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Ray Kappe’s buildings, frequently featuring extensive spans of glass and warm wood, are known for their embrace of their often unusual sites and the California landscape. But Kappe’s impact on Southern California extends well beyond his own architectural practice. His work as an educator and as founding director of the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc) ensure that Kappe’s unique approach to building continues to inspire generations of architects.

In this episode, Ray Kappe, joined by his wife, Shelly, and their son Finn, discusses his long career. This episode was recorded at the home Kappe designed for his family in the Pacific Palisades, which was completed in 1967 and which is discussed in detail in the episode.

Kappe house (1957). Rectangular forms of warm wood and white concrete with a lush lawn in front.

Job 4353: Ray Kappe, Kappe House, 1968/69, Julius Schulman. Getty Research Institute, 2004.R.10. © J. Paul Getty Trust


JAMES CUNO: This fall, the Getty is releasing a new podcast series, Recording Artists, with host Helen Molesworth. This season explores the lives and work of six women artists—Alice Neel, Lee Krasner, Betye Saar, Helen Frankenthaler, Yoko Ono, and Eva Hesse—through archival interviews drawn from the Getty Research Institute, plus conversations with contemporary artists and art historians.
Look for Recording Artists on November 12 wherever you get your podcasts.
Hello, I’m Jim Cuno, president of the J. Paul Getty Trust. Welcome to Art and Ideas, a podcast in which I speak to artists, conservators, authors, and scholars about their work.
RAY KAPPE: I think you have to be authentic. I think you have to know who you are, and believe in who you are, and work that way.
CUNO: In this episode, I speak with California architect Ray Kappe.
Ray Kappe was born in Minneapolis, attended high school in Los Angeles. He studied for one semester at UCLA before being drafted into the Army in 1945, and ultimately took his Bachelor of Architecture degree at the University of California, Berkeley.
Ray is renowned for designing residential architecture, which has been described as “the apotheosis of the California House,” light-filled post and beam structures poetically engaged with the drama of their natural settings.
He opened his own practice in 1954. In 1972, after three years as professor and founding chairman of the Department of Architecture at California Polytechnic State University, Pomona, he left with a group of faculty members and students and started the Southern California Institute of Architecture, SCI-Arc.
The Ray Kappe Archive of his drawings, models, and papers is now housed at the Getty Research Institute.
My conversation with Ray Kappe was recorded at the Kappe house in Pacific Palisades, California, in the company of his wife Shelly and son Finn, both of whom can be heard on this podcast. The house, which Ray designed, was built in 1967, and is filled with the books, models, drawings, and photographs of an architect.
At age 92. Ray uses an oxygen machine. Occasional beeps from the machine might be heard in the background of our conversation.
Thank, Ray, for giving us so much of your time on this Getty podcast. I want to talk to you about your architectural career. You started your architectural practice, I think, in 1953, over sixty years ago. And you were dedicated then, as you have been, to designing structures committed to the ideal of the California lifestyle, joining emphatic sense of structure with a deep sensitivity to the natural setting of an often quite dramatic site. What was it like starting off in 1953?
RAY KAPPE: It was fantastic.
CUNO: As easy as that.
KAPPE: Well, we started in ’53. There was a lotta work after World War II. So for a young architect, it was really great because you could very quickly enter the field. The one problem is that in California, we always were starting with houses. You know, in Los Angeles particularly. And all of the preceding architects had pretty much done the same thing. New guys, you worked up to where you were getting bigger work later on in your life. Those of us who did better houses ended up being known more for our houses than anything else.
Anyway, to answer your question simply, there was a lot of housing. And I was fortunate, as well, to also be able to do my first job for myself and my father.
CUNO: And that was in 1954. That was the National Boulevard Apartments, yeah.
KAPPE: Right.
CUNO: But you became so quickly so well known as an architect of houses.
KAPPE: I was known more for my apartments early.
CUNO: Oh, right. How many apartment buildings did you design?
KAPPE: Oh, I don’t know, I haven’t really kept count of them. Maybe half a dozen, a dozen maybe.
CUNO: Did the architecture schools at Berkeley or USC or UCLA take into account this economic and social development of Los Angeles or of the West Coast, such that you were educated or you were trained to design houses or apartments or—? Was that a big part of the training of an architecture student then?
KAPPE: No. We had projects every five weeks. You turned in projects every five weeks. And so every semester, we would have three studio projects. And we were treated pretty much like they had treated students there in Beaux-Arts education. You didn’t have to come to his class if you didn’t want to. You just had to present the project. You didn’t even present it, you just had to get it on the cart. At the end of five weeks. And there was a jury of four people. And one of those was your instructor. Three were not. In the jury room, and they were placed according to merit, all around the room. And then the students would walk in and see where the—
CUNO: Was there a difference between the kind of training that you got at Berkeley and the training that someone would’ve gotten at USC or UCLA? Was there a north-south divide in the training of architecture?
KAPPE: There was a difference. The training at USC was based upon architects, well, like, Harrell Harris. I guess Neutra and Schindler, as well, obviously. But Cal Straub was a young professor who had a tremendous amount of impact on his students. He was teaching what I was doing.
Everyone always wants to say Case Study Houses but it was just a small portion of the housing that was going on. Most of the houses were wood houses. They weren’t the steel houses that were [inaudible]. They were really mostly wooden houses, post-and-beam houses.
CUNO: Yeah. When you came back to Los Angeles after Berkeley, what buildings were influential on you, for you? Neutra, Schindler houses?
KAPPE: I have to say, the work I was doing with Carl Maston— I mean, he was a very good architect. Not one who got a lot of recognition all over the place, but a very good architect. And his thinking and my thinking were fairly similar. Was very similar. And so that was the most influence. And Neutra was, obviously. I mean, Schindler less, even though I admire Schindler, but he was less. Frank Lloyd Wright was what was [inaudible]—
CUNO: When you went so quickly into housing and stayed in housing from the beginning, with the apartments and going into the houses, did you quickly feel like the house itself, as a problem, as a opportunity for creating a social environment for a family, offered you some opportunities, some freedom that a commercial building project wouldn’t have given you?
KAPPE: Oh, yes. Well, housing is, I think, one of the most beautiful projects you can get. It has usually a reasonably complex program. Say, versus a major building, where there’s the core, there’s office space, a very highly-planned layout [inaudible]. That’s a simpler diagram to work with. A house, which might have a complex lot site, this, that, different clients.
So one of the first ones after the National Apartment was a lot out in Baldwin Hills. And these people had seen the apartment. But they had a lot that kind of was a fan-shaped lot. And we talked and the wife said she had envisioned it like a big bird landing. Well, that’s a pretty strong image.
CUNO: Yeah, yeah.
KAPPE: And they didn’t want anything on the north side of the solid wall. It had to all be glass. For viewing, you see. So those were the two main programmatic issues. And so that’s the way the house was designed.
CUNO: Now, you designed and built your own house in 1956.
KAPPE: Well, that was for my parents.
CUNO: Oh, it was for your parents.
KAPPE: I had two projects. The apartment first and then the house for them.
CUNO: What were your ambitions for the house? What were the sources for it? By the look of it, the photographs of it, there’s a sense of Japanese architecture to it. Was that just a reference?
KAPPE: No, it was about just pleasing my mother, primarily. And you see a Japanese reference. I didn’t in the house. But I just always like to— We were always apartment dwellers, number one.
CUNO: Apartment dwellers?
KAPPE: Yeah, we didn’t have a house. My dad didn’t want a house. He wanted to just live in an apartment and be free, be able to leave and go and not have to deal with the problems of a house. My grandfather was a builder. And maybe that was the reason he wanted to stay away from houses. Anyway.
SHELLY KAPPE: It was to be their retirement home. And just as the house was finishing, his father did some work on it and had a heart attack.
SHELLY: He was doing something, some polishing, cleaning that he wasn’t supposed to be doing, but he wanted to be involved with it. And he passed away at a very young age. He was only fifty-one. And it was a big loss to us. He was a very special man.
And his mother didn’t wanna sell the house, didn’t wanna move in alone. So she decided that we as a family should move into the house. It was a family house. And so that’s how it became our house.
And so we lived there until we kind of were outgrowing it. Our kids were growing into teenagers, and we started thinking about another house, which became the Brooktree house here in the Canyon.
CUNO: This treehouse, yeah. The house we’re in.
And I should say for our podcast listeners that we’re talking to Shelly Kappe.
So we’re sitting in a house that was designed or built in 1967. Is that right?
KAPPE: Well, it started in ’65.
CUNO: Right, right.
KAPPE: Ended in ’67.
CUNO: And this is of a scale quite different than the first house that you built for your family.
KAPPE: Yes, really. Well, we added a studio, which was one major part. And the kids had their own bedrooms here, and over there they shared this one room.
CUNO: You should try and describe, if you can for us, the site because the site is so dramatic. And in fact, you opened up the building to the site very easily, obviously. But it’s a dramatic site. What made you choose the site?
KAPPE: Well, in 1957, I did a house two doors up the street. And I always liked the canyon. It was a special place in L.A. So in the early sixties, I started looking for property here. There were only, like, one, two, maybe three sites that were vacant along here.
There was a site up the street. And I was too late for that one. Which I’m happy I didn’t get now. And then there was this one, which was a more complicated site ’cause it had all the water on it. It had falling trees and— It was pretty interesting. But I thought it was a nice challenge.
CUNO: It was more than a challenge. I mean, it seems to be a poetic partnership between the engineering of the house and this— and its relationship to the site.
KAPPE: Well, I felt that way[?], yeah. Because the first house I designed was different, because the geologist had said that we could probably stop the water by having a French drain. And that we’d have to wait about six months and it’d all be dried out and we’ll just use conventional foundations. So that’s what I did.
And it was quite different. It was more about kind of a front courthouse, in a way, kind of winding around the location, the rooms. It was somewhat similar to this but more complex in some ways, but less structurally indulgent.
So anyway, when I started to build here, the first day, the backhoe sinks. So I said, “That’s it. Stop.” So wet. So I’m going to just throw these away and I’ll do another house. And so that’s when I kind of quit. We sat down and redesigned. And I was working on schemes somewhat like this, because I was thinking about prefabrication and modulars that I could work that way.
This site also is unusual because it slopes forty-five degrees to the front plane. In other words, we’re not going down the hill parallel to the hill. Normally, on a hill site, you retain and go down this way or you lift. And I wanted to be parallel to the street, ’cause most of the houses were parallel and I wasn’t one of these guys who had to figure out a crazy way or not do that.
That right away changes your whole dynamic. That creates these levels going up this way, and also that way.
And I thought that that probably would work ’cause I could set it down and limited spaces and bridge. And these units could take all of the seismic earthquake loads and all the vertical loads, as well, the loads coming out. So the rest of the house doesn’t bear any weight.
So what you’re seeing is all this, everything’s taken by concrete. This is just sort of a bridge. And if people jump hard enough over there, you’ll feel it over here.
CUNO: Yeah. we should describe for the podcast listeners that we’re sitting in a house on a steep incline. Is there any open land? Is there any kind of flat surface land? Did the children ever have some land to play ball on or anything?
KAPPE: On the third level.
CUNO: The house itself. Or there’s land up there?
KAPPE: The roof. The roof, at one time, the pool, everything up there. But the kids, the children at that time, the youngest was ten, I would say, and the oldest was sixteen. And I thought they should enjoy the ocean. I thought they should hike down the creek to the ocean and swim there.
CUNO: It’s almost like you’re living in a treehouse.
KAPPE: Well, some people didn’t like[?] that, yeah.
CUNO: Yeah. So Shelly, you are both a client and a partner in this. What is it like to have lived in a house like this for as long as you have?
SHELLY: [she laughs] It’s a wonderful house to live in. It’s been a great adventure sharing with our family growing up, enjoying the canyon and nature, always knowing what’s going on outside, inside.
CUNO: Because it’s filled with glass.
SHELLY: Because of the use of glass, yes. Glass is an important material for Ray Kappe.
CUNO: And wood, of course. Ray, was your interest in wood and concrete something that you took with you to clients, or did— eventually something that clients imposed upon you because you were so well known for wood and concrete?
KAPPE: Yeah, it was more imposed upon me. I would usually try to do other things. And I have, but nobody ever comes back for those.
CUNO: Yeah.
KAPPE: And so they want wood, I do wood. I don’t— I don’t have an objection. It’s just that wood is— it’s not easy to maintain. It has its faults, it has its advantages. But most people didn’t like steel in the early days because they thought it was too cold. Very hard to talk anybody into a steel house.
CUNO: At this point in our visit, Finn Kappe, Ray’s son, and himself an architect, gave us a tour of the house.
We have the good fortune of being here with Finn Kappe, who grew up in this house, being the youngest child in the family. So Finn, maybe you could take us through the house and give us a sense of how you understand the house and the way it works. And the house we’re talking about is the family home, the Kappe House.
FINN: Well, I was ten when we moved in, so I didn’t understand it at first at all. What I understood was Rustic Canyon Park and the beach down the street, which was my good luck as a ten-year-old. But later, as a teenager and working with my dad and my own practice, it’s always a pleasure to discuss the house technically first, because it’s simple, in a way.
There’s six concrete towers that rise up out of a unbuildable site, with springs coming out of it, water flowing. And glulam beams span between those six towers and create a bridging house that steps with the site and really leaves the site alone.
So what’s beautiful about the house to me, ultimately, is it can be talked about very, very simply, almost in terms of three pieces, a structural parti of maybe three things. And then you look at the house, or hopefully, you experience the house outside and in, and it’s fairly indescribable. And you can’t really quantify it. Was it Louie Kahn who said this sort of thing? That’s the experience of architecture, going from the unquantifiable to the quantifiable process. And if it’s a good piece of work, ultimately, it’s unquantifiable again. I’d say this house qualifies for that.
CUNO: So these vertical piles, they each have a separate function, or they have similar functions?
FINN: So the vertical concrete towers have a similar function, in that they take the gravity loads and the seismic loads. And programmatically, they’re usually either a stairwell or a bathroom.
One other thing is that the concrete towers, there’s a skylight on every one of them. So one beautiful element is that even though the concrete towers are fairly massive, the light that comes in through the skylights really breaks that down and softens that, along with the bush hammered finish on the concrete. So that really does a wonderful thing to bleed the inside and outside relationships.
CUNO: Are there three horizontal levels or two horizontal levels? Or sixteen?
FINN: There might be sixteen. That’s closer.
The organization of the house, down the middle are the more social spaces—the kitchen, dining, stepping down to dining, stepping down to living room, stepping back up to the upper living room. And a full story below that is the architectural studio. Meanwhile, branching off of one edge of the house is the kids’ bedrooms. And at the complete opposite end is the master bedroom.
Cantilevers are a favorite thing. Knowing materials and using them to their limitations is a favorite thing, and done extremely well in a house like this.
There’s a lot of nice wood details in this house, too. In the roof, the joists, the redwood joists. They are about a mile long, too, going the other direction, and they needed to be spliced at a certain point extremely cleverly. And so they’re done in a way over one of the beams, and there’s— They’re built up. There’s a two-by and there’s a one-by on each side, making a kind of redwood joist sandwich. And because of that, it was able to extend and carry out all the way to this trellis at the front and towards the backyard. If you think about it, a tree, getting lumber that long out of one piece of wood is not easily done.
CUNO: What about the pieces of glass? I mean, they themselves are ambitious in size and scale.
FINN: They’re fearless, yeah. And at the time, they could be a quarter inch and untampered and mitered on all the corners to try to dissolve that visual experience.
CUNO: And the landscaping, could you describe the landscaping?
FINN: My version is that a lot of it was here, the ivy, things like that, and that was embraced and allowed to go. The fascinating thing to me is, architecture like this, the relationship between the house and the trees and the nature, after a while, you can’t tell which one came first. And they grow up around each other. And certainly, they’re left alone as much as possible in the first place, and then they kind of mature into embracing the architecture even further, in this case.
Just endless, endless, endless lessons. You know, when I started working with my dad here, I would always be getting up and just walking around the house to check a few things, and always would find something new, you know? Working on a job and saying, “Wait a minute. Let me go reference this. And how did he do that?”
I’ve been here for years, and found new stuff all the time.
CUNO: Following the tour, we returned to our conversation with Ray Kappe.
What about the Gertler House, 1970?
KAPPE: What about it?
CUNO: Well, it’s also in a very dramatic site.
KAPPE: Yeah.
CUNO: What about that house or that site challenged you?
KAPPE: Well, what I liked about that site was again, it was a major— the major tree in there was eucalyptus. The Gertlers came to me. They had a lot in L.A. And in the discussion, they asked where I was building. And I told them I was building here in the canyon. And they said, “It’s a great lot, if you wanna take a look at it.” There’s lots of— that whole eucalyptus stand behind it. Nobody’ll build there. “If I lift your house the way I want to, you’ll have a very nice house.”
So anyway, that’s where we started and I took it from there. And by raising it, I used the same idea. And we lifted the house.
CUNO: You lifted the house.
KAPPE: Up. And it had then this view over the whole canyon.
CUNO: Oh, that’s interesting because in the— in the books about your architecture, the Gertler House seems to be situated at the base of a tree-filled lot. And the trees come rise up around it. And so I didn’t think there would be any view from the house itself, but views onto the house.
KAPPE: No, [inaudible] shot from the across the canyon. That makes it look sitting in trees.
CUNO: Yeah, it makes it seem like it’s nestled into a densely-wooded lot.
KAPPE: Yeah. Well, that’s what it was, in a way, but it was lifted. So between the trees and the change of levels, you get all this interplay.
CUNO: So it was about this time in 1968, I think, that you formed a partnership. What made you form the partnership?
KAPPE: Well, I joined the AIA urban design committee. There were several young guys who were trying to look at housing in the hillsides and how you could do it better than it had been done, better than just cut and fill and, you know, pads.
Two of those became very much involved with me. And we started doing work of that sort. First at hill sites. We turned out a book for the AIA on that, a little small one, on techniques to be used. Then the planning department came to us and wanted us to do work with them.
CUNO: So the partnership emerged out of this work on the committee?
KAPPE: Yeah, that’s the short answer.
CUNO: Yeah.
KAPPE: So then in about 1967, one day Herb Kahn, one of the partners, and I were out to lunch. And Herb said, “Have you ever thought of our getting together and doing a planning cooperative, where we’d have all the disciplines.
And I said, “That’s great. That’s been something I wanted to do, too.” So he said, “Well, why don’t we do it?” So I said, “Fine.” And the Rex Lotery, who was the third one we were working with, was asked whether he was interested, too. And he was. And so that’s what happened. There was the three of us.
We first started a planning collaborative. And we also had Kahn, Kappe, Lotery as a firm, as well. And then we had our own firms, as well. So we had it in at our studio. We had a space about as big as this house here, and we each had our own little pod that we worked from.
And we started to get a lot of— We had a lot of work in Inglewood. That was where we started. And we had quite a bit of work there. And then they did so well in Inglewood that their people were hired into Santa Monica and other places around the city. So we were working with Santa Monica, and then we were working with L.A. and Beverly Hills and Compton and Downtown Los Angeles and—
CUNO: Wow.
KAPPE: So for about twelve years, we had it. We were a small firm doing a lot of urban design and planning work. About half our work was that kind of work.
CUNO: What brought the partnership to a close?
KAPPE: Well, first, Herb Kahn decided he didn’t— After we had done the Downtown people mover—we had done a project for that—he decided that was enough for him. He decided he wanted to go up to Santa Cruz. So he went north.
Then in L.A., the old planning director left and the new one who came in was from Minneapolis. And he had developed his own team to do the kind of work we were doing.
CUNO: He brought that work in-house, as it were.
KAPPE: So then he brought it in-house.
CUNO: Yeah.
KAPPE: So that meant that good work that we had was no longer there for the CRA Redevelopment Agency.
CUNO: Yeah.
KAPPE: So then we did have more work, but it wasn’t as much fun anymore. And so one day Rex and I went out to lunch again and he said, “Are you having any fun?” I said, “No.” He said, “You wanna break it up?” I said, “Sure.”
CUNO: That was it.
KAPPE: That was that. It was a beautiful partnership.
CUNO: Over those years, with that different kind of work that you did, did it lead to greater experimentation in designing houses? I’m thinking of the Friedman[sp?] House in Santa Monica in 1981 and the Sheimer House in Manhattan Beach in 1988, both of which were made with very different kinds of forms and materials than the wooden houses that preceded them.
KAPPE: No, uh-uh, that isn’t what happened. Again, those happened because of the client. And the site. The Friedman House is one of the— I think the first house I ever had on a flat site. So that was one part of it.
Number two, because of the value of land and so forth, you now could go up higher than what people had done before. Also, if you get up high enough, you could see the ocean. And I was trying to get, also, a very big solar response. And so the whole center portion was set up [inaudible] collectors. I mean, that was the beginning of it.
CUNO: So Ray, throughout your design career, you have taught architecture. In 1968, you became founding chairman of the department of architecture at Cal State Polytechnic Pomona. And three years later, you were the founder of SCI-Arc, the Southern California Institute of Architecture. What was it about teaching that attracted you, and how did teaching influence your architectural practice?
KAPPE: I continue to be interested in the education process. And particularly when I had young people come to my office to either work or to be interviewed or what have you, I would find out a lot about what was going on at USC, which was the only architecture school anyway here. So as that was going on, I taught these couple times at USC. And I was evaluating their program, as well. And I felt a lot of it was excellent, but a lot of parts I thought were a little weak. So that’s when I became a little more interested.
But the Cal Poly thing happened by just being put on a list of people they were interviewing to start a department at Cal Poly. And because I had done all this work with planning, urban design, as well as architecture, they thought I would be a good fit for environmental design school, where there was already landscape and planning in place.
And I thought it was a great opportunity to attempt to do a very good environmental design school, because architecture was coming in last, not at the beginning. Usually it’s at the beginning; it’s larger than the other two programs. The other two programs never get equal, and so forth. So that was the way we kind of started.
The program started with twenty-five students, architecture. In three and a half years, we grew to 325 students. Well, no education program does that. You know, really. They usually take five years to decide whether they should even start.
Well, a couple of times, the dean comes back to me and says, “That isn’t what I asked for.” And I said, “Beg your pardon, but I think that’s what you asked for.” And it happened once, it happened twice. Then I said, “Bill, how about coming into my office.” Anyway, I just told him what I thought of him. The next Monday, he asked me to resign my post. In the meantime, I had built up the faculty that I’d hired, you know, for the program; developed the curriculum; had the whole thing in place, doing well.
And so the students, there was a big uprising. And this went on for a while. And we had a meeting in a big auditorium with the president of the university. And then he asked me what I thought and I said, “Well, when I came here, I thought I could make this one of the best programs in the country.” The president said to me, “We don’t want that.” That was a shock.
Anyway, what finally happened was that a group of us got together and said, “Let’s start our own school.” Because I felt we were doing everything anyway. We were doing everything except the finance. And so I felt with a secretary, I could run a school easily.
And so I was aware of a couple of spots out here in the Westside. There was one building there at Berkeley and Nebraska. I pulled the program back to the Westside, mainly ’cause all the faculty were from over here. They didn’t live out in Pomona.
And fortunately, we had seventy-five students to start. We didn’t get all. Not all the students would come because I’m sure their parents weren’t too thrilled to go to a program that had no stature at all, as far as the parents would know.
So anyway, that was the beginning. So we sat down with the students and we brainstormed what kind of a program would be the best we could do as an architectural school. And we put this back and forth and tried to have it as open as it could be, encouraging independent study, if so desired. So anyway, that what was SCI-Arc was really all about. And a lot of these were my ideas that I wanted to try. And some of them were the ones students wanted to try.
CUNO: So how long did it take for the program to get accredited?
KAPPE: Four years.
CUNO: Four years?
KAPPE: We got accredited before UCLA. UCLA had started earlier, but the first program at UCLA stopped, and then they started a second program.
Anyway, when we started SCI-Arc, four years was phenomenal. So that was four years for the undergrad and there’s another two years for the graduate program.
We had amazing[?] students in the graduate program at that time. And luckily for me, the young faculty that came along were the ones that were more sure to be fired. They had just been hired on. So I had those who were willing to leave and see what they could do here.
So we started very open. There’s a whole history to it, but that’s too long to go into on this.
But SCI-Arc immediately got a big reputation as being this alternative of avant-garde, you know, a free-flowing place. That’s partly because of the way I like to direct, more in a horizontal type direction and letting people become who they are. If you make it that way, I think then they’re usually very excellent people. If they can’t make it that way, they usually should leave. They should decide for themselves they should leave.
CUNO: You’ve had a long and lustrous career, Ray. And thinking back on it, what is your assessment of the state of architecture today, especially this architecture in Southern California?
KAPPE: Well, I have a hard time with that question. First of all, it seems like architecture is many things. And I think the way it’s taught at SCI-Arc now is many things. I don’t think it’s anything specifically this or that or that or this; it’s just almost anything goes that you can think about. And if you get it built, more power to you. But as far as really advancing, I don’t know.
I think you have to be authentic. I think you have to know who you are, and believe in who you are, and work that way. I think students particularly should not try to follow other people right away. It’s too late already. It’s been done.
So what’s the state? Southern California is still a great place to practice. It has a lot of diversity, it has a lot of freedom, it has a lot going for it. A lot of problems to be solved. It’s the same as when I first came down. In the fifties, there were lots of problems to be solved. Some have been solved. Some have come along.
SCI-Arc has benefitted tremendously for where we’re located downtown. We’re right in the hub of the Arts District. And so it’s here to stay. It’s financially viable and it’s academically viable. So I’m very proud of that.
CUNO: So Ray, thank you. It’s been a great pleasure speaking with you today. And of course, in your house, the house designed for you and your family. It’s great that your wife Shelly was here with you and your son Finn was here. We had a chance to talk with Finn as we walked around the house. So thanks so much for your time.
KAPPE: Okay. Thank you for your time.
CUNO: Our theme music comes from “The Dharma at Big Sur,” composed by John Adams for the opening of the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles in 2003. It is licensed with permission from Hendon Music. Look for new episodes of Art and Ideas every other Wednesday. Subscribe on Apple Podcasts or Google Play Music. For photos, transcripts, and other resources, visit Thanks for listening.

JAMES CUNO: This fall, the Getty is releasing a new podcast series, Recording Artists, with host Helen Molesworth. This season explores the lives and work of six women artists—Alice Neel, Lee Krasner, Betye Saar, Helen Frankenthaler, Yoko Ono, and Eva Hesse—through archival interviews drawn f...

Music Credits

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This post is part of Art + Ideas, a podcast in which Getty president Jim Cuno talks with artists, writers, curators, and scholars about their work.
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