E. John Knapp's trademark is the four foot modular design. He used modular design for many reasons that were both practical and aesthetically pleasing. The module brought a sense of harmony to the structures, and was also very practical for both pricing and adaptation of the ideas to custom designs.
According to Knapp’s daughter Marcia, his use of the module in his designs was informed early in his career by the influence of Japanese design. While studying for his architecture degree at Lawrence Institute of Technology, he visited the Detroit Institute of Art where they had an exhibit with a complete Japanese living room. He recalled that this was in the late 1930’s and he was fascinated by it. He was especially fascinated by the mastery of wood, the Shoji screens, the tatami mats on the floor. His first impression was it was an empty room.
After he saw the exhibit, he remembered going back and asking a professor about it. The professor gave him a book to study. Later after studying Japanese architecture, he realized the room exhibited at the DIA was a multi-purpose room. The bed clothes were folded in closets and the room had a sense of order. He knew Frank Lloyd wright had been in Japan, and was influenced by Japanese architecture. “Dad studied Wright’s biography to see what he did in Japan. He found that he designed the Japanese Imperial Hotel that withstood an earthquake— a masterpiece."
These discoveries carried over to his consistent technique of placing importance on the integration of the outside and the inside. He discovered that Japanese homes were designed to view the outside landscaping from the inside to enhance the indoors. This was the opposite of traditional American landscaping. Knapp felt that the average American house, at the time, had few trees and the gardens were not viewed from the inside. And he discovered that Japanese gardens often have a theme. He realized this was something he’d never seen before, and it profoundly affected the design of his homes in the 50’s and 60’s.”