William Whitaker is the curator and collections manager of the Architectural Archives of the University of Pennsylvania Weitzman School of Design. Trained as an architect and architectural historian at the University of New Mexico and the University of Pennsylvania, Whitaker primarily works on documenting and interpreting Penn’s design collections, including holdings related to the of life and work of architect Louis I. Kahn and landscape architect Lawrence Halprin, as well as that of the husband and wife design team of Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown.
He has organized and co-curated over 30 exhibitions, including retrospectives on Antonin and Noemi Raymond (2006), Wharton Esherick (2008), and Anne Griswold Tyng (2011) and served as the director of research for the landmark retrospective, Out of the Ordinary: The Architecture and Design of Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown & Associates, organized by the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 2001, and as curatorial consultant for Louis Kahn: The Power of Architecture, a major exhibition of the architect's work organized by the Vitra Design Museum in 2012; currently on world tour with venues in Rotterdam, Oslo, London, Taipei and San Diego. Most recently he co-curated "Experiments in Environment: The Halprin Workshops, 1966-71" (with Sarah Herda and Ellen Alderman; 2014) for the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts as well as "Venturi's Grandmother: Patterns for Production" for the Fabric Workshop and Museum in Philadelphia (with Kathryn Heisinger & others; 2014).
Whitaker has co-authored: The Houses of Louis I. Kahn (Yale University Press, 2013) with George Marcus, the first comprehensive study of the architect’s house designs, and is also a co-editor of Crafting a Modern World: The Architecture and Design of Antonin and Noemi Raymond (Princeton Architectural Press, 2006) with Kurt Helfrich.
He has lectured on a wide range of subjects related to twentieth century architecture, landscape, and community design in the greater Philadelphia region, to audiences in the United States, Canada, Germany and India.
“Foreword”, in Miracles in Concrete: Structural Engineer August Komendant. Basel, Switzerland and Tallin, Estonia; Birkhäuser Verlag and Estonian Museum of Architecture, 2022 [forthcoming].
“I’ll Begin with the Jar of Empty Pen Caps,” in Goffi, Federica, ed. The Routledge Companion to Architectural Drawings and Models: From Translating to Archiving, Collecting and Display. London and New York; Routledge, 2022.
"Welcome to the Archive," in Brian Evans and Rachel Howlett, eds., Designing with Nature in Town and City: A Celebratory Publication Commemorating the November 2020 Symposium. Glasgow, Scotland: The Glasgow Urban Laboratory, Glasgow School of Art, 2022. Posted at: https://issuu.com/penndesign/docs/dwnitc_celebratory_publication_2022
“‘Non-Ending Design Process’: A Pre-History of Louis Kahn’s Archive” (with Allison Rose Olsen), in Richard Saul Wurman and Stephen Kroeter, eds. Reader’s Guide to The Notebooks and Drawings of Louis I. Kahn. New York: Designers and Books; New Haven: Yale Center for British Art, 2022.
"Project List: 1926-74," in: McCarter, Robert. Louis I. Kahn. London; Phaidon Press, 2020 (revised and expanded edition)
“‘The Arsenal of the Tools’,” in Merrill, Michael, ed. Louis Kahn: The Importance of a Drawing. Zurich, Switzerland; Lars Müller Publishers, 2021.
“Lindsay Falck (1934-2020), architect and teacher” (obituary), for The Weitzman School Weekly (on-line), June 2020. Posted at https://www.design.upenn.edu/news/lindsay-falck-tribute
“Ian L. McHarg: an illustrated chronology of his life” (with Frederick Steiner), in Socio-Ecological Practice Research, Springer, September 2019.
Excerpt from “Why do I have to be the man to bring you the bad news?” in Land Lines: Quarterly Magazine of the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, Vol. 31, No. 3 (July 2019), p. 7-9.
“‘Why do I have to be the man to bring you the bad news?’” in Steiner, Frederick, et al., editors. Design With Nature Now. Cambridge, MA; Lincoln Institute for Land Policy, 2019.
“‘What is good about the good’,” in Drawing: Laurie Olin. Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania, School of Design, 2018
“William Whitaker interviewed by Ana Tostões”, in “Louis I. Kahn: The Permanence,” special issue of Docomomo Journal, 58, no. 1, 2018, 63-65.
“Philadelphia’s Everyday Modernism,” in Context: The Journal of AIA Philadelphia, David B. Brownlee, guest editor (February 2016).
“Kahn’s Master’s Class: design problems and student demography, 1955-74,” in Williamson, James. Kahn at Penn: Transformative Teacher of Architecture. London and New York; Routledge, 2015.
“The Other Shoe Drops on Modernist Landmark,” Hidden City Philadelphia (on-line), 13 August 2014. Posted at: https://hiddencityphila.org/2014/08/the-other-shoe-drops-on-modernist-landmark/
“Illustrated Biography,” in Louis Kahn: The Power of Architecture. Weil am Rhein, Germany; Vitra Design Museum, 2012.
“A Life Chronology,” in Anne Tyng: Inhabiting Geometry. Philadelphia, PA; Institute of Contemporary Art, 2012.
“Houses by Louis I. Kahn,” in Architecture and Urbanism (A+U) 461 (February 2009).
“List of Gardens, 1946-2006,” in Studies in the History of Gardens & Designed Landscapes (October 2007; special issue on the work of Lawrence Halprin)
“Compilation and translation into Japanese of exhibition text panels, written by Kurt G.F. Helfrich, Mari Sakamoto Nakahara, Ken Tadashi Oshima, Christine Vendredi-Auzanneau, and William Whitaker,” in: Ota, Yasuto and Tomoyo Sanbonmatsu, eds. Crafting a Modern World: the Architecture and Design of Antonin and Noémi Raymond. Kamakura, Japan; Museum of Modern Art, 2007.
"Project List: 1926-74," in: McCarter, Robert. Louis I. Kahn. London; Phaidon Press, 2005
"Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown: Works 1958-2000," in: Brownlee, David B., et. al. Out of the Ordinary: Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown and Associates. New Haven; Yale Univ. Press, 2001
“Lifeguard Tower, Coney Island,” in: Conceptions Southwest, Vol. XV, no. 2 (Fall 1992), p. 8.
“Drawings Aside.” International Architectural Education Platform, University of Tokyo, New York office, 24 March 2022
“Simple Gifts: Louis Kahn’s Exeter Library at 50.” Phillips Exeter Academy, Exeter, NH, 5 Nov 2021.
“Philadelphia’s 50,000-Watt Modernism: WCAU and Modern Design at the Broadcast Frontier.” Lower Merion Conservancy, 27 Apr 2021.
Celebrating Julian Abele: “Julian Francis Abele, Jr., Peter Cook, and Susan Cook, in conversation with William Whitaker,” University of Pennsylvania Weitzman School of Design, 16 Mar 2021
“Louis Kahn 120 Celebration with Harriet Pattison, Nathaniel Kahn and William Whitaker”, Scandinavia House, New York, NY, 20 Feb 2021
“The House that Edmund Built: Edmund Gilchrist, Philadelphia’s Cosmopolitan Club, and the Expression of‘Modern Work’”, Cosmopolitan Club of Philadelphia, 11 Feb 2021.
“The Houses of Louis Kahn,” Morven Museum, Princeton, New Jersey, 2 Dec 2020.
“Remarks on Ian McHarg and Scotland,” Designing with Nature in Town and City Conference, Academy of Urbanism, London, UK, 11 Nov 2020.
Harriet Pattison in conversation about her book, “Our Days are Like Full Years: A Memoir with Letters from Louis Kahn”, Architectural Archives, University of Pennsylvania Weitzman School of Design, 29 Oct 2020
“A Tale of Two Utopias” with Michael Bixler, for DoCoMoMo_US, Philadelphia Chapter, 28 Oct 2020
Laurie Olin in conversation about his book, “France Sketchbooks”, Architectural Archives, University of Pennsylvania Weitzman School of Design, 15 Oct 2020
“Picturing Time: Shofuso, Modernism, and the Photographic Document. Photographer Elizabeth Felicella in Conversation with Curator William Whitaker,” Japan America Society of Greater Philadelphia, 20 Sep 2020.
“Philadelphia’s Everyday Modernism”, Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia, 9 June 2020.
“Modern Architecture and ‘The Red City’”, Invisible City Symposium, On Regionalism: Mid-century Art, Architecture and Culture in North America, University of the Arts, Philadelphia, PA 6 Mar 2020
“Anne Tyng: Ordered Randomness,” roundtable discussion with Sarah Herda and Srdjan Jovonovic Weiss, Princeton University, School of Architecture, 5 Mar 2020
“An Engineer’s Quest,” Museum of Estonian Architecture (in conjunction with the opening of the exhibition, Miracles in Concrete: Structural Engineer August Komendant), Tallinn, Estonia, 9 Jan 2020
“Looking Again at Louis Kahn,” panel discussion with David Brownlee, Susan Solomon, and Inga Saffron, National Museum of Jewish History, Philadelphia, 29 Oct 2019
“I’ll begin with the jar of empty pen caps,” Frascari Symposium IV, Kingston School of Art, London, England, 28 June 2019
“Not…a Dead Architecture Museum”: Robert Venturi & Denise Scott Brown’s Action Plan for the Strand,” Galveston Historical Foundation, Galveston, Texas, 5 May 2019
“Less is a Bore: Inside the Creative Imagination of Denise Scott Brown and Robert Venturi – the view from the Architectural Archives,” The Cosmopolitan Club of Philadelphia, 2 May 2019
“The Heroes and Misfits of Philadelphia’s Modern Architecture,” Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia, Building Philadelphia Lecture Series, 27 Mar 2019
“Commemorating the Great War: Paul Cret’s Memorials in France,” New Mexico History Museum, Santa Fe, New Mexico, 11 Nov 2018
“Drawing Louis Kahn,” Accademia di architettura, Universita della Svizzeria italiana, Mendrisio, Switzerland, 10 Oct 2018
“Modern Architectures in Philadelphia: The Heroes and The Misfits,” Center for Architecture, Philadelphia, 2 Apr 2018
“Philadelphia’s Concrete Modernism,” The Concrete Surface Symposium and Workshop, The Association for Preservation Technology / Delaware Valley Chapter & University of Pennsylvania School of Design, Philadelphia, PA, 9 Feb 2018
“Uncrating Kahn,” University of Pennsylvania School of Design, Philadelphia, PA, 25 Oct 2017
“…get out and look in.” Wakita Museum of Art, Karuizawa, Japan, 21 Oct 2017
“Louis Kahn’s Weiss House and Its Furnishings,” (with George Marcus), Freeman’s, Philadelphia, PA, 4 Oct 2017
“The Place of Personality: The Raymonds after Wright,” After Wright symposium, Raymond Farm Center for the Living Arts, New Hope, PA, 23 Sept 2017
“Private tour of Pennsylvania Kahn Residences,” presenter and tour organizer, Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia, PA, 16 Sept 2017
“Habitat 67: Lessons from the drawings of Lou Kahn, Anne Tyng, David Rinehart, and Moshe Safdie,” University of Quebec Montreal, Canada, 21 June 2017
“George Nakashima’s Arts Building and Cloister – a 50th Anniversary Celebration,” George Nakashima Woodworkers, New Hope, PA 7 May 2017
“Modern Architectures in Philadelphia,” Center for Architecture, Philadelphia, 3 Apr 2017
“A Woodworker’s Retreat: George Nakashima’s Arts Building and Cloister,” Getty Keeping it Modern Grant colloquium, Univ. of Pennsylvania School of Design, Philadelphia, PA, 31 Mar 2017
“Uncrating Kahn,” Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, TX, 25 Mar 2017
“A Conversation with Denise Scott Brown,” interviewer for Complexity and Contradiction at 50, Museum of Modern Art, New York and the Univ. of Pa, Philadelphia, PA, 12 Nov 2016
“Bus Tour: The Philadelphia School,” presenter and tour organizer, Museum of Modern Art, New York and the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, 12 Nov 2016
“Uncrating Kahn,” San Diego Museum of Art, San Diego, CA, 5 Nov 2016
“Louis Kahn in San Diego and La Jolla: a SAH Domestic Study Day,” Society of Architectural Historians, 4 Nov 2016 (tour organizer and leader)
“A Memorial Forty Years in the Making: The Franklin Delano Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park,” Four Freedoms Park Conservancy for Archtober (Architecture and Design Month), New York, NY, 1 Oct 2016
“‘Reconstructing’ Louis Kahn’s Roosevelt Memorial,” Museum of Modern Art, New York, 13 Sept 2016
“Modern Architectures in Philadelphia,” Center for Architecture, Philadelphia, 3 May 2016
“Louis Kahn: House, A House, Home,” (with George H. Marcus) Philadelphia University, 7 March 2016
“Uncrating Kahn,” University of Washington, Department of Architecture, Seattle, 27 Jan 2016.
“A Memorial Forty Years in the Making: The Franklin Delano Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park,” Common Hour Lecture, Franklin & Marshall College, Lancaster, PA, 17 Sept 2015.
“Vinyl, Plexiglas, & Neon: Venturi, Scott Brown’s Transformation of St. Francis de Sales – a revealing history & conversation,” with Denise Scott Brown, Father John McNamee, and Sue Weiller, Philadelphia Chapter of the Society of Architectural Historians, 7 May 2015.
“The Heroes & Misfits of Philadephia’s Architectural Modernism,” Center for Architecture, Philadelphia, May 5, 2015
“The Built Environment: Resources for the Next 75 Years,” roundtable discussion with Dianne Harris, Abby Smith Rumsey, Ann Whiteside, and Tamar Zinguer, Annual meeting of the Society of Architectural Historians, Chicago, 17 April 2015.
“Louis Kahn Contemporary,” Taipei Fine Arts Museum, Taipei, Taiwan, 29 March 2015.
“Louis Kahn Contemporary,” Akshara Foundation, Ahmedabad, Gujerat, India, 3 December 2014.
“Louis Kahn Contemporary: the FDR Four Freedoms Park,” Four Freedoms Park Conservancy for Archtober (Architecture and Design Month), New York, NY, 26 October 2014
“Society Hill Modernism: Architecture Tour,” DoCoMoMo-US_Philadelphia Chapter, 11 October 2014
“Philadelphia’s Modern Commercial Vernacular Revisited,” FORUM 2014: Pennsylvania Statewide Conference on Heritage, Philadelphia, 18 July 2014
“Louis Kahn: His City and His Houses,” Athenaeum of Philadelphia, 8 May 2014 (with George H. Marcus)
“The Houses of Louis Kahn: Past and Present,” Docomomo_US, New York Chapter, 31 March 2014 (with George H. Marcus)
“The Activist Archivist: Taking the Architecture Archive Outside Itself,” DoCoMoMo_US National Symposium, Houston, Texas, 15 March 2014
“Open Houses: Louis Kahn and his Clients,” panel discussion with Nina Fisher, Larry Korman, Michael Merrill, Margy Meyerson, and Simone Swan, University of Pennsylvania Weitzman School of Design, 20 February 2014 (organizer and moderator)
“Louis Kahn’s Modernism, 1924-33,” Philadelphia Chapter, Society of Architectural Historians, 12 December 2013 (with George H. Marcus)
“Chestnut Hill’s Modern Architecture: The Ordinary and Extraordinary,” Chestnut Hill Historical Society, 27 October 2013
“Mellor, Meigs, & Howe: An Architectural History in Three Acts,” Lower Merion Conservancy, May 28, 2013
“Building Dhaka: A Conversation with Nathaniel Kahn, Steven Kieran, Fred Langford, Roy Vollmer, Henry Wilcots, and Richard Saul Wurman,” University of Pennsylvania Weitzman School of Design, 11 May 2013 (organizer and moderator)
“Preserving Philadelphia Modernism: Are We Finally Ready?,” Hidden City Philadelphia, 17 April 2013
“Four Freedoms: Kahn’s Contemporary Design,” panel discussant with Michael Kimmelman, Laurie Olin, Marilyn Jordan Taylor and Marion Weiss, University of Pennsylvania Weitzman School of Design, 13 March 2013
“Louis Kahn Contemporary,” Vitra Design Museum, Weil am Rhein, Germany, 28 February 2013
“Louis I. Kahn and the Gaspésie,” École d’architecture, Université Laval, Quebec, Canada, 25 January 2013