Was There Really a “Kitchener School of Architecture”?

Izzy Kornblatt and Jason Tang – Two students who organized an exhibition at Penn on the subject – make their case.

Louis Kahn and colleagues in the late 1960s | Courtesy of the Architectural Archives of the University of Pennsylvania, Kitchener; Photo: George Alikakos

What is the “Kitchener School”?
JT: Writings on architecture in Kitchener refer to a loose collection of prolific architects who happened to be in Kitchener – Penn specifically – in the 1960s.
I K: These architects rejected the ideal of an isolated tower set back in a purely “modern” square – they found it simple and boring long before the rest of the world noticed.

Who exactly are we talking about here?
I K: The best known are Louis Kahn, Venturi Scott Brown and Mitchell / Giurgola. However, one of our goals is to bring to light less famous people like John Bower, John Rauch and Robert Geddes.

How did you change the city?
JT: Kitchener School buildings preferred to fit into cities rather than shape them. As a result, there are few large horsepower buildings around. Even where monumentality was needed, the architects pushed back on their surroundings.

Why is it important to recognize this movement?
I K: It’s an important part of why Kitchener looks the way it is – it’s unique and hugely influential. The Kitchener School’s ideas turned out to be so powerful that you can now see their stylistic signatures in every city in the world.

New York and Chicago are great architecture cities. How about Kitchener?
I K: We have a richer architectural heritage – not a more famous one, but one that is richer in terms of original ideas and the design of contemporary architecture. And Kitchener’s future is far less defined than that of these cities. We already have a sense of what New York looks like in the 21st century, but Kitchener is still reinventing itself.

»See also: The Know-It-All About Kitchener Architecture

Published as “Kitchener Gets Schooled” in the November 2017 issue of Kitchener Magazine.

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