Dan Peter Kopple, prominent Philadelphia architect, dies at 87
He was exceptionally skilled at creating memorable places. "Dramatic structure, dramatic space, and interesting detail are the essence of architecture," he wrote.
Dan Peter Kopple, 87, of Chestnut Hill, a prolific and prominent architect who worked on designs for Philadelphia International Airport, 30th Street Station, Penn Center, the U.S. Courthouse on Independence Mall, and other iconic buildings and structures in Philadelphia and elsewhere, died Wednesday, Dec. 15, of congestive heart failure at Brandywine Living at Dresher Estates.
Known for his innovative structural vision and diversity of projects, Mr. Kopple created renovation and original plans for buildings, boulevards, airports, churches, synagogues, rail yards, and other constructions. In addition to many sites in Philadelphia, his work can be seen in New York; Washington; Pittsburgh; Erie, Pa.; and other locales.
His concepts were used at Washington National Airport, now Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport; Central, and Park East Synagogues in New York; and the Rotunda and adjoining rail yards in Pittsburgh. In the 1980s, he envisioned how Philadelphia’s JFK Boulevard could have looked had a cultural center and retail development been built along the Schuylkill.
In 1998, he won an award from the Philadelphia chapter of the American Institute of Architects for his work on the Frankford Transportation Center. “Architecture is important,” he wrote. “It is both a tool and an expression of civilization.”
Mr. Kopple began his career in 1960 as a project designer at Philadelphia-based Vincent G. Kling Partnership and eventually rose to partner and principal. He founded Kopple, Sheward & Day in 1975 and DPK&A in 1984.
In 2008, DPK&A merged with the Kansas City-based engineering firm TranSystems. In 2014, he founded DPK.aia, a strategic planning and architecture consulting firm.
As the lead architect for the 1998 redesign of Philadelphia International Airport, he had to move passengers to their flight gates quickly as well as entice them to linger a bit at the retail mall.
“Retailers have the goal of creating turbulence, doing things that make people slow down,” Mr. Kopple told The Inquirer in 1998. “Our goal had to be efficiency … [answering] questions like where does our moving walkway belong to keep people moving if they need to.”
In 1993, shortly after his firm led a four-year, $100 million restoration of 30th Street Station, Mr. Kopple was tasked with renovating the dim and dirty concourse beneath Suburban Station.
“It’s not just a plan to clean up, but to make the whole concourse cleaner … so that the entire character of the concourse level is improved,” Mr. Kopple told the Daily News in 1993.
Born June 10, 1934, in Philadelphia, Mr. Kopple grew up in Elkins Park and met his future wife, Jan MacVaugh, in second grade. He showed interest in the structure of buildings as a teenager and was an editor of the student newspaper at Cheltenham High School.
He attended Princeton University as an ROTC cadet and earned both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in architecture. He joined the Air Force in 1958, married Jan in December before his deployment, and returned to Philadelphia in 1960 after his tour ended.
Mr. Kopple was a board member of the Philadelphia and Pennsylvania chapters of the American Institute of Architects, president of the Association of Princeton Graduate Alumni, and president and trustee of the Carpenters’ Company of Philadelphia.
“Architecture should not be taken lightly, but frequently it may be fun for the user and the producer.”
He served on Philadelphia’s Planning Commission Committee and was a founding member of the Charter High School of Architecture and Design. He and his wife raised daughters Kim and Kristin in Chestnut Hill.
“He let others take the limelight,” said his wife. “He promoted me, and helped me be the best I could be. He was a wonderful old-school gentleman.”
Away from his design table, Mr. Kopple attended the Philadelphia Orchestra regularly and read mysteries and biographies. He was interested in European history, urban planning, and outer space.
He enjoyed Gilbert and Sullivan operas, drew in pen and ink, and painted in watercolors. He was rarely seen without a tie and jacket, and he doted on his Labrador retrievers.
“He was extremely kind and optimistic,” his wife said. “And he was always game for anything.”
In addition to his wife and daughters, Mr. Kopple is survived by three grandchildren and other relatives. A brother died earlier.
Services were private.
Donations in his name may be made to the Carpenters’ Company of Philadelphia, 320 Chestnut St., Philadelphia, Pa. 19106.