Architect Van Der Kar Is Alive and Thriving


Recently I was researching an unrelated matter and came across an article that appeared in The Times on Sept. 11, 1997 (“Back to the Future”). The article features, among other things, the unique architectural design of a house on Kings Road in West Hollywood built in the 1950s. I was surprised to see that the architect, Josef Van der Kar, was referred to as the “late” Josef Van der Kar. Josef is a neighbor of mine and is, by all appearances, very much alive.

Josef’s life has been so varied and interesting that telling his story would require an article devoted to the subject. I will just mention a few of the highlights. In the 1930s, he and a colleague won the Purchase Prize with an innovative tension design for the Palace of the Soviets. He was a professor of architecture at State College in Pennsylvania. He served in the Marine Corps during World War II and returned to architecture after the war working for a time with new designs for factory fabrication of housing. He has designed homes of varying design and remains active to this day. At 92 years of age, he is very likely the oldest licensed and practicing architect in good standing with the American Institute of Architects.

Aside from architecture, Josef continues to enjoy a life remarkable for its breadth of interests. He is a very good painter. He is a devoted student not only of music, but of musical instruments and handcrafted a replica of Bach’s clavichord. He is indefatigable in his study of new and alternative methods of health maintenance. In his 70s, he began a comprehensive study of body work and is now perhaps the oldest certified Traeger massage practitioner. But ultimately, Josef is an intelligent observer of life. I own the three books of aphorisms he has written that reveal the perspective and wry sense of humor which are the foundation of his personality.


Josef is a good friend and neighbor, and I am pleased to inform you he remains among the living.