A 10-point Coda

The ORANGE COUNTY GOVERNMANT CENTER:  

A 10-point Coda

from the

Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation

 1.      A significant part of the mission of the PRHF is to help preserve the legacy of the Paul Rudolph

2.      That legacy consists of not just his ideas and the vivid drawings and photographs associated with them. Images are not enough! That legacy is—much more vividly-- his actual build works. Nothing can replace the direct experience—exciting, moving, thrilling, absorbing—of seeing and moving through a masterful work of architecture. Paul Rudolph was a master—almost a “magician”—of creating architecture that moved people. Moreover, his buildings were deeply & powerfully expressive of his client’s goals, ideals, and character. Rudolph’s architecture was means by which a society could communicate its values—via what it built.

3.      This makes the Orange County Government Center in Goshen a particularly important part of Rudolph’s work. It was conceived and built at a time our country can be proud of:  a moment when government was becoming more open, transparent, and participatory—a time of practical optimism about what communities can do. The County leaders, embracing both idealism and practicality, chose one of the country’s leading architects to give a built expression to their sense that local government can be a positive force for good in the area.

4.      A lot of citizens liked and admired the OCGC—and still do. A lot might like it (or at least not object to it) if it had been properly maintained. [Buildings, just like bodies, need proper care and attention over time—and it has been documented by consultants retained by the county that the OCGC suffered from malign neglect.] And it’s also true that there are people who never were taken by it—it is honest to acknowledge the diversity of opinion in a community. But—equally truthful—is that some things are only seen as valuable in the “long view”, and there are many examples of that. What would Paris be without the Eiffel Tower?—it was almost pulled down. Every art history book includes the modern chapel that the architect Le Corbusier designed for Ronchamp—it too was originally detested by the villagers, yet eventually it became a source of local pride (and, as a tourist attraction, an engine for the area’s economy).   

5.      At the PRHF, we are already admirers of the work of Paul Rudolph—but we also want to share with others that “long view”: even if you’re not a fan of his work today, it is good to be aware of cultural & artistic currents, and the value of history’s judgments.

6.      When it comes to the OCGC, there’s another matter which concerned us. It has been alleged that numerous untruths are being told about every aspect of the building:  about its condition, its fix-ability, its maintainability and flexibility, the real cost of replacement, the amount of disruption involved in demolition, the impact on groundwater and air quality, and the alternatives to removing it. It has been also purported that due process and proper procedures for the filing and approval of this work have not been done, or not been done properly, or have been done with possibly misleading or obscuring information [The SEQRA law is clear that a project must be reviewed in its entirety. It cannot be segmented. The site has flooding problems and it is illegal to ignore them in an initial phase and them correct them later, if they weren't included in the initial SEQRA filing.] Further, it has been suggested that government officials—the guardians of our tax monies and public safety—have not been acting with full care and attention to those duties.

7.      The PRHF—and, in particular, its founder Ernst Wagner—has standing to protest any acts that would damage Rudolph’s life work. Like any entity engaged in the preservation of the country’s built heritage, we have standing to be a litigant to help save this particularly excellent and meaningful building.

8.      All this has been filed and claimed in open court, with the PRHF as one of the litigants—but the courts seem to be reluctant or glacial (or both) to take action to redress these matters.

9.      As of this writing, many of the motions put forth by the legal team have been turned-down by the courts. The story is not over—yet—and there may still be ways or paths to save the building (or a substantial part of it).

10.  We, the Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation, have been active & energetic in all efforts to save the OCGC. From meeting with local citizens, to doing intense independent research, to support for the legal team, to publicity and education---we have been working year-after-year and day-by-day. We are committed to celebrating, sharing, and saving the work of this great American architect:  Paul Rudolph.