Date of Award

Fall 2019

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Department

Visual & Performing Arts; College of Arts & Sciences

First Advisor

Dr. Elizabeth Ferrell

Abstract

Wharton Esherick (1887-1970) and Louis Isadore Kahn (1901-1974) had worked together for two years to create a workshop for Esherick in Paoli, Pennsylvania. This building has come to be known as either the Esherick Studio Addition or the 1956 Workshop (fig. 1). Thus far, literature about this collaboration has been limited to the fact that the Workshop was constructed under an informal arrangement between the two men as friends. However, the nature of the relationship between Kahn and Esherick as friends and as artists and the history of Esherick’s Workshop have remained a mystery since their deaths in the 1970s. This intensive study of the 1956 Workshop is intended to fill the aforementioned gap in scholarship and establish a comprehensive history of this valuable architectural project.

The final form of the Workshop makes it difficult to pinpoint which designer was responsible for any one decision, and as such, the essence of their partnership is a challenge to distinguish. Therefore, the whole of both artists’ careers up to the point that the Workshop was built needs to be analyzed in order to understand each of their contributions and the manner in which those contributions were handled. Kahn, as well as Anne Tyng, who was also closely involved with this structure, initially dominated the project, mainly in ideology and overall form. However, Esherick’s clever, underhanded alterations forced his hand into the foreground. This dynamic, a sort of skewed commission, leaves the Workshop unable to be categorized in either artist’s style and therefore vastly overlooked in scholarship, despite its incredibly valuable history to the study of both men.

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“No Such Thing as Level”: An Architectural Collaboration between Wharton Esherick and Louis Kahn

Wharton Esherick (1887-1970) and Louis Isadore Kahn (1901-1974) had worked together for two years to create a workshop for Esherick in Paoli, Pennsylvania. This building has come to be known as either the Esherick Studio Addition or the 1956 Workshop (fig. 1). Thus far, literature about this collaboration has been limited to the fact that the Workshop was constructed under an informal arrangement between the two men as friends. However, the nature of the relationship between Kahn and Esherick as friends and as artists and the history of Esherick’s Workshop have remained a mystery since their deaths in the 1970s. This intensive study of the 1956 Workshop is intended to fill the aforementioned gap in scholarship and establish a comprehensive history of this valuable architectural project.

The final form of the Workshop makes it difficult to pinpoint which designer was responsible for any one decision, and as such, the essence of their partnership is a challenge to distinguish. Therefore, the whole of both artists’ careers up to the point that the Workshop was built needs to be analyzed in order to understand each of their contributions and the manner in which those contributions were handled. Kahn, as well as Anne Tyng, who was also closely involved with this structure, initially dominated the project, mainly in ideology and overall form. However, Esherick’s clever, underhanded alterations forced his hand into the foreground. This dynamic, a sort of skewed commission, leaves the Workshop unable to be categorized in either artist’s style and therefore vastly overlooked in scholarship, despite its incredibly valuable history to the study of both men.

 
 

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