On Wednesday evening, a friend of ours who is a Realtor invited us to a high-end open house at a local architectural treasure - the Fisher-Kahn house. Located on a quiet residential street in a distinctly middle-class community, you would more likely expect to find the house nestled among the mansions of Philadelphia's wooded and very private Main Line neighborhood.
Beginning in 1964, Norman and Doris Fisher and architect Louis I. Kahn collaborated to design and build a single-family residence on three acres along "my" creek upstream of the preserve. The house sits just upslope of the floodplain, but the property also extends across the creek into a small woodland on the opposite bank that is accessible by a wooden bridge also designed by Kahn. The house is clad with tidewater cypress set above a foundation of local stone.
The house is comprised of two "cubes" set at a 45 degree angle from one another, separating the living, dining and kitchen areas from the bedrooms and baths. The house is a residential example of the ordering principles that are a hallmark of Kahn's larger and better-known institutional projects.
Dr. Fisher died about a decade ago, but Doris continued to live in the house until 2010. That year, she moved to Annapolis, Maryland, with her daughter and son-in-law, and donated the property to the National Trust for Historic Preservation (the Trust). The Trust is selling the property, but because the house retains a very high degree of architectural integrity, it is placing a preservation easement on the property in order to ensure the protection of its architectural values.
Kali and I could never afford the property (the Trust is asking in the high $400,000s), and we're not sure we'd want to live in a "museum" anyway. Nevertheless, it was a treat to visit the house, which we had toured once before years ago when the Fishers owned it. Besides, one of the conditions of the preservation easement is that the new owners allow public access at least once a year, so we'll still be able to get a periodic architectural "fix."