Welcome to the Archives of the Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation. The purpose of this online database is to function as a tool for scholars, students, architects, preservationists, journalists and other interested parties. The archive consists of photographs, slides, articles and publications from Rudolph’s lifetime; physical drawings and models; personal photos and memorabilia; and contemporary photographs and articles.
Unless otherwise noted, all images and drawings are copyright © The Estate of Paul Rudolph and The Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation. Please speak with a representative of the Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation to get permission to use any drawings or photos. Drawings, sketches and other materials produced by Rudolph’s architectural office at the Library of Congress are maintained there for preservation, but the intellectual property rights belong to the Paul Rudolph Estate and Ernst Wagner, founder of the Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation.
Address: 455 East 51st Street
City: New York
State: New York
Zip Code: 10022
Nation: United States
Google Maps Address: 40.75403, -73.96371
Floor Area: 2 floors, 1200 s.f. on the lower level; 600 s.f. on the upper level.
Floors (Above Ground):
Client: Joanna T. Steichen
Architect: Paul Rudolph
Rudolph Staff: Peter Mullen, Project Architect
Contractor: The Ormar Building Corporation
When Paul Rudolph left the front door of his Beekman Place townhouse, he would only have to turn his head to the right to see Beekman Terrace: the apartment house which terminates the northern end of his street. Built in 1925 to the designs of Treanor & Fatio—most well-known as the architects of luxe Palm Beach mansions—the building has several frontages, simultaneously facing 51st Street, Beekman Place, and the East River.
Into this building (a traditional brick edifice, with Venetian touches), moved Joanna T. Steichen (1933-2010), recently widowed from the pioneering American photographer and MoMA photography curator Edward Steichen (1879-1973). Paul Rudolph had designed MoMA’s landmark 1955 “Family of Man” exhibit for Edward Steichen, and through him had come to know and befriend Joanna. When she called Rudolph, seeking a recommendation for an architect to help with her new apartment, he said “I’ll be right over!”
The apartment (which was below-grade, but had river-views) had a 20-foot ceiling height—and that was fully utilized by Rudolph: he mostly maintained it at its full-height, but added two room-spanning platforms which overlook the space: the lower for a library-guest room, the upper for Steichen’s office, files, and working library.
A cantilevered staircase - a descendent of the stair in his New Haven home - flies through the space, but this time the risers are closed (a concession to the owner’s dog). The result is a staircase that has a folded, accordion character—an approach that would reach maximum purity in Rudolph’s later Beekman Place Quadruplex, where the stairs are folded steel.
Other linkages to Rudolph’s residences can be seen. As with his nearby Beekman rental apartment, Rudolph here added an exterior balcony. In Rudolph’s apartment one can also see the other side of his penchant for creating challenging, vertiginous spaces - he can also make welcoming, snug retreats: his own cocoon-like apartment living room, and the abundantly cushioned recessed sitting space, tucked-in below Steichen’s lower balcony.
DRAWINGS - Design Drawings / Renderings
DRAWINGS - Construction Drawings
DRAWINGS - Shop Drawings
PHOTOS - Project Model
PHOTOS - During Construction
PHOTOS - Completed Project
PHOTOS - Current Conditions
LINKS FOR MORE INFORMATION
Schmertz, Mildred F, and Elisabeth K. Thompson. Apartments, Townhouses, & Condominiums. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1981. p. 174-175.