple of today’s modern homes include odd-shaped windows, big white walls and elevated walkways.
Kahn was not a particularly prolific architect (he had three families with three different women, and didn’t become a well-known designer until he was in his 50s) and Esherick House is one of the most famous of the nine homes he designed. It initially came on the market in June 2011 at $1,900,000 and was recently reduced to $1,250,000.