Paul Rudolph Centennial Exhibit Catalogs Selected for the Library of Congress Collection

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THE NATION’S LIBRARY

It’s a special place—and an immense resource. Let’s have its head—the “Librarian of Congress” herself, Carla Hayden—describe it succinctly:

                The Library of Congress is the largest library in the world, with millions of books, recordings, photographs, newspapers, maps and manuscripts in its collections. The Library is the main research arm of the U.S. Congress and the home of the U.S. Copyright Office.

                The Library preserves and provides access to a rich, diverse and enduring source of knowledge to inform, inspire and engage you in your intellectual and creative endeavors. Whether you are new to the Library of Congress or an experienced researcher, we have a world-class staff ready to assist you online and in person.

THE LIBRARY AND PAUL RUDOLPH

The Library of CongressPrints and Photographs Division holds the world’s largest collection of Paul Rudolph papers: their Paul Marvin Rudolph archive is comprised of hundreds-of-thousands of Rudolph drawings & documents. It is an indispensable source for anyone doing serious research on Rudolph. The Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation has been greatly benefited by the Library’s gracious help—particularly from the head of their Prints and Photographs Division, Ms. Mari Nakahara. Our recent exhibit, Paul Rudolph: The Personal Laboratory, was meaningfully enriched by being able to utilize images from the Library of Congress’ collection—and we continue to do research there, hoping to help share this immense source of Rudolph-ian creativity and knowledge.

OUR CONTRIBUTION

2018 was Paul Rudolph’s centenary year, and—to celebrate that—“Paul Rudolph: The Personal Laboratory” and “Paul Rudolph: The Hong Kong Journey” were exhibits mounted by the Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation. The Library of Congress helped greatly in making our exhibition program a success—and we have now made a contribution back— We send them a set of our exhibit catalogs:

The “Personal Laboratory” and the “Hong Kong Journey” catalogs were produced in association with the two corresponding exhibits that were mounted by the Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation. The set is    available through Amazon   .    Photo: The Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation

The “Personal Laboratory” and the “Hong Kong Journey” catalogs were produced in association with the two corresponding exhibits that were mounted by the Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation. The set is available through Amazon.

Photo: The Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation

We’re happy to announce that we’ve just received an official response from the head of the Library of Congress’ Monographs Section: the catalogs have been “selected for addition” to the library’s collection. We are glad to have these publications be a part of the nation’s greatest library!

Rudolph Centennial Exhibit Catalogs: Now Available Through Amazon

This pair of catalogs was produced in association with the Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation’s two exhibits, celebrating Rudolph’s 100th centenary year, 2018. They are available as a set—   and now: easily purchased through Amazon   .    Photo: Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation

This pair of catalogs was produced in association with the Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation’s two exhibits, celebrating Rudolph’s 100th centenary year, 2018. They are available as a set—and now: easily purchased through Amazon.

Photo: Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation

CELEBRATING A MAGNIFICENTLY CREATIVE ARCHITECT’S 100TH BIRTHDAY

Paul Rudolph (1918-1997) would have been 100 in 2018, and—to recognize & celebrate that—the Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation mounted two exhibits: Paul Rudolph: The Personal Laboratory and Paul Rudolph: The Hong Kong Journey.

This pair of exhibits (and Rudolph’s increasing recognition) were praised in an article in The New York Times. The bad news is that both exhibits have closed—but the good news is that the pair of catalogs—well illustrated records of the exhibit, supplemented by additional fascinating material—have been published by the PRHF.

“The Personal Laboratory” exhibit focused on the homes and workspaces that Rudolph crated for himself, wherever he settled. It’s catalog is richly illustrated, containing much of that material—as well as fascinating documents & memoirs of people who knew and worked for Rudolph.    Photo: Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation

“The Personal Laboratory” exhibit focused on the homes and workspaces that Rudolph crated for himself, wherever he settled. It’s catalog is richly illustrated, containing much of that material—as well as fascinating documents & memoirs of people who knew and worked for Rudolph.

Photo: Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation

“The Hong Kong Journey” exhibit focused on work that Paul Rudolph did in Hong Kong. In the last decade-and-a-half of his career, Rudolph was called upon by clients in Asia: Hong Kong, Jakarta, and Singapore—and he built large and significant in that part of the world. In Hong Kong you can see the pair of remarkable skyscrapers he designed: the Bond Centre (a.k.a. the Lippo Centre). They, and several other very intriguing projects were the focus of the exhibit, which also includes interesting essays by Rudolph’s Hong Kong associate, Nora Leung; as well as an introduction by Robert de Alba.    Photo: Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation

“The Hong Kong Journey” exhibit focused on work that Paul Rudolph did in Hong Kong. In the last decade-and-a-half of his career, Rudolph was called upon by clients in Asia: Hong Kong, Jakarta, and Singapore—and he built large and significant in that part of the world. In Hong Kong you can see the pair of remarkable skyscrapers he designed: the Bond Centre (a.k.a. the Lippo Centre). They, and several other very intriguing projects were the focus of the exhibit, which also includes interesting essays by Rudolph’s Hong Kong associate, Nora Leung; as well as an introduction by Robert de Alba.

Photo: Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation

NOW MORE EASILY AVAILABLE

The catalogs are sold as a set—and have been available through the Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation’s website’s “Shop” page—and continue to be.

But now they are now also easily orderable through AMAZON—at this page:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/1792304218/ref=sr_1_fkmrnull_1?keywords=Paul+Rudolph+personal+laboratory&qid=1554318008&s=books&sr=1-1-fkmrnull

Many people prefer the ease of shopping though Amazon—and we are pleased to the catalogs available by this method too.

Image: Amazon.com

Image: Amazon.com

TWO RESIDENCES BY PAUL RUDOLPH LISTED WITH THE NATIONAL REGISTER OF HISTORIC PLACES

Paul Rudolph’s “Umbrella House” from 1953—as seen in 2018. Photo: Kelvin Dickinson, Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation Archives

Paul Rudolph’s “Umbrella House” from 1953—as seen in 2018. Photo: Kelvin Dickinson, Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation Archives

Paul Rudolph’s Fullam Residence, from 1959. Photo: Chris Mottalini and Eric Wolff

Paul Rudolph’s Fullam Residence, from 1959. Photo: Chris Mottalini and Eric Wolff

SOME GREAT NEWS

When there’s news about any of Rudolph’s buildings, it’s not always good: too often, we’ve heard about the act (or plan) to demo or damage one of Paul Rudolph’s great designs. But sometimes there is delightful news: for example, the recent purchase of Rudolph’s Hirsch (a.k.a. Halston) Residence by Tom Ford—and Mr. Ford’s stated intention to restore it—which you read about in one of our recent posts, is an example of great news about a Rudolph building!

Now we have some more good news!

Two of Rudolph’s most interesting residential designs—the Fullam Residence (in Bucks County, PA) and the “Umbrella House” (in Sarasota, FL) have been listed on the National Register of Historic Places !

THE UMBRELLA HOUSE

Readers of this Blog may have come across our article about Rudolph’s “Umbrella House”—but in case you haven’t seen it, you can read it (and learn a great deal about this fascinating design) here.

The “Weekly List” of the National Register of Historic Places now shows that it is listed with them. Here’s the page on which this is announced.

And the official listing reads:

FLORIDA, SARASOTA COUNTY,
Umbrella House,
1300 Westway Dr.,
Sarasota, MP100003417,
LISTED, 2/4/2019
(Sarasota School of Architecture MPS)

THE FULLAM RESIDENCE

The “Weekly List” of the National Register for Historic Places shows that it now listed with them. Here’s the page on which this is announced.

And the official listing reads:

PENNSYLVANIA, BUCKS COUNTY,
Fullam, John and Alice, House,
372 Brownsburg Rd.,
Wrightstown Township, SG100003519,
LISTED, 3/15/2019

By-the-way:

This is a good moment to make a note on the house’s (and original client’s) correct name. The accurate spelling is: Fullam (as shown in the National Register listing above). We only point this out because one sometimes sees it listed as “Fulham”—and that’s led to some confusion when doing research.

ABOUT BEING LISTED ON THE NATIONAL REGISTER

WHAT CRITERIA FOR EVALUATION ARE USED, WHEN THEY CONSIDER A BUILDING, SITE, OR STRUCTURE FOR “LISTING”?

Let’s let the National Park Service (of which the National Register is a part) speak for themselves. The range of possible reasons for listing are fascinatingly varied—and here is their document about “NATIONAL REGISTER CRITERIA FOR EVALUATION”:

Criteria for Evaluation

The quality of significance in American history, architecture, archaeology, engineering, and culture is present in districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects that possess integrity of location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, feeling, and association, and:

  • That are associated with events that have made a significant contribution to the broad patterns of our history; or

  • That are associated with the lives of significant persons in our past; or

  • That embody the distinctive characteristics of a type, period, or method of construction, or that represent the work of a master, or that possess high artistic values, or that represent a significant and distinguishable entity whose components may lack individual distinction; or

  • That have yielded or may be likely to yield, information important in history or prehistory.

Criteria Considerations

Ordinarily cemeteries, birthplaces, graves of historical figures, properties owned by religious institutions or used for religious purposes, structures that have been moved from their original locations, reconstructed historic buildings, properties primarily commemorative in nature, and properties that have achieved significance within the past 50 years shall not be considered eligible for the National Register. However, such properties will qualify if they are integral parts of districts that do meet the criteria or if they fall within the following categories:

  • A religious property deriving primary significance from architectural or artistic distinction or historical importance; or

  • A building or structure removed from its original location but which is primarily significant for architectural value, or which is the surviving structure most importantly associated with a historic person or event; or

  • A birthplace or grave of a historical figure of outstanding importance if there is no appropriate site or building associated with his or her productive life; or

  • A cemetery that derives its primary importance from graves of persons of transcendent importance, from age, from distinctive design features, or from association with historic events; or

  • A reconstructed building when accurately executed in a suitable environment and presented in a dignified manner as part of a restoration master plan, and when no other building or structure with the same association has survived; or

  • A property primarily commemorative in intent if design, age, tradition, or symbolic value has invested it with its own exceptional significance; or

  • A property achieving significance within the past 50 years if it is of exceptional importance.

WHAT IS THE PROCESS FOR A BUILDING TO BE “LISTED” ON THE NATIONAL REGISTER OF HISTORIC PLACES—AND WHAT DOES IT MEAN?

Once again, we’ll let them speak for themselves. The following is excerpted from their own information pages:

The National Register of Historic Places is the official list of the nation's historic places worthy of preservation. Authorized by the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, the National Park Service's National Register of Historic Places is part of a national program to coordinate and support public and private efforts to identify, evaluate, and protect America's historic and archaeological resources.

How are Properties Evaluated?

To be considered eligible, a property must meet the National Register Criteria for Evaluation. This involves examining the property’s age, significance, and integrity.

  • Age and Integrity:  Is the property old enough to be considered historic (generally at least 50 years old) and does it still look much the way it did in the past?

  • Significance:  Is the property associated with events, activities, or developments that were important in the past? With the lives of people who were important in the past? With significant architectural history, landscape history, or engineering achievements? Does it have the potential to yield information through archaeological investigation about our past?

National Register Listing Process

Proposed nominations are reviewed by your state’s historic preservation office and the state’s National Register Review Board. The length of the state process varies but will take a minimum of 90 days.

Complete nominations, with certifying recommendations, are submitted by the state to the National Park Service in Washington, D.C. for final review and listing by the Keeper of the National Register of Historic Places. The National Park Service makes a listing decision within 45 days.

Results & Owner Information

Listing in the National Register of Historic Places provides formal recognition of a property’s historical, architectural, or archaeological significance based on national standards used by every state.

Results include:

  • Becoming part of the National Register Archives, a public, searchable database that provides a wealth of research information

  • Encouraging preservation of historic resources by documenting a property’s historic significance

  • Providing opportunities for preservation incentives, such as:

  • Federal preservation grants for planning and rehabilitation

  • Federal investment tax credits

  • Preservation easements to nonprofit organizations

  • International building code fire and life safety code alternatives

  • Possible State tax benefit and grant opportunities. Check with your State Historic Preservation Office for historic property incentives available within your state

  • Involvement by the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation when a Federal agency project may affect historic property

  • Find out information on the care and maintenance of your historic property through various NPS Preservation Briefs and Tech Notes

  • Network with other historic property owners, tour historic areas, or chat with preservationists through Conferences, Workshops, and Preservation Organizations

Tom Ford - and Rudolph's finest townhouse design in New York City

The great fashion designer Halston, enthroned in his living room—within the famous “101”, the townhouse in New York’s Upper East Side neighborhood in Manhattan    Photo by Harry Benson, from a feature on Halston in Life Magazine

The great fashion designer Halston, enthroned in his living room—within the famous “101”, the townhouse in New York’s Upper East Side neighborhood in Manhattan

Photo by Harry Benson, from a feature on Halston in Life Magazine

The elegantly restrained exterior elevation of the house, originally designed by Paul Rudolph in 1966-1967—purchased by Halston in 1974, and now a new home for Tom Ford. Photo: Homedsgn.com

The elegantly restrained exterior elevation of the house, originally designed by Paul Rudolph in 1966-1967—purchased by Halston in 1974, and now a new home for Tom Ford. Photo: Homedsgn.com

IT’S ALL OVER THE INTERNET…

It is all over the internet: a variety of news relating to one of the planet’s most celebrated designers - tho’ he’s much more than that - Tom Ford. It is has just been announced that he’s to be the next chair of an important fashion industry organization, the CFDA (the Council of Fashion Designers of America)

But in Rudolph-related news of Mr. Ford, there’s an even more exciting development. As written in Bridget Foley’s Diary:

                But who doesn’t love a tony real estate angle? Earlier in the day, WWD reported that Ford bought Halston’s famed house on East 63rd Street in New York in a deal that closed in January, but he’d managed to keep quiet until now. It would have been nifty news even had Halston not been a major influence on Ford’s career.

In that article, Mr. Ford was interviewed about the CFDA, his role, the house, and how it all fits into his life and plans. Here’s the section of the interview that is most focused on the house:

WWD: You are very cool with your stardom. Are you ever even a little bit impressed by the general-population interest in you? Someone can attribute a random, made-up quote to you and it sets the Twittersphere on fire?

T.F.: The number-two, most-trending tweet or whatever it is in America today. I just find it crazy. I mean, there are lots more important things to be concerned with today in the news than a quote from a fashion designer about the first lady, but anyway.

WWD: Does it awe you even a little that you have that power?

T.F.: I don’t think of myself that way. I think of myself as a dad who comes to the office and… Maybe it’s because I am grounded every day by [my husband] Richard Buckley, who is not going to let me feel like any sort of a star.

WWD: Point taken. Before we get to the house…

T.F.: Well, let’s just do the house so we can get to the CFDA, the important thing.

WWD: To the house.

T.F.: You did some homework. I felt like it was the Mueller report or something — the same LLC that bought the Betsy Bloomingdale house?

WWD: Old-fashioned reporting by a young reporter, Kathryn Hopkins. Is the purchase of the house at all tied to your CFDA chairmanship?

T.F.: Nooo, not at all. And yes, I did buy the house. I was in that house in 1979 or 1980, only once. I was not a friend of Halston’s, but I was introduced to him and I went by that house with a friend to pick someone up before we were going to Studio 54.

WWD: How old were you?

T.F.: I would’ve been 18. That house, it stunned me. It is and has always been one of the most inspirational houses that I was ever in, and one of the most inspirational interiors. I love [architect] Paul Rudolph. He designed [the Halston] house in 1966 for a pair of gentlemen and then redesigned it when Halston moved in — designed all the furniture. To me, it’s is just one of the great American interiors.

It’s a terrific house in New York. It’s got a garage that flips up. You drive in and the garage closes and it’s like a vault. Yet inside, it’s spectacular. I intend to basically put it back to the way it was the very first time I saw it when Halston lived in it. It’s very simple, very minimal, and there’s not a lot to do. I don’t have to knock down any walls. I basically have to just put in a lot of gray carpeting and the furniture.

I stayed in it when I was in New York the last time [for my fall 2019 ready-to-wear show]. I have sometimes said that New York is not my favorite place. But as [my son] Jack is living in Los Angeles, in the future I want him to know how to wear a pair of real shoes and a jacket and go to a restaurant and go to a play. So it’s a kind of house for the future and for the rest of my life.

WWD: It’s hard to find post-Halston pictures of the interior online. It wasn’t changed much?

T.F.: No there’s not a lot I have to do. It’s been very well-respected. Some very surface changes were made, which I think were a mistake, and so I intend to put it back. But it’s very contemporary, a very modern house. It could have easily been designed today. It’s timeless.

It’s a great piece of architecture and enormously pleasant to be in. I felt instantly at home when I stayed there even though it hasn’t been redone. Hugely comfortable and dead silent inside, yet full of light. You close the door and you forget that you’re right in the middle of New York. It’s wonderful.

WWD: But you’re definitely not moving to New York?

T.F.: No, not at all. I go to New York four or five times a year and for Jack’s school holidays, I’ll be going more. It’s a place to be when I’m in New York.

WWD: One more thing about it. Do you think people will read symbolism into it — Tom Ford buying Halston’s house?

T.F.: It’s fine if they do. I think Halston was one of the greatest American fashion designers. I have always said I was inspired by Halston, his simplicity, his modernity. But I didn’t buy the house because it was Halston’s. I bought the house because I loved the house.

Now, do I share certain design similarities and taste with what Halston liked, a certain streamlined minimalism, certainly with regards to architecture and interiors? Absolutely. So what would have appealed to Halston as a house appeals to me as a house as well. It’s a great house. Inside, it’s one thing. Outside it’s very — what is the word – private. While I was staying there, I had a couple of people come by. I would tell them the address and they’d walk right past it and call me — “where are you?” I’m like, “You just walked past it.” It recedes. It’s enormously private and that’s one of the great appeals.

It’s interesting that it was built for two gay men because, of course, in the mid-Sixties, they wanted to live their life without being observed. And, of course, it worked well for Halston and the things that were going on when he was there. So it’s really a kind of refuge in the middle of New York, which is amazing. And it is so dead quiet. You don’t even hear a horn honk.

By-the-way:   Mr. Ford refers to stopping by the house to pick-up a friend, before going off to the legendary club, Studio 54. This house plays a prominent background role in the glittering social life of late 1970’s New York, as it was the place that Halston, Bianca Jagger, Warhol, and their crew would assemble before proceeding to the world’s most famous disco - and all this is abundantly recorded in The Andy Warhol Diaries.

A GREAT HOUSE AND GREAT DESIGNERS

To celebrate Rudolph’s centenary (1918-2018), the Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation, recently mounted a centennial exhibit: ‘Paul Rudolph: The Personal Laboratory’. In it, we included images of this house, using it as an example of how Rudolph would apply the lessons (that he’d derived from experimentations in his own homes) to projects for his clients.

About the house, we wrote: 

                This townhouse is in the heart of New York’s Upper-East Side: a neighborhood whose residents are, on average, among the wealthiest in the nation. Situated between a Federal style church and a traditional apartment house, this townhouse was initially designed and built for Alexander Hirsch and Lewis Turner - but it’s most famous resident & owner was the American fashion designer, Halston.

                It was exceptional in a number of ways: Firstly, townhouses of unabashedly Modern design were, in that era, rare in that neighborhood (indeed, anywhere in the city). Secondly, because Rudolph departed from the typical approach to designing the face of a NYC townhouse (which generally manifested as solid brick or masonry, with openings in a gridded pattern). Even Philip Johnson’s design for a townhouse, in the adjacent neighborhood, did not greatly depart from that formula.

                Steel beams, columns, and panels, infilled with glass, are the architectural signature of Mies van der Rohe—but that master hardly ever diverged from arranging them in a homogenous lattice. By contrast, Rudolph’s didn’t just lay-out this façade—he sculpted it, pushing the elements into different planes, and using subtle asymmetries, to give a serene aliveness to this otherwise understated “citizen of the street”. For Rudolph, this sculpting - merging Mies and Mondrian, but taking them to a more sophisticated level of visual complexity - would be further explored in the exteriors of the additions to his own residence at 23 Beekman - and would reach an ultimate rich expression, two decades after the Hirsch Residence, in the Modulightor Building.

                While this house’s exterior may be a precursor of Paul Rudolph’s future ventures, the interiors rely on the “lab results” from his previous residential experiments. This is particularly true when one compares Hirsch to Rudolph’s New Haven home: one can see the precedents for the cantilevered stairs, the dramatic double-height socializing space (with a matchingly large-scaled artwork), a cavalier attitude to railings, and a broad wall of glazing onto a private (and in both cases, Rudolph-designed) court.

As noted above, the house was originally designed and built for Alexander Hirsch—and then subsequently purchased by Halston. Halston wanted some changes, and brought Rudolph back to make them. This is refreshingly different from the practice of most buyers of a previously-owned home (who usually bring in a different architect) - but Halston, a designer of great sophistication, made the right decision to return to the house’s original architect: Rudolph. We note - with great joy - that Mr. Ford (a man of surpassing style) wants to return the house to the elegant state which Halston (and Rudolph!) created.

And now a selection of images from the archives of the Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation of this superb example of Rudolph’s work:

First Floor Plan

Mezzanine Floor Plan

Second Floor Plan

Perspective Section Rendering

Same section from the construction drawing set

Furniture details - made of acrylic with space to allow room for floor-length chainmail curtains.

The above images are by Eduardo Alfonso, who photographed the complete construction drawing set at the Library of Congress for the Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation.

Paul Rudolph and Circular Delight

Image: cargocollective.com

Image: cargocollective.com

FAMILIAR FORMS

When one thinks of an architect, naturally one visualizes their most famous buildings - but, as much a part of that imaging process are the forms & shapes which you primarily associate with their work.

Thus, entrained with any thought of Wright, are the forms of his thrusting/cantilevered horizontal planes, counterpointed by solid masonry masses, his rhythmic verticals, and rigorous-but-playful use of circles. For Mies, it might be his floating, shifting planes (as in the Barcelona Pavilion), his cruciform column (from the same project), and his glazed grids. Corb is associated with a big vocabulary of forms—and strongly with his more sculptural shapes (like at Notre Dame du Haut) or, conversely, his platonically geometric “purism” (as in his Villa Stein or Villa Savoye).

A photo and plan-detail drawing of Mies van der Rohe’s “cruciform column”, as used in his 1929 Barcelona Pavilion. Image:  www.eng-tips.com

A photo and plan-detail drawing of Mies van der Rohe’s “cruciform column”, as used in his 1929 Barcelona Pavilion. Image: www.eng-tips.com

CURVILINEAR CONCEPTIONS

When it comes to forms, there’s something inherently pleasurable in curves and circles—one wonders if we, unconsciously, relate it to the pleasures and vitality of human bodies - or life itself. And it’s useful to recall that the education of all artists (and architects) - at least ‘till recently - included figure drawing.

With Rudolph, one doesn’t often think of circles, but he was hardly allergic to using curves in his work. They show up, sometimes most effusively, several times in his oeuvre. An example would be one of his most famous designs: the Healy Guest House:

Paul Rudolph’s perspective rendering of the Healy Guest House (also known at the “Cocoon House”), with its suspended, catenary curve roof. It was built in Siesta Key, Florida. Image: Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation

Paul Rudolph’s perspective rendering of the Healy Guest House (also known at the “Cocoon House”), with its suspended, catenary curve roof. It was built in Siesta Key, Florida. Image: Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation

Or in this baroquely sensuous set of stairs:

A staircase in Paul Rudolph’s Government Service Center in Boston. Photo: NCSU Libraries

A staircase in Paul Rudolph’s Government Service Center in Boston. Photo: NCSU Libraries

Or his intriguing proposal for the Inter-American Center:

Rudolph’s design for the bazaar-market building, part of the Inter-American Center (also known as the Interama) project, which was envisioned for the Miami area of Florida. Image: Library of Congress

Rudolph’s design for the bazaar-market building, part of the Inter-American Center (also known as the Interama) project, which was envisioned for the Miami area of Florida. Image: Library of Congress

There are other projects of his where flowing curves show up, but we’ll end with Rudolph’s own NYC apartment: its modest-size living room was enhanced by the floating curves of hanging bookshelves which surrounded the space:

Sinuously curved suspended shelving provided space for book storage and display, in Rudolph’s own NYC apartment. Photo: Tom Yee for House and Garden

Sinuously curved suspended shelving provided space for book storage and display, in Rudolph’s own NYC apartment. Photo: Tom Yee for House and Garden

CIRCLING BACK TO WRIGHT

But what about circles in Rudolph’s work?

For that, we need to return to Wright. The two great influences which are often cited for Rudolph are Wright and Le Corbusier. Wright - for his richly layered, deep-perspective spaces; and Corbusier - for the bold, sculptural plasticity of (especially) his later works. With Wright, we know the connection is not spurious, for we have a photograph of the youthful Rudolph visiting a Wright-designed home:

Rudolph (at left) and family members, visiting Wright’s Rosenbaum House in Alabama.  Photo: Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation

Rudolph (at left) and family members, visiting Wright’s Rosenbaum House in Alabama.

Photo: Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation

Now here’s where it gets really interesting. This is the overall plan for Rudolph’s “Floating Islands” project of 1952-1953:

Rudolph’s drawing for the Floating Islands project, for Leesburg, Florida. Image: Library of Congress

Rudolph’s drawing for the Floating Islands project, for Leesburg, Florida. Image: Library of Congress

This is Interiors magazine’s description of the project:

"Architect Paul Rudolph intends to enliven one 180-mile stretch in the interior - between two of Florida’s most popular sights, Silver Springs and the Bok Tower - with an amusement center and tourist attraction where the main feature is Florida flora growing from earth materials supported by masses of floating roots commonly called ‘floating islands.’ The site has a 1000-foot frontage on two U.S. highways and easy access to a fresh water lake where fishing is excellent. Aimed primarily for sight-seers who want to stop for a couple of hours for food and rest to learn something fast about Florida flora, the center would provide a restaurant near the road for passing motorists as wells as those who stop to see the gardens. For entertainment and recreation there will be a variety of exotic floral displays, grandstand shows of swimming and diving, and boating and water skiing on the lagoon which leads to the large lake and then a string of lakes and canals for boat excursions."

From: "Baroque Formality in a Florida Tourist Attraction" Interiors magazine, January, 1954

When contemplating this composition, what immediately to mind are Wright’s designs that utilize circles, especially decorative designs, like this:

Frieze over the fireplace in the living room of the Wright-designed Hollyhock House, in Los Angeles, California. Image: Architectural Digest

Frieze over the fireplace in the living room of the Wright-designed Hollyhock House, in Los Angeles, California. Image: Architectural Digest

Or this Wright design of a rug at the David and Gladys Wright house (incidentally, this house is one of our favorites) -

Image: Los Angeles Modern Auctions

Image: Los Angeles Modern Auctions

And here is Wright himself, contemplating one of his most famous graphics, “March Balloons”:

Frank Lloyd Wright (photographed circa the 1950’s) looking at a design he’d submitted for Liberty Magazine in the 1920’s. Image:  www.franklloydwright.org

Frank Lloyd Wright (photographed circa the 1950’s) looking at a design he’d submitted for Liberty Magazine in the 1920’s. Image: www.franklloydwright.org

Now, looking at these Wright designs, and looking at Rudolph’s plan for the “Floating Islands” project, do you see some formal resonance? Maybe a lot? We do. Hmmmmm!

But -

Isn’t history fascinatingly - for we learn that Wright had, earlier, worked on this project! Here’s what Christopher Domin and Joseph King tell us, in their wonderful book on Rudolph’s early work:

“Frank Lloyd Wright designed a sprawling scheme for this project in early 1952, which contained a central pavilion with a distinctive vaulted plywood tower, a series of cottages, and two pier-like motels with access from each room. After this project came in substantially over budget, Rudolph was brought in to reconceptualize the program and master plan for this combination highway rest stop, and tourist attraction near Leesburg in central Florida.”

Practical, budgetary, and programmatic challenges aside, one wonders what Rudolph thought (and felt!), knowing that he was supplanting the great Master himself. These fine historians go on to venture that Rudolph, in his design, might have been referencing Wright’s work (and mention several formally pertinent projects of Wright’s.) Or perhaps Wright’s original plan for this development was so strong, that Rudolph felt it provided a good and relevant parti for his own design? These are questions for which it is interesting to speculate - though they too have a circular quality.

PLATONIC PLEASURE

We were prompted to these rotund reflections by coming across this project, by the ever-fascinating MZ Architects:

Image: MZ Architects

Image: MZ Architects

It is their “Ring House”, a residential design for Riyadh. MZ describes it as:

“The proposed building consists of a cylindrical volume embracing a rectangular one. The cylinder acts as a protective closed wall with a single narrow opening serving as the entrance, while the inside rectangle accommodates fluidly all the house functions necessary for the everyday life of the artist: a bedroom, a bathroom, a living room, a kitchen and an atelier. The interior space interacts smoothly with the serene outdoor atrium, a large terrace garden with one symbolic tree and a circular water feature. By means of this composition, the ring-shaped structure figuratively resembles a cocoon ensuring a sense of intimacy and calmness for the house, that closes itself completely from the surroundings.”

The renderings make it look like the house, the courtyards, and the perimeter wall are made of concrete—and, if that’s the intention, this is certainly one of the most serenely elegant uses of concrete we’ve ever come across. MZ has other renderings for this superbly composed project—and we suggest you visit their website to see them (as well as explore the rest of their interesting oeuvre).

And that about rounds-out things for today…

Paul Rudolph and Fashion

Photo:  amazon.com

Photo: amazon.com

DESIGN VS. FASHION

NYC Fashion Week of 2019 has been upon us - that’s the time when citizens can see “swans” wandering our streets: models of such other-worldly perfection (?) that one sometimes wonders if they’re aliens! The season has made us contemplate the relationship between design and fashion - and, for that, our thoughts turn to the High Temple of design: MoMA.

Arthur Drexler (1925-1987) was, for over a third-of-a century, the Director of the Museum of Modern Art’s Department of Architecture and Design. It was (and remains) a powerful position, virtually “the pope” in the world of design. That’s because whatever the Museum chooses to recognize, collect, exhibit, and/or publish becomes very widely known, focused-upon, and studied - it is the design equivalent an “imprimatur” from the church. Drexler exercised this power with penetrating intelligence, an excellent eye, and a sharp awareness of the context of history - and his successors, particularly Barry Bergdoll and Martino Stierli, have continued to work at that high standard.

MoMA divided their Design Collection into two parts:

  • objects which belonged to the “Permanent Collection”—which met the highest standards of timeless excellence in design

  • objects which were assigned to the “Study Collection”—things which might not merit being in MoMA’s aristocracy of design objects, but which were interesting for formal or historic reasons, and therefor found a home at the museum

We mention all this because, during a 1970’s “backstage” visit to MoMA, down in the basement offices of the Department of Architecture and Design, Foundation member Seth Weine had a chance to ask Drexler:  Why didn’t we see examples of jewelry in the museum’s collection? After all, the making of jewelry is important to humans: it goes back to nearly the beginnings of mankind - and there were certainly many Modern designers working in jewelry. Drexler answered astutely, pointing out that that most jewelry falls into the category of “fashion” - which is inherently about change: what’s fashionable today will be out-of-fashion tomorrow. By contrast, MoMA’s collection aspired to permanent [timeless] excellence. So there was an inherent incongruity between most jewelry objects and MoMA’s high design criteria. Even so, Drexler walked Seth over to some display cases and pointed-out the few examples of jewelry therein: some simple geometric “mood rings” of the 1960’s:

A plastic “mood ring”, designed by Stephen Broday and Dan Stoenescu.. Photo: The Museum of Modern Art

A plastic “mood ring”, designed by Stephen Broday and Dan Stoenescu.. Photo: The Museum of Modern Art

and a metallic bracelet with a rather mechanical look:

A brass bracelet by an unknown designer, circa 1940. Photo: The Museum of Modern Art

A brass bracelet by an unknown designer, circa 1940. Photo: The Museum of Modern Art

So they did have some jewelry—but as part of the Study Collection.

ONE THAT MADE IT (INTO THE MoMA PANTHEON)

Many architects are obsessed with wristwatches—and some architects have even designed them—like  Sottsass, Isozaki, Hollein, and Graves. Michael Graves was particularly active in this, with a great range of designs.

Inventive—yes. But frankly, many of those designs strike us as being, at most, of historic interest: their forms and colors reflecting the architectural modes of the day—precisely what Drexler identified as passing fashion.

Are there, in watch designs, any exceptions to such fashion ephemerality? Yes, several - and one of them is most famous of all: the “Museum Watch” designed by Nathan George Horwitt. This wristwatch became an iconic object of Modernism, and was so named because it was elected to be part of the Museum of Modern Art’s permanent collection (where the original version was on display). It also became part of the collection of the Brooklyn Museum:

The “Museum Watch”. Photo: Brooklyn Museum

The “Museum Watch”. Photo: Brooklyn Museum

WATCHING RUDOLPH

What watch did Mies wear? What about Gropius? Bunshaft? Sullivan?—well, he was from an era well before wristwatches became popular for men (that changed only with World War One)—but Wright spanned into the wristwatch-wearing era: So did he wear one?

When we were assembling materials for our recent Rudolph centennial exhibit, we were wondering—given many architects’ interest in watches - if Paul Rudolph had a special wristwatch that we could include in the show. It’s hard tell, just from photographs, what watch (if any) Rudolph ever wore. Indeed, it’s actually rather hard to clearly see any person’s watch in photographs, and even more difficult to determine the make and model. (Although there are now websites which attempt such “watch spotting”.)

While we didn’t find a Rudolph watch for the exhibit, we’ve recently heard about this subject from his close friend, Emily Sherman. Emily tells us that she gave Rudolph a wristwatch: the famous “Museum Watch”!

P.S. Would Rudolph have also liked this watch?

It certainly features that rust-orange color (“paprika”) that Paul Rudolph used in many of his interiors. Moreover: it also has a pronouncedly octagonal shape - in fact, it has 5 octagons.

That’s a form which Rudolph became quite friendly with in the final phase of his career, when he was working in Asia—particularly in his Lippo [Bond] Centre towers in Hong Kong and in his Concourse in Singapore.

Rudolph's 'Personal Laboratory' at 23 Beekman place to be up for sale

23 Beekman Place at the time Rudolph lived there. Photo: Ed Chappell

23 Beekman Place at the time Rudolph lived there. Photo: Ed Chappell

The Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation has learned that Paul Rudolph’s legendary townhouse at 23 Beekman Place will be for sale in the next weeks. The listing will include the entire 11,000 s.f. (1,022 m2) building - the iconic 4,100 s.f. (381 m2) quadriplex penthouse and Rudolph-designed lower rental units - for $18.5 million. The exclusive brokers, Jonathan Hettinger and Lena Datwani of Sotheby’s International Realty, reached out to the foundation to discuss the property’s architectural significance in preparation for the sale. They are hoping to identify a buyer who will appreciate Rudolph’s legacy.

Rudolph’s ‘Personal Laboratory’

Rudolph designed 23 Beekman place as a spatially rich and very personal vision of the possibilities of architecture. It was both intimate and Piranesi-like, soaring and layered: an orchestration of interlocking spaces. It was Rudolph’s design laboratory, where he would constantly change, try out, and experiment with new variations - a composition of rich textures and reflective materials that caught the light in magical ways. No less than 17 levels could be counted which, pinwheel-like, floated harmoniously and lead from one luminous experience to the next.

Rudolph’s rendering of 23 Beekman Place in section. Image: Library of Congress

Rudolph’s rendering of 23 Beekman Place in section. Image: Library of Congress

23 Beekman Place was constantly moving: light plays, water falls, and canals on the terrace were built. There was a Plexiglas Jacuzzi on the top level through which you could see down over 30 feet, to dazzling spaces below—a 20th century version of Sir John Soane’s House Museum in London.

Drawings and a model of the property were included in the recent Paul Rudolph centennial exhibition titled ‘Paul Rudolph: The Personal Laboratory’ which was on display in the Modulightor building and featured in an article in the New York Times.

Featured in Film and Magazines

The home’s iconic design led it to it being center stage for parties hosted by Rudolph at which one could rub elbows with the likes of Ray Eames, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Jessica Lange, Philip Johnson and Frank Gehry.

Image: Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation Archives

Image: Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation Archives

The home was also featured in magazine fashion shoots, movies and television shows, including a memorable fire drill scene from the 2001 movie The Royal Tenenbaums.

Renovations

After Rudolph passed away in 1997, the apartment was sold and the new owners made renovations. These included removing the infamous lucite bathub that hung above the kitchen and other code related modifications.

Landmark Designation

In 2010, the building was designated a New York City landmark by the Landmark Preservation Commission. Matt Postal, an architectural historian and member of the Commission, made the initial presentation to the board:

Although the multi-level interiors fashioned by Rudolph have been modified by subsequent owners, the exterior is virtually unchanged. 23 Beekman Place is a significant and highly personal example of this important modern architect’s late work. Visible from Beekman Place and various points east, it is one of only four buildings designed by Rudolph in New York City, and arguably, his most significant.

Several Rudolph properties have been on the market recently, just as the famed architect would have turned 100 years. These include the Treistman Residence in Englewood, New Jersey and the Milam Residence in Jacksonville, Florida. The Halston (Hirsch) Residence was sold on January 15th for $18 million, and the Walker Guest House in Sanibel, Florida was put on the market last month.

Please spread the word about the upcoming sale and if you want to know more information, please reach out to us at office@paulrudolphheritagefoundation.org

Valentines for Concrete Lovers

Image: www.coffeewithanarchitect.com

Image: www.coffeewithanarchitect.com

HARD HEARTED?

Oh, we know that fans of Paul Rudolph’s work (and the work of other, so-called, “Brutalists”) are often accused of having an excessive fondness for concrete: perhaps it could be called ‘Concrete-o-Phila’

Well, Valentine’s Day is coming up - tomorrow! At the Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation, our thoughts turn to romance, candy, hearts - and concrete of course…

It turns out that we’re not the only ones. There’s an army of maker-designers out there, rendering the most amazing shapes in concrete - including hearts!

Check-out these creative concrete conjurers:

Image: Homemade-modern.com

Image: Homemade-modern.com

  • Here’s a lovely ring, made of concrete, which had been offered by Concretely Shop:

Image: Concretely Shop

Image: Concretely Shop

  • On Youtube, Ali Coultas shows how to make lightheartedly colorful concrete hearts:

Image: Ali Coultas

Image: Ali Coultas

  • For the more literal, Anna Szabo has sculpted a series of organ jewelry, including an anatomically-correct (as filtered through cubism) heart:

Image: Anna Szabo

Image: Anna Szabo

  • And, while the choices could go on-and-on, we’ll end with this example—which shows that you can have an affinity for concrete—and a heart of gold:

Image: The Pink Hill Jewelry

Image: The Pink Hill Jewelry

Have a happy Valentine’s Day from the Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation and remember when its made of concrete, you’re less likely to wind up with a broken heart!

Paul Rudolph: Designs for Feed and Speed

Front view of a model of a drive-in: the Cantor “HIWAY” restaurant, designed by Mies Van der Rohe. Image: The Museum of Modern Art

Front view of a model of a drive-in: the Cantor “HIWAY” restaurant, designed by Mies Van der Rohe. Image: The Museum of Modern Art

Floor plan and elevation of a drive-in: the Cantor “HIWAY” restaurant, designed by Mies Van der Rohe, pencil on tracing paper, circa 1945-1950. Image: The Museum of Modern Art

Floor plan and elevation of a drive-in: the Cantor “HIWAY” restaurant, designed by Mies Van der Rohe, pencil on tracing paper, circa 1945-1950. Image: The Museum of Modern Art

HIGH DESIGN FOR THE EVERYDAY

Famous architects—those operating at the very highest level of architecture-as-art - have designed for some surprising prosaic uses. Above is a model, plan, and elevation for Mies’ design for a highway drive-in. And did you know that he also - and we’re not kidding - did an ice-cream stand in Berlin? (Yes, it got built.)

Frank Lloyd Wright designed a gas station - which also was built:

Wright’s gas station, located in Cloquet, Minnesota. Image: McGhiever

Wright’s gas station, located in Cloquet, Minnesota. Image: McGhiever

Wright also designed a dog-house. And here’s a fascinating one designed by Philip Johnson, which is against a stone retaining wall near Johnson’s Glass House:

A Philip Johnson designed dog house—on the Glass House estate. Image: www.urbandognyc.com

A Philip Johnson designed dog house—on the Glass House estate. Image: www.urbandognyc.com

By-the way, Rudolph said he’d be willing to design a dog house - if - he was allowed to design a very good and unique one. (We’re sure it would have been fascinating - but, as far as we know, he was never commissioned to do so.)

And, of course, famous architects have designed objects for everyday use - particularly furniture. We all know Mies’, Breuer’s, and Le Corbusier’s chairs, but what about Aalto’s tea cart - a very elegant design:

Alvar Aalto’s Tea Trolley 901, a design from 1936—and still manufactured and available. Image:  www.Aalto.com

Alvar Aalto’s Tea Trolley 901, a design from 1936—and still manufactured and available. Image: www.Aalto.com

AND RUDOLPH DOES AS WELL

So it is no wonder that Paul Rudolph, when asked to design a donut stand, engaged in the project. Here is his perspective rendering, from 1956:

Paul Rudolph’s perspective rendering of a donut stand for Tampa, Florida. Image: Library of Congress

Paul Rudolph’s perspective rendering of a donut stand for Tampa, Florida. Image: Library of Congress

If one divided the arc of Rudolph’s career into geographically-based chapters (around the locations of his primary offices), one would say that he had three phases:

  • Florida (approx. just after WWII -to- 1958)

  • New Haven (approx. 1958-1965)

  • New York (approx.. 1965-his passing in 1997)

This project happened during the time his primary office was in Florida, and the preponderance of his clients in that state. It was there, centered in the Sarasota area (though extending outward to the rest of the state and beyond) that Rudolph started his career. Initially he was doing small houses, guest houses, beach houses… but his practice eventually grew to embrace all kinds of building types, from primary residences to schools, offices, and larger developments.

Rudolph’s designs for Florida are among his most creative and fascinating bodies of work. For a long time, one could only learn about them via delving into vintage professional journals—but an exceptionally fine book, covering that period, came out in 2002:

Image: Amazon.com

Image: Amazon.com

Paul Rudolph: The Florida Houses

by Christopher Domin and Joseph King, with photographs by Ezra Stoller. Published by Princeton Architectural Press

The book’s title undersells the book it bit, for (we’re happy to say) that the volume covers more than houses. For example: this donut stand. About it, they write:

"Rudolph, along with Frank Lloyd Wright and Mies van der Rohe, believed that even the most banal aspects of the American popular landscape such as fast-food restaurants and gas stations were worthy of an architect’s services. The Donut Stand, designed for a group of investors in Tampa, was commissioned as a prototype building to act as the marketing symbol for this roadside business. Rudolph hung a thin planar structure from four vertical steel supports, creating a veritable floating roof with a minimal, glass-enclosed interior space below. This project was designed in the Cambridge office at the same time as the Grand Rapids Homestyle Residence, with a similarly conceptualized open plan and restrained use of materials. A hastily rendered design drawing was presented to some of the investors, but was soon shelved after a payment dispute. By this time Rudolph opened his Cambridge, Massachusetts office to develop drawings for the Jewett Arts Center in Wellesley and later the Blue Cross Blue Shield Building in Boston, but many Florida projects from this period were also coordinated from this satellite studio."

Like dating a project - always a challenge in architectural history - the location where this project was done poses similar questions. As the authors point out above, when it comes to where this was designed, the story is a bit more complicated than the Florida-New Haven-New York triad.

At various times in his career, Rudolph had temporary satellite offices. (We tried to lay this out when we put together a timeline for the Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation’s recent exhibit, Paul Rudolph: The Personal Laboratory - and found that it was challenging to figure-out the many locations where Rudolph and his team(s) worked.)

Even so, it is also hard to say that something was designed in one particular spot: architects are thinking/sketching/pondering design problems wherever they go. The documentary about Rudolph, “Spaces: The Architecture of Paul Rudolph” shows him sketching on the train. So even if the presentation materials for this donut stand were done in Cambridge, you can well guess that the place(s) where Rudolph was thinking about it was not geographically limited.

This was not Paul Rudolph’s first foray into roadside food facilities! The Library of Congress’ collection of Rudolph drawings also has a Tastee Freez stand, which he designed a few years before:

Paul Rudolph’s perspective rendering of a Tastee Freez stand, from 1954. Judging from the palm trees (in the background of the drawing), this too was for Florida. Image: Library of Congress

Paul Rudolph’s perspective rendering of a Tastee Freez stand, from 1954. Judging from the palm trees (in the background of the drawing), this too was for Florida. Image: Library of Congress

It’s interesting to contemplate what unites the two designs - and how they fit into Rudolph’s work and thinking. A few primary points might be mentioned:

  • The articulation of structure - as distinct from the planes of the roof/wall/enclosure/signage.

  • The play of opaque and transparent - which is strongly expressed in the graphic (solid black) contrast of the dark underside of the roof-planes.

  • The attention-getting nature of the design - even when done in a strictly High-Modern style, both buildings are well-planned to be noticeable from speedy passing traffic.

  • The inclusion of shade - especially important in a semi-tropical environment like Florida.

  • Never forgetting the human - both renderings include figures and seating which give a clear sense of scale (as well as conveying that these are not just abstract compositions, but rather for real use.)

  • Bauhaus-ian composition - which is hardly to be wondered-at, as Walter Gropius—founding director of the Bauhaus - was Paul Rudolph’s teacher when in Rudolph was in graduate school at Harvard.

High (end) or low; fast food or elegant settings; at intimate or gigantic scale - Rudolph, like any true design-master, could engage interestingly with any project.

The Seagram Building - by Rudolph?

The Seagram Building in New York City, under construction, designed by Mies van der Rohe. Photo: ReseachGate, Hunt, 1958

The Seagram Building in New York City, under construction, designed by Mies van der Rohe. Photo: ReseachGate, Hunt, 1958

Mies van der Rohe’s Seagram Building is one of the loftiest of the high icons of Modernism. For decades, it was almost a sacred object. Indeed, several of his buildings - the Barcelona Pavilion and the Farnsworth House (as well as the Seagram) - were maintained in a bubble of architectural adoration.

Is reverence for Mies going too far? Actually, it’s architect Craig Ellwood at Mies van der Rohe’s National Gallery museum building in Berlin (caught while photographing a sculpture.) Photo: Architectural Forum, November 1968

Is reverence for Mies going too far? Actually, it’s architect Craig Ellwood at Mies van der Rohe’s National Gallery museum building in Berlin (caught while photographing a sculpture.) Photo: Architectural Forum, November 1968

SEEMS INEVITABLE

Mies is considered to be one of the triad of architects (with Wright and Corb) who were the makers of Modern architecture - a holy trinity! Given Mies’ fame - and the quietly assured, elegantly tailored, serenely-strong presence of Seagram (much like Mies himself) - it seems completely inevitable that he would be its architect. Like an inescapable manifestation of the Zeitgeist, it is hard to conceive that there might have been an alternative to Mies being Seagram’s architect.

Mies is watching! Photo: The Charnel House –  www.charnelhouse.org

Mies is watching! Photo: The Charnel House – www.charnelhouse.org

BUT WAS IT?

In retrospect, seeing the full arc of Mies’ career and reputation, it does seem inevitable. Whom else could deliver such a project? A bronze immensity, planned, detailed and constructed with the care of a jeweler.

But - as usual - the historical truth is more complex and messy (and more interesting).

GETTING ON THE LIST(S)

Several times,  Phyllis Lambert has addressed the history of the Seagram Building and her key role in its formation. But the story is conveyed most articulately and fully in her book, Building Seagram—a richly-told & illustrated, first-person account of the making of the this icon, published by Yale University Press.

Phyllis Lambert’s fascinating book on the creation and construction of the Seagram Building. Image: Yale University Press

Phyllis Lambert’s fascinating book on the creation and construction of the Seagram Building. Image: Yale University Press

Part of the story is her search for who would be the right architect for the building. In one of the book’s most fascinating passages, she recounts the lists that were made of prospective architects:

“In the early days of my search, I met Eero Saarinen at Philip Johnson’s Glass House in Connecticut. In inveterate list-maker, he was most helpful in proposing what we draw up a list of architects according to three categories: those who could but shouldn’t, those who should but couldn’t, and those who could and should. Those who could but shouldn’t were on Bankers Trust Company list of February 1952, including the unimaginative Harrison & Abramovitz and the work of Skidmore , Owings & Merrill, which Johnson and Saarinen considered to be an uninspired reprise of the Bauhaus. Those who should but couldn’t were the younger architects, none of whom had worked on large buildings: Marcel Breuer, who had taught at the Bauhaus and then immigrated to the United States to teach with Gropius at Harvard, and, as already noted, had completed Sarah Lawrence College Art Center in Bronxville; Paul Rudolph, who had received the AIA Award of Merit in 1950 for his Healy Beach Cottage in Sarasota, Florida; Minoru Yamasaki, whose first major public building , the thin-shell vaulted-roof passenger terminal at Lambert-Saint Louis International Airport, was completed in 1956; and I. M. Pei, who had worked with Breuer and Gropius at Harvard and became developer William Zeckendorf’s captive architect. Pei’s intricate, plaid-patterned curtain wall for Denver’s first skyscraper at Mile High Center was then under construction.

The list of those who could and should was short: Le Corbusier and Mies were the only real contenders. Wright was there-but-not-there: he belonged to another world. By reputation, founder and architect of the Bauhaus Walter Gropius should have been on this list, but in design, he always relied on others, and his recent Harvard Graduate Center was less than convincing. Unnamed at that meeting were Saarinen and Johnson themselves, who essentially belonged to the “could but shouldn’t” category.”

WHAT IF’S

So Rudolph was on the list and considered, if briefly. Even that’s something—a real acknowledgment of his up-and-coming talent.

Moreover, Paul Rudolph did have towering aspirations. In Timothy Rohan’s magisterial study of Rudolph (also published by Yale University Press) he writes: 

“Rudolph had great expectations when he resigned from Yale and moved to New York in 1965. He told friends and students that he was at last going to become a ‘skyscraper architect,’ a life-long dream.”

That relocation, from New Haven to New York City, took place in the middle of the 1960’s—about a decade after Mies started work on Seagram. But, back about the time that Mies commenced his project, Rudolph also entered into his own skyscraper project: the Blue Cross / Blue Shield Building in Boston.

Paul Rudolph’s first large office building, a 12 storey tower he designed for Blue Cross/Blue Shield from 1957-1960. It is located at 133 Federal Street in Boston. Photo: Campaignoutsider.com

Paul Rudolph’s first large office building, a 12 storey tower he designed for Blue Cross/Blue Shield from 1957-1960. It is located at 133 Federal Street in Boston. Photo: Campaignoutsider.com

It takes a very different approach to skyscraper design, particularly with regard to the perimeter wall: Rudolph’s design is highly articulated, what Timothy Rohan calls a “challenge” to the curtain wall (of the type with which Mies is associated)—indeed, “muscular” would be an appropriate characterization. Moreover, Rudolph integrated mechanical systems into the wall system in an innovative way.

A closer view of the Blue Cross/Blue Shield’s highly articulated façade and corner, seen nearer to street-level. Photo: Courtesy of the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth Library

A closer view of the Blue Cross/Blue Shield’s highly articulated façade and corner, seen nearer to street-level. Photo: Courtesy of the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth Library

And, Rudolph did end up fulfilling his post-Yale desire to become a “skyscraper architect”—at least in part. He ended up doing significantly large office buildings and apartment towers: in Fort Worth, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, and Jakarta. Each project showed him able to work with a variety of skyscraper wall-types, materials, and formal vocabularies. Rudolph, while maintaining the integrity of his architectural visions, also could be versatile.

And yet -

He was on that Seagram list, and we are left with some tantalizing “What if’s…

What if he had gotten the commission for Seagram—an what would he have done with it?

Wright & Johnson & Rudolph

Frank Lloyd Wright (left) with Philip Johnson

Frank Lloyd Wright (left) with Philip Johnson

FRANK AND PHILIP

Wright and Johnson: given their contrasting personalizes, background, design orientations, and different generations—they were born nearly 40 years apart—they were not a likely pair.

Yet they had decades of interaction, and two main factors contributed to that ongoing phenomenon:

  • In some ways, architecture is a small world. If you’re in the field, chances are that you know (or know of) scores and even hundreds of colleagues though journal articles, exhibitions, lectures, teaching, organizations, juries, conferences - and now, on-line. And if you’re famous (or ambitious and working on it), it’s likely that you’ve personally met and engaged with each other at the kinds of venues mentioned above. That, in turn, begets even more such occasions and encounters: further exhibits, more meetings, additional panels & symposia, recommendations for fellowships, new conferences… as well as mutual acknowledgment on social media.

  • Charming, social, strategic, ambitious, energetic, mentally sharp - that set of characterizations can accurately be applied to both Wright and Johnson. Creatively, Wright was a force-of-nature - and he can be justly included as one of Modern architecture’s foundational trio (the other two, generally selected for that pantheon, are Mies and Corbusier) And Johnson - whatever you think of his design oeuvre (and we do like some parts of it) - can be well described as an architectural entrepreneur. Not just in the matter of obtaining clients, but rather in the broadest sense of his working to influence & explore culture through exhibits, writing, curation, making connections, public pronouncements, and pouring his personal resources into many projects (a.k.a.: various kinds of patronage.)

Wright did those things too, but with Johnson it was a bit different. It seems funny to say it, but in a way Johnson was the less selfish of the two. Wright was relentlessly focused on himself and his self-designed community/universe. But Johnson - while no slouch when it came to self-promotion, and in actively seeing out clients for his growing practice - was also sending energy outwards. So the exhibits, books, organizations, and other projects to which Johnson contributed or organized were not always just about him—and that’s a contrast with Wright.

There were a variety of occasions and reasons for them to interact - as recounted in a full-length study of the pairing by Hugh Howard.

Hugh Howard’s recent book on Wright and Johnson, “Architecture’s Odd Couple” Photo: Bloomsbury Press

Hugh Howard’s recent book on Wright and Johnson, “Architecture’s Odd Couple” Photo: Bloomsbury Press

Some of Johnson’s projects brought them together, most notably MoMA’s “Modern Architecture: International Exposition” of 1932, for which Philip Johnson and Henry-Russell Hitchcock were the curators (which also resulted in an equally famous and influential book & phrase: “The International Style”). Wright, possibly annoyed at not being the show’s center of attention, was grouchy about the whole thing and seems to have played “hard-to-get” - but he did eventually decide to take part in this historically significant exhibition.

Wright’s work, as shown in MoMA’s architecture exhibition. Photo: The Museum of Modern Art, New York

Wright’s work, as shown in MoMA’s architecture exhibition. Photo: The Museum of Modern Art, New York

PAUL AND PHILIP

A snapshot of Philip Johnson (with folder in hands), Paul Rudolph (in center, on stool), and Vincent Scully (to the right of Rudolph), at a Yale architecture school jury in 1960. Photo: Stanley Tigerman

A snapshot of Philip Johnson (with folder in hands), Paul Rudolph (in center, on stool), and Vincent Scully (to the right of Rudolph), at a Yale architecture school jury in 1960. Photo: Stanley Tigerman

Paul Rudolph and Johnson were old friends, rivals, and sociable sparring partners. For example: Rudolph invited Johnson to teach at Yale; they’d dine together at a pub about midway between their Manhattan homes; they’d poke fun at each other’s work; and Rudolph was a welcome guest at Johnson’s famous Glass House estate in New Canaan.

Sunset at Philip Johnson’s Glass House. Photo: Arthurious.com

Sunset at Philip Johnson’s Glass House. Photo: Arthurious.com

A WEEKEND IN THE COUNTRY

A special 1996 issue of ANY [Architecture New York] magazine was devoted to celebrating Philip Johnson’s 90th birthday. 33 essays, from luminaries ranging from Stanley Tigerman -to- Zaha Hadid -to- Hans Hollein -to- Kevin Roche (and 29 more!) offered their memories, thoughts, anecdotes, and tributes to Johnson - including one from Paul Rudolph, titled “A Sunday Afternoon.” As you’ll see, it records a unique occasion when the three of them - Wright, Johnson, and Rudolph - were together:

Now that’s what we’d call a perfect day.

Paul Rudolph's design for MoMA’s ‘FAMILY OF MAN’ Exhibition

Paul Rudolph’s plan-perspective drawing for the layout for the Museum of Modern Art’s   Family of Man   photography exhibition, which opened in 1955. Image: Library of Congress

Paul Rudolph’s plan-perspective drawing for the layout for the Museum of Modern Art’s Family of Man photography exhibition, which opened in 1955. Image: Library of Congress

A SPECTACULARLY SUCCESSFUL EXHIBIT

The Family of Man was a photography exhibition held at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City in 1955. Edward Steichen—himself a distinguished photographer, and the curator of the show (and whose widow eventually became a Rudolph client)—had the prodigious task of making the selection from submissions from all over the world. It ended up being a sweepingly large show, with over 500 photographs, from 69 countries, and by 222 photographers.

Edwin Steichen, the Director of the Museum of Modern Art’s Department of Photography, facing the task of selecting & organizing photographs for the exhibit. Photo: MoMA

Edwin Steichen, the Director of the Museum of Modern Art’s Department of Photography, facing the task of selecting & organizing photographs for the exhibit. Photo: MoMA

MoMA concisely describes the exhibit as follows:

This ambitious exhibition, which brought together hundreds of images by photographers working around the world, was a forthright declaration of global solidarity in the decade following World War II. Organized by noted photographer and director of MoMA’s Department of Photography Edward Steichen, the exhibition took the form of a photo essay celebrating the universal aspects of the human experience. Steichen had invited photographers to submit photographs for consideration, explaining that his aim was to capture “the gamut of life from birth to death”—a task for which, he argued, photography was uniquely suited. The exhibition toured the world for eight years, attracting more than 9 million visitors.

The show included photos that have become absolute “classics” in the history of photography, like this famous image of an American migrant worker and her children: Dorothea Lange’s photograph, “Migrant Mother”

Image: Library of Congress

Image: Library of Congress

By-the-way: MoMA’s point, about the exhibit touring the world, makes it more accurate to say that this was a set of exhibitions, for - after its initial showing at MoMA in 1955 (the one designed by Paul Rudolph) - copies or versions of the exhibit were shown all over the globe, in over 3 dozen nations (and sometimes in a several cities within a country). This included exhibits in some iron-curtain countries - which, itself, might be considered quite an achievement right in the heart of the Cold War.

The show has had further life as a book which, well over half-a-century since it came out, seems to have been continuously in-print—an amazing record. [And, not long ago, a special 60th Anniversary Edition was published.]

The meaningfulness of the show’s collection of photos---that particular selection, and the way they were organized—can not only be gauged by the attendance figures to the shows, but also by comments from readers of the book version. Here are two samples from readers (who commented on Amazon):

“I have read this book over and over again … and bought copies for my children and my aged grandfather. Since the MoMA republished it, all my grandchildren are getting a copy as birthday presents. The meaning of each photograph is easily understood by all cultures, and is a timeless portrayal of life from love, birth, living life and eventually, death.”

“In the maddening fast pace time we live in, where we are presented with false dichotomies and "news" that promotes division and futility of purpose this book - this magnificent book - draws the reader into a calmer, slower pace, awe inspiring appreciation for the beauty and wonder of our species. When I first opened its pages I was skeptical - prepared to be disappointed by another commercial knock off that pretends to be one thing and ends with a solicitation to buy into some self serving, blame evoking finger pointing view, on the one hand, or an unrealistic, romanticized characterization of a simple and simplistic view of the good old days. An hour into the book I was completely captured by the poets and artists portrayal of the human family.”

AN INTEREST IN EXHIBIT DESIGN

Rudolph created a number over exhibitions over the decades (including with the Museum of Modern Art, prior to the Family of Man show), and exhibit design seems to have been an ongoing interest of his. The Rudolph-designed duplex apartment, within the Modulightor Building, has a portion of Paul Rudolph’s library—and in it we found a copy of a book he owned on Franco Albini (1905-1977)—the multi-talented Italian architect.

Photo of the book in the Library of the Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation

Photo of the book in the Library of the Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation

Albini was a prolific designer of exhibits, as shown in these spreads from the book:

Photo of the book in the Library of the Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation

Photo of the book in the Library of the Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation

The book came out (and was acquired by Rudolph) decades after the Family of Man show—so we cannot say this publication influenced Rudolph. We only mention it as evidence of Rudolph’s ongoing interest in the topic of exhibit design.

A SUCCESSFUL EXHIBIT DESIGN

A plan of the  Family of Man  exhibit, with explanatory labels and notes. This version was in an article about the show that appeared in  Popular Photography  magazine.

A plan of the Family of Man exhibit, with explanatory labels and notes. This version was in an article about the show that appeared in Popular Photography magazine.

Rudolph used about all imaginable methods & arrangements to display/mount/show the hundreds of photographs in the show—and sometimes it seems like he wanted to try every possible variation. Yet the show seems to have had coherence, and the multiple display techniques worked well with the photographic materials.

These many techniques included:

  • Large-scale (wall-spanning) enlargements of a single photograph

  • Wall mounting in a pattern of De Stijl-ian grids

  • Suspension from rods (coming from the ceiling)

  • Mounting on rods (coming up from the floor)

  • Mounting over “island”-like, space-defining platforms

  • Suspending within a vignette, created by a cyclorama of fabric, below a glowing circular ceiling

  • Showing them against a transparent background window—so as to provide glimpses through the assemblage of photos, to the next space

  • Suspended in groupings of large panels—and…

  • And thickening the edges of those panels, to give them visual substance

  • Collected together in smaller, more intimate sizes

  • Isolating a single photo, so as to give it dramatic focus

  • Placing a horizontal line of photos along curved convex walls—indeed, having two such matching walls face each-other, so as to create a compressed spatial transition into the next gallery

  • Creating free-standing, curved, island-like display “objects”—with the photos placed at low viewing angles

  • Cantilevering photos—fin-like—off the wall (at 90 degrees to the wall’s main plane

  • Cantilevering photos—fin-like—off vertical poles

  • Placing a giant photo on the ceiling

  • Suspending large photos in visually-strong, contrastingly-dark wood framing elements

There are probably more, but the above list—and the below portfolio of installation images—will give you an idea of the inventiveness that Rudolph brought to this challenge.

A BOOK ABOUT THE EXHIBIT?

We’ve mentioned the well-known Family of Man book which came out of the show (and the new, anniversary edition)—but the exhibit design, per se, certainly deserves its own monograph. Did such a book ever come out?

No and yes. There’s never been, to our knowledge, a book focused on the design of the show. But we did discover that a deluxe edition of the Family of Man book was published: a version which includes an “A special portfolio of photographs by Ezra Stoller” showing the exhibit installation. That section starts off with this page:

Photo of the book in the Library of the Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation

Photo of the book in the Library of the Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation

Paul Rudolph’s participation in the exhibit had been fully acknowledged in MoMA’s own 1955 press release for the show—and it is also clearly indicated in the deluxe edition of the book:

Photo of the book in the Library of the Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation

Photo of the book in the Library of the Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation

Here’s an example of the installation shots, as shown from a section of the book:

Photo of the book in the Library of the Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation

Photo of the book in the Library of the Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation

Good news:  We have a copy of that deluxe edition in the library of the Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation. But if you would like to have one of those deluxe editions for your own, it seems that copies do show up on the websites of on-line booksellers, like Abebooks and Amazon.

Up, Up, and Away! It’s a bird, it's a plane - IT’S CONCRETE?

LIGHTWEIGHT CONCRETE

There’s concrete that floats—“aerocrete”—and boats have been built of concrete. Now they’re seriously testing the material for the construction of submarines.

Photo: Wilfried Ellmer

Photo: Wilfried Ellmer

But can it also be used for flying?

 I MEAN - REALLY - FLY?

For a long time, the phase “like a concrete balloon” has been used to denote an extremely unworkable or unpopular idea. Yet the idea that concrete may have a place in the air has left traces through history. The Ilyushin II-2, the prolifically produced Soviet fighter aircraft of WWII, had many nicknames, and German pilots sometimes called it “Betonflugzeug” (concrete plane)—presumably for its toughness.

But has concrete ever actually been used in aeronautics (other than its widespread use for runways)?

It’s not for lack of trying. David Haberman and Tyler Pojanowski, a couple of clever students from the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, built a remotely-controlled model aircraft which successfully flies and lands - and its 18 pounds include 40” wings, tail, and body - made of made of concrete!

Photo: Debra Cleghorn

Photo: Debra Cleghorn

Beyond that, the pickings are slim—and we may have to look in other directions.

HOW ABOUT FLYING ARCHITECTURE?

There are flying structures which have been made to look like buildings, like this flying cathedral:

53ea017beb691c55ab6431526f23cee6.jpg

And the late publisher & collector Malcom Forbes was famous for his unique set of joyously diverse balloons, one of which was designed to look like one of his own homes, a chateau on France:

PCUNOR014FS0006K_3.jpg

And then there are buildings which are not literally flying—but which look like they could. In that category, there are numerous examples to choose from—like this one, which looks like it just landed (but from what planet?): the Buzludzha Monument, built in Bulgaria and opened in 1981:

Photo: Mark Ahsmann via Wikipedia

Photo: Mark Ahsmann via Wikipedia

And there’s Will Alsop’s OCAD college building in Ontario, which looks like it would float off, were it not tethered to the ground:

Credit: Photograph by  Taxiarchos228 , with technical assistance by  Niabot

Credit: Photograph by Taxiarchos228, with technical assistance by Niabot

BUILDINGS FOR FLIGHT

And that brings us to a last category: buildings made for flight - that is to say, to serve the world of aviation. Buildings in this category would include hangars - a fascinating building type in its own right. Some of the most amazing were made to store and protect large dirigibles and airships - and the structures had to be correspondingly huge, with substantial clear spans.

A famous example is Hangar One at Moffet Field in California - one of he world’s largest freestanding structures:

The USS Macon inside  Hangar One at Moffett Field  on October 15, 1933 — following a transcontinental flight from Lakehurst, New Jersey. Photo:  Moffett Field Historical Society

The USS Macon inside Hangar One at Moffett Field on October 15, 1933 — following a transcontinental flight from Lakehurst, New Jersey. Photo: Moffett Field Historical Society

Much more familiar to us are the airline terminals themselves—after all, most of us are more likely to use and experience them, rather than any other kind of airport building. Some architects have certainly tried to instill a sense of the spirit of aviation in their buildings—and a fine example is by Hellmuth, Yamasaki and Leinweber (a predecessor of Hellmuth, Obata & Kassabaum). Their Lambert-St. Louis airport in St. Louis, 1951-1956:

Photo: Art Grossman

Photo: Art Grossman

And this really brings us to the ultimate expression of flight, via concrete: Eero Saarinen’s TWA Flight Center, at New York’s Kennedy Airport. Saarinen (1910-1961) was, like Paul Rudolph, considered a “formgiver” architect. What they meant by that term can be discerned from what architectural critic Paul Goldberger wrote of Saarinen’s work: 

“Buildings like Saarinen's TWA terminal at John F. Kennedy International Airport or his Dulles International Airport outside of Washington, D.C. … were of interest to architectural cognoscenti and laymen alike. Their swooping forms and sense of adventure excited everyone….”

Rudolph, Saarinen, Johansen, Yamasaki (as in the air terminal noted above), Belluschi, Le Corbusier - in his later phases - and others brought an exciting bravado to the forms they produced.

Even Wright’s Guggenheim Museum could be seen to be part of that set of boldly shaped buildings - and not only did it have a readily identifiable shape, it also had a sense of movement. Ditto for Paul Rudolph’s Temple Street Garage in Boston - an exceptionally fine part of his oeuvre - and one that celebrated automotive movement through the buildings dramatically sculpted curves.

Photo: New Haven Preservation Trust Archives

Photo: New Haven Preservation Trust Archives

But of all the works designed during that period, Saarinen’s TWA must be placed at the top of the pantheon of buildings dedicated to the constituent spirits of aviation: swiftness, arising, loftiness, adventure, transcendence, and grace. While often likened to a giant concrete bird, Saarinen said it was not meant to look or symbolize an avian, but rather to convey the spirit of flight itself. If concrete could ever be said to take flight, it was here!

INSERT 3 IMAGES:

First image: 

Credit:  Roland Arhelger
Credit: Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, Balthazar Korab Archive at the Library of Congress

Credit: Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, Balthazar Korab Archive at the Library of Congress

Credit:  pheezy

Credit: pheezy

Eero Saarinen received the commission from TWA in 1955, and the building had a long, fascinating development and seems to have been very successful—all of which is delightfully recorded in a monograph devoted to it. The great architectural photographer, Ezra Stoller, made the canonical photos of it, and they too were collected into a volume. It opened in 1962—the year after the architects sad, sudden, and early passing—buy in the wake of TWA’s financial troubles, operations at the terminal ended in late 2001. 

But that was not the end. Numerous proposals for the buildings use have been offered—like it becoming a conference center or museum—and the building was to be part of Jet Blue’s operations at Kennedy Airport. Yet the building has been largely empty for nearly 2 decades, and nothing ever seemed to fully develop to the point of construction.

Until now.

MCR Development is the 6th largest hotel owner-operator in the US. One project of theirs, of especially architectural interest, is in a mid-1800’s building: they’ve transformed a portion of the Union Theological Seminary, in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood, into a stylish hotel. And MCR is now moving ahead with the transformation of the TWA terminal into a luxury hotel.

Image: MCR Development

Image: MCR Development

Groundbreaking was in December, 2018, and some time in 2019 they expect that you can come to Saarinen’s masterpiece to stay the night, dine, wed, confer, swim—and enjoy this superb work of Modernism.

Can concrete fly?

Yes, the way that Saarinen did it at Kennedy Airport—and TWA’s great building flies again!

Image: Time Out New York

Image: Time Out New York

Paul Rudolph & Education

The  Yale Art & Architecture Building —now rededicated as  Rudolph Hall —which Paul Rudolph designed (and was constructed and completed) during the time he was chair of the Yale’s school of architecture. Photo: Sage Ross, Wikipedia

The Yale Art & Architecture Building—now rededicated as Rudolph Hall—which Paul Rudolph designed (and was constructed and completed) during the time he was chair of the Yale’s school of architecture. Photo: Sage Ross, Wikipedia

Paul Rudolph was involved in so many tributaries of the world of design—architecture, urbanism, interiors, furniture, and lighting. But also in design education in its many forms: teaching, writing, lecturing, mentoring, and—most famously—as chair of Yale’s architecture school from 1958 to 1965.

In his Yale Alumni Day speech, given as he was about to assume the chairmanship, he concluded with these ever-thrilling, adventurous, and toughly challenging words:

 We must understand that after all the building committees, the conflicting interests, the budget considerations, and the limitations of his fellow man have been taken into consideration, the architect’s responsibility has just begun. He must understand that exhilarating, awesome moment.

 When he takes pencil in hand, and holds it poised above a white sheet of paper, he has suspended there all that has gone before and all that will ever be.

Under his leadership, he helped the school become one of the country’s most dynamic places to get an architectural education—and not the least of those reasons is the great diversity and quality of teachers and guest jurors which Rudolph invited to the school.

These were certainly not all people who agreed with Rudolph. An example would be Serge Chermayeff, who was invited by Rudolph to come to Yale—and became a rather controversial figure within the school.

Serge Chermayeff (1900-1996), architect, designer, and educator. Photo: Alchetron

Serge Chermayeff (1900-1996), architect, designer, and educator. Photo: Alchetron

Serge Chermayeff’s studio-vacation house in Cape Cod. Photo: The Modern House

In an oral history interview about his years of educational work (in Chicago and elsewhere), Chermayeff recalled:

I left in 1962 to go to Rudolph in Yale and he very typically said, “I’d love to have somebody on the jury with whom I can argue in front of the students.” That suited me very well because I’m very argumentative. I had a lovely time because he was a very nice man, I liked him very much and we got on very, very well.

The 7 years that Rudolph was chair at Yale - a good long run, for any chair or dean - continue to fascinate.

Photo: Google

Photo: Google

Numerous former students of Rudolph affirm that it was a super-intense (and maybe the) key educational experience of their lives, as Norman Foster did in his heart-felt essay on Rudolph. [It is one of several chapters devoted to Paul Rudolph in Architects on Architects, edited by Susan Gray.]

In the compulsively readable, pulls-no-punches memoir by the ever-creative Stanley Tigerman, Designing Bridges To Burn—truly a must-read!—he also shares scenes and feelings from his years as a student at Yale (and, simultaneously, a part-time employee of Rudolph.)

Stanley Tigerman

Stanley Tigerman

Tigerman’s book ‘Designing Bridges to Burn’

Tigerman’s book ‘Designing Bridges to Burn’

Here’s a brief quote from it:

“For Paul Rudolph, architecture and life were inextricably intertwined. He lived, breathed, slept, lectured, taught, and of course practiced architecture. I was thoroughly bedazzled by the depth of his commitment to unpacking the never-endling layers of space and mas that architecture represented for him. He was, other than simply being a superb teacher, the consummate architect, if by that one means a person who, in a Zen-like sense “became” his work. In all these years of practicing the discipline, if there was anyone I met who “walked the walk” it was Paul Marvin Rudolph.”

Robert A. M. Stern, former Dean of Yale’s school of architecture. He is shown standing on a portion of Rudolph’s  Yale Art & Architecture  building. Yale’s  Harkness Tower  is in the background. Photo: Peter Aaron/OTTO

Robert A. M. Stern, former Dean of Yale’s school of architecture. He is shown standing on a portion of Rudolph’s Yale Art & Architecture building. Yale’s Harkness Tower is in the background. Photo: Peter Aaron/OTTO

Robert A. M. Stern was an architecture student at Yale during the Rudolph years - in fact, Stern’s thesis was presented at the last review which Rudolph attended before leaving the chairmanship in 1965. Paprika (the student publication of Yale’s architecture school) conducted a fascinating, wise, and hilarious interview with Stern, just before he stepped-down from the deanship at Yale. Paul Rudolph comes up quite alot - and we really recommend a full reading of this extraordinarily frank and fun session.

60843d0a6e99a6ee5e28f0fffd470094.jpg

For a comprehensive overview - a deep and utterly interesting dive - into a century of the history of Yale’s School of Architecture, we recommend looking at this fascinating book - a copy of which we’ve just acquired for the library of the Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation:

Pedagogy and Place: 100 Years of Architecture Education at Yale
By Robert A. M. Stern and Jimmy Stamp
Published by the Yale University Press
https://yalebooks.yale.edu/book/9780300211924/pedagogy-and-place

The book—spanning from 1916 -to- the school’s centennial in 2016—covers its early traditional and Beaus-Arts beginnings, it’s turn towards Modernism, the Rudolph era, and the interesting transformations since then. But, while deeply & fully-researched and aplenty with citations, this is not dry academic writing—instead: it is a richly told story, with strong personalities that are vividly portrayed.

The section dealing with the years when Rudolph was chair is titled “A Time of Heroics 1958-1965”—and here are a few shots of illustrated page spreads from that chapter:

AN INVITATION:

Rudolph-as-Educator is an enticing potential focus for further research, and we would like to return to it in the future. If any readers would like to share memoires (or materials) relating to this, we’d certainly welcome them - and that would fuel additional explorations of this important subject.

If there’s anything you’d like to share, please feel welcome to contact us at office@paulrudolphheritagefoundation.org

Paul Rudolph's Parcells Residence

Paul Rudolph’s Parcells Residence. Photo:  The Architect’s Newspaper ; photo by Michelle & Chris Gerard

Paul Rudolph’s Parcells Residence. Photo: The Architect’s Newspaper; photo by Michelle & Chris Gerard

Location:  3 Cameron Place, Grosse Point, Michigan, 48230
Designed for:  Dr. Frank H. Parcells and Mrs. Anne Parcells (and their five children)
Design initiated:  1967
Construction completed:  1971

A MOTIF EXPLORED—AND RETURNED TO

Paul Rudolph’s oeuvre was large: he did many projects, built & unbuilt, over a half-century career - and the over 150,000 drawings that he and his team produced (with no computers in sight!) are testament to his energy & activity. 

And his oeuvre was broad: he worked on everything from government centers to churches to guest houses to a dentist’s office.

Further, his oeuvre varied:  Many people only associate him with concrete, used in bold and/or sculpted forms. But Rudolph worked in all kinds of materials (including some handled with great delicacy), and his formal vocabulary varied with the project, from severely volumetric to balletically nimble.

For facade design, one of the formal motifs he explored—over the decades—could be characterized as a Mondrian-like composition of overlapping/interpenetrating rectangles. In one of his very greatest, most iconic designs, the Milam House (Jacksonville, Florida, 1961), he uses rectangles that are made of concrete block (for the vertical elements) and concrete slabs (for the horizontal elements). The rectangles, facing the water, have deep recesses which work very well for sun-shade, and they give the building its signature “Mondrian-ian” look. The faces of the rectangles are all in the same plane.

The Milam Residence. Photo: Joseph Molitor, courtesy Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library

The Milam Residence. Photo: Joseph Molitor, courtesy Avery Architectural & Fine Arts Library

Decades later, Rudolph returned to these motifs in the 58th Street elevation of the Modulightor Building in New York City (which commenced construction in 1989). It is the home of the Modulightor company (that Rudolph co-founded), and the place where he had his office for over half-a-decade. But there, instead of the rectangles having a primarily planar relationship, they move back-and-forth in space, receding and advancing: Rudolph is sculpting with those elements. Also, instead of masonry & concrete (as at Milam), the Modulightor facade is made from a very different pallete: primarily steel and glass—and that gives it a significantly lighter feel. It is Mondrian meets Mies---but sculpted with significantly greater spatial complexity than Mies brought to most of his facades.

The Modulightor Building, home to the Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation. Photo: Annie Schlecter, Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation Archives

The Modulightor Building, home to the Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation. Photo: Annie Schlecter, Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation Archives

More than a half-decade after Milam, in the Parcells Residence, Rudolph returns to the Mondrian-ish mold. As with his Callahan Residence project (of 1965—approximately the same time) Parcells is also a symphony of interpenetrating & adjacent rectangles, with the plane of the window glass well recessed from each rectangles’ face plane.

Callahan Residence project, Birmingham, AL, 1965. Image: Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation Archives

Callahan Residence project, Birmingham, AL, 1965. Image: Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation Archives

But in Parcells (and Callahan)—in a design done more than a half-decade after Milam—he plays with them in a different way:  the rectangles become less actors in an integrated planar facade, and instead turn into identifiable, separate rectangular volumes. These boxes, of various sizes and proportions, are composed in a complex interplay: it is Mondrian’s “neo-plasticism”—but this time in three dimensions.

PRECEDENTS AND LINEAGES

Some may claim that Rietveld’s Schröder House, of 1924, anticipated this three-dimensional exploration—but a careful viewing of that architectural icon will show that it is more about the play of planes than of volumes.

Schröder House, Utrecht, Netherlands. Photo: Husky from Wikipedia

Schröder House, Utrecht, Netherlands. Photo: Husky from Wikipedia

A similar claim could be made for Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater, of the mid-1930’s. Wright is often cited as one of the two great influences on Rudolph (the other being Le Corbusier). We would never want to begrudge anything to Wright—that master and “force-of-nature”—but in this case, Fallingwater might not be a very relevant precedent. Fallingwater’s signature view shows giant, dramatically floating and separate volumes, rather than the interpenetration and close association of volumes that Rudolph achieves at the Parcells Residence.

With all the citations of possible precedent and influences - the historians’ favorite game! - perhaps it might be fairest to say that Paul Rudolph was working in a lineage (or a family) of forms & relationships that had been earlier pioneered by several of the founders of Modernism - works that Rudolph would be well aware of.

THE PARCELLS RESIDENCE

Michigan Modern—an organization devoted to researching, celebrating, and expanding apperception of the “Great Lakes State’s” extensive legacy of Modernism—has a web page devoted to the Parcells Residence. It gives this excellent summary of the project:

The house at 3 Cameron Place in Grosse Pointe was constructed in 1970 for Frank H. Parcells, his wife, Anne, and their five children. Desiring a contemporary design for their new home, the Parcells attended numerous open houses in the western Detroit suburbs and conducted research to hone in on their architectural likes and dislikes. Acting on a friend's recommendation, they contacted and eventually selected architect Paul Rudolph for the commission.

The Parcells' program for the new house included five bedrooms on multiple levels, an office with a separate entrance, views of Lake St. Clair from the kitchen and living room, and "lots of wood." Although the Parcells' home would be one of the first constructed in the new subdivision, they were sensitive to the fact that they would be inserting a contemporary design into a neighborhood that consisted largely of traditional Colonial and Tudor-inspired residences. The lakefront property's location at the end of a cul-de-sac and its abundance of trees created a somewhat isolated setting and worked well to buffer the house visually from the rest of the neighborhood. Construction of the residence proved to be a challenge for local builders. Ultimately, they prevailed and the Parcells moved into their new home in January 1970.

The Parcells House is located in an affluent neighborhood in Grosse Pointe. The lake-front property is located at the extreme southern end of Cameron Place, and the house is sited in the center of the lot. Landscaping consists of a manicured lawn on the lake side of the property to facilitate views of the water from the house, while the rear, or street-side of the property, is heavily planted with large trees and bushes to provide privacy. The lot is accessed by a narrow drive extending from the end of the cul-de-sac. The house is barely visible from the public right-of-way. The three-story residence is sculptural in its form. The south elevation facing the water consists of a series of box-like projections, differing in size and shape and infilled with walls of glass. The tripartite window walls are recessed within the "boxes" and are divided by heavy muntins with a light-colored spandrel panel below. A porch supported by wide wood columns projects from the center of the elevation. The entire building is clad with horizontally oriented redwood boards painted dark brown. The north-facing elevation is made up of similar projecting boxes, however, there is much less glazing present. The boxes extend further from the central mass of the structure on this elevation. The extensions include two offset single car garage bays.

They also point out that “The Parcells House is the only residence in Michigan designed by renowned architect Paul Rudolph.”

SITING

For the context, it is worth looking at this aerial view. The Parcells Residence is at the bottom-center of this image (in this picture it has a pinkish roof) - and one can see its pleasurable relationship to the water. The circular drive (at top-center) is the cul-de-sac at the end of Cameron Place.

Image: Google Maps

Image: Google Maps

A LESSER USED MATERIAL?

Notable is Rudolph’s use of wood in this house. Paul Rudolph is most often identified with concrete (and later, concrete block)—but throughout his career, Rudolph used about every possible material, and was sometimes quite adventurous in his choices. Wood was certainly prominent in the first phase of his work in Florida, where it was often dominant (along with glass) in the houses he designed. But, though less-used by Rudolph, from time-to-time he returned to wood during his career: sometimes as the frame within buildings, sometimes enclosed in another material (as in the Micheels Residence of 1979), and sometimes as exposed structure (as in the hefty interior beams of the Tuttle Residence of 1984). Rudolph did not often go for a “woodsy” material look (as at Parcells)—but it was not utterly alien to his palette, and one can see an elegant example of his using it in his Bernhard Residence Addition of 1976

Bernhard Residence Addition by Paul Rudolph, using primarily wood elements. Photo: Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation Archives

Bernhard Residence Addition by Paul Rudolph, using primarily wood elements. Photo: Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation Archives

A PARCELLS PORTFOLIO

Below are some images of the house: drawings, and exterior & interior views. They convey the creativity and attention which Rudolph brought to projects like this.

The issue of “attention” is an important one—and this residence is an example of what’s been called “through design”: where the architect designs everything from the overall conception though to the smallest details. But “through design” doesn’t only indicate an attentive designer, it also denotes a project where the overall concept has been faithfully expressed at all scales.]

DRAWINGS:

Ground Floor Plan. Image: Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation Archives

Ground Floor Plan. Image: Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation Archives

Second Floor Plan. Image: Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation Archives

Second Floor Plan. Image: Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation Archives

Third Floor Plan. Image: Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation Archives

Third Floor Plan. Image: Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation Archives

Section through the building. Image: Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation Archives

Section through the building. Image: Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation Archives

CONSTRUCTION PHOTOS:

EXTERIOR VIEWS:

INTERIOR VIEWS:

Paul Rudolph - On Film & Video

Image: Dreamstime.com

Image: Dreamstime.com

If you’re interested in Paul Rudolph, you’re probably already getting to know his many buildings and urban design projects. The Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation’s Project Pages are a great way to learn about the great breadth of his work, over Rudolph’s half-century of practice.

Of course, there are superb books on Rudolph—and perhaps you might already be looking into Rudolph’s own writings—of which there is a fine anthology published by Yale University Press.

Writings on Architecture book cover.JPG

But what was he like, in person? - what was Rudolph’s voice and presence like? We have, in books (and in the PRHF’s files) a variety of testimonies by students, employees, friends, and clients. Some of them will be published in the upcoming catalog of the recent centennial exhibit: Paul Rudolph: The Personal Laboratory (and we may also share even more of them, in upcoming postings).

But for a more lifelike experience, there are also a several videos that you might want to seek out:

PAUL RUDOLPH’S LECTURE: “THE DNA OF ARCHITECTURE”

Paul Rudolph speaking about the ‘DNA of Architecture’. Photo: SCI-Arc Media Archive, YouTube

Paul Rudolph speaking about the ‘DNA of Architecture’. Photo: SCI-Arc Media Archive, YouTube

Rudolph wrote an essay with this same title—you can read it in the anthology of his writings mentioned above—and he also delivered it as an illustrated lecture, of which this is a recording. This video is viewable on YouTube, and is from the SCI-Arc Media Archive. This lecture was given on September 2, 1995, and is described as follows:

Ray Kappe introduces Paul Rudolph, discussing Rudolph’s break onto the post WWII architecture scene and his influence on Kappe and his contemporaries. Kappe goes on to explain Rudolph’s significant role in architectural institutions including his tenure as dean of Yale’s architecture school. Ultimately, he describes Rudolph as a man of architectural principles unencumbered by fad.

Rudolph begins his lecture by discussing the importance of urbanism and site in his thinking about architecture, focusing on the assembly of parts rather than on issues of style. He describes the transition in architecture away from the traditional hierarchies in building types and toward architecture of multiple usages including the flows and geometries of automotive transportation. He cites examples such as the use of air-space for structures above the expressway along the East River in New York and looks back to classical examples of flexible column spacing to accommodate chariot dimensions.

Rudolph describes architecture as used space that accommodates the human spirit. He sees characteristics such as forms, dimensions, colors, and method of entry as appropriate or not appropriate for building types in terms of the psychological satisfaction to the user. He additionally focuses on movement through space and the balance of forces involved in movement’s creation, its velocity, and its ultimate destination. He decries the lack of well-designed public space in the United States and the isolation of most highrises. He presents some recent examples of his attempts to resolve this issue in highrise construction through greater connectivity at multiple levels.

Rudolph stresses the importance of both structure and scale. Rudolph’s primary interest in structure is in the generation of space, asserting that truth of structure is much less important than the resulting spatial relationships. He goes on to touch on the use of materials as similarly important in the creation of the spirit of the space, citing Louis Sullivan, Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier who played with and pushed the boundaries of material properties. Rudolph also suggests that there is no such thing as “in” or “out of scale.” Instead, all architecture operates at multiple scales and the play of light and the implied relationships are the important outcomes. Rudolph concludes his lecture by addressing function, the selling of a building to a client and the importance of spirit in architecture. Going through a few recent works, Rudolph discusses the use of the ostensibly functional in generating architecture that both achieves its stated goal while providing additional urban and psychological benefits for those who engage with it. He explains the importance of this spirit in architecture with examples from Machu Picchu to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Johnson Wax building which demonstrate urban delight, the importance of the play of light and the ability for architecture to move space.

BOND CENTER INTERVIEW WITH PAUL M. RUDOLPH

Paul Rudolph speaking about the Bond Centre. Image: Film Factory, YouTube

Paul Rudolph speaking about the Bond Centre. Image: Film Factory, YouTube

This brief video was made by the Film Factory in 1989, and is viewable on Youtube. It shows Rudolph speaking about his major built project in Hong Kong: the magnificent double-towers of the Bond Centre (also known as the Lippo Centre).

SPACES: THE ARCHITECTURE OF PAUL RUDOLPH

Spaces film title image.JPG

Robert Eisenhardt is a very distinguished filmmaker - and his work as director, producer, writer, cinematographer, and editor has resulted in an extensive CV of beautiful and important films. A fine example is Spaces: The Architecture of Paul Rudolph, his 1983 Academy Award-nominated documentary about the great architect. It is not presently available to see on-line, and was last available as a videotape. A few years ago, Mr. Eisenhardt presented it at in New York, at the Architecture & Design Film Festival - to the delight of all who attended. It is not currently available, to our knowledge, on DVD or in any other form, but the Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation shows it to students and guests who tour the Paul Rudolph-designed Modulightor Building.

Ernst Wagner, a friend and colleague of Paul Rudolph, offered the following notes on the film:

This 1983 film, made while Paul Rudolph was alive (and with his cooperation), was nominated for an Academy Award (Best Documentary, Short Subjects, 1984), and won an Emmy (Outstanding Achievement in a Craft in News and Documentary Programming – Directors, 1984).

It is important to know the cultural setting within which this film was made. From the early-to-mid-1970’s, onwards, there was a nationwide cultural development: it was as though Modernism in architecture was “out and ugly”—and the shift in attitude seemed to arrive almost overnight.   

One might say: “Rightfully so!” - judging from the poor quality of what had been built then, particularly in the lower tiers of construction and design. But, as we experienced, the raging age of Postmodernism was short-lived - and, ironically, it also often resulted in designs that were essentially ordinary and mediocre.   

Eisenhardt’s documentary, Spaces, was created during that era, at the height of the anti-Modernism cultural wave. As a consequence, various people in the film, offering their assessments Rudolph, are critical about the value of his work. But that has to be considered as a manifestation of the times - and it is worth noting that, a number of years later, some of the same “opinionators” shifted their ratings, offering substantially more positive views of Rudolph (as their later testimonials show.)

Thus we see that most fashions (and the critical opinions they generate) are fragile and contingent. Whereas Modernism, growing from the Bauhaus culture, then taking root in the United States, is now regarded as an respected architectural period - just as we experience other distinguished historic periods in the history of architecture.

In its many and richly varied versions, Modernism has also become an important “export” of America’s culture - and Paul Rudolph was one of its most prolific, strongest, creative, and vivid practitioners.

We hope that this wonderful documentary will be more widely available in the future.

1983, USA
29 Minutes
Film Documentary, 16mm, Color, Sound
Written, Directed, and Edited by Bob Eisenhardt
Eisenhardt Productions
Narrated by Cliff Robertson
Cinematography by John Corso, Edward Lachman, Don Lenzer, and Mark Obenhaus
Music by Teo Macero

Paul Rudolph: Section-Master

Rudolph’s unbuilt Wayne State University Humanities Building. Image: Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation Archives

Rudolph’s unbuilt Wayne State University Humanities Building. Image: Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation Archives

SECTION DRAWINGS ARE GETTING ATTENTION

 We’ve recently seen an on-line article from the news site, Architizer, “Architectural Drawings: 10 Cultural Landmarks in Section.”  In it, marvelously done section drawings are shown, along with the photos and info on the buildings they depict.  Here’s a fine example: a fascinating design for the Louisiana State Museum and Sports Hall of Fame by Trahan Architects 

A celebration of section-drawings is always welcome - but we wonder: where is any acknowledgment of Rudolph? - truly, one of the masters of the form.

SECTION STUDY

A recent book, Manual of Section, by Paul Lewis, Marc Tsurumaki, and David J. Lewis, was published by Princeton Architectural Press.

Image: Paul Lewis, Marc Tsurumaki, and David J. Lewis

Image: Paul Lewis, Marc Tsurumaki, and David J. Lewis

The publisher’s page on the book shows that it has an extensive selection of building sections—all redrawn to a uniform standard (which facilitates comparison).  Though the book’s selection of buildings is generally skewed to rather recently constructed ones, happily they do include a Rudolph building: his Yale Art & Architecture Building:

Section of Paul Rudolph’s Art & Architecture Building (now Rudolph Hall). Image: Paul Lewis, Marc Tsurumaki, and David J. Lewis from  Manual of Section .

Section of Paul Rudolph’s Art & Architecture Building (now Rudolph Hall). Image: Paul Lewis, Marc Tsurumaki, and David J. Lewis from Manual of Section.

One of the best aspects of the book is its opening sections, which give a well-illustrated introduction to the history of the use of sections in architecture, and the development of this kind of drawing.

[And, as an additional treat, the authors—who are partners in an eponymously named architecture firm—are also offering a coloring book version of their book.]

The Coloring Book version. Image: Paul Lewis, Marc Tsurumaki, and David J. Lewis.

The Coloring Book version. Image: Paul Lewis, Marc Tsurumaki, and David J. Lewis.

RUDOLPH DRAWING

The Library of Congress has the largest collection of Rudolph’s drawings & papers, and they’ve put online good scans of several hundred of his drawings. These include numerous examples of his famous sections - and below are several examples:

The Cohen Residence. Image: Library of Congress

The Cohen Residence. Image: Library of Congress

A section through Rudolph’s architectural office in Manhattan. Image: Library of Congress

A section through Rudolph’s architectural office in Manhattan. Image: Library of Congress

Rudolph’s penthouse “Quadruplex” apartment, on Beekman Place, NYC. Image: Library of Congress

Rudolph’s penthouse “Quadruplex” apartment, on Beekman Place, NYC. Image: Library of Congress

Burroughs Wellcome Company headquarters, North Carolina. Image: Library of Congress

Burroughs Wellcome Company headquarters, North Carolina. Image: Library of Congress

The Concourse, Beach Road, Singapore. Image: Library of Congress

The Concourse, Beach Road, Singapore. Image: Library of Congress

Of course, Rudolph’s most famous drawing is probably his own section through his most famous building—Yale’s Art & Architecture Building (now rededicated as Rudolph Hall). It is always worth taking another look at that drawing—appreciating its subtleties, the way that Rudolph conveyed light entering the space, and the way he was able to convey so much information into a single drawing (without muddying the overall message):

Art and Architecture Building, now Rudolph Hall, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut. Perspective section. Photograph of drawing by Paul Rudolph, circa 1964, printed later. Image: Library of Congress

Art and Architecture Building, now Rudolph Hall, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut. Perspective section. Photograph of drawing by Paul Rudolph, circa 1964, printed later. Image: Library of Congress

THINKING IN SECTION

To cap this off, here are two drawings shown in the Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation’s recent exhibit to celebrate the centennial of Rudolph’s birth:  Paul Rudolph: The Personal Laboratory.

In designing the Modulightor Building, Rudolph - as ever - explored many, many ideas: a variety of facade treatments, different uses for the various levels, alternative materials, varying building profiles—and sectional designs. While he never lived in the Modulightor Building, Rudolph did have his architectural office there for at least half-a-decade (where, most of the time, it occupied the building’s 2nd floor.) But Rudolph had alternative conceptions for the building, which included having a several-story atrium-like architectural office at the top.

Here is a Rudolph drawing which shows one such design with angled glazing and multiple levels. This colorful section is full of scale figures, and notes to himself and his team. It shows his concern about how light enters, vistas from various levels, structure, circulation, the placement of drafting boards for his staff - and even the practical consideration of drawing storage. Here, you can really see Rudolph thinking - thinking in section.

Paul Rudolph’s proposed upper level addition to the Modulightor Building. Image: Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation archives.

Paul Rudolph’s proposed upper level addition to the Modulightor Building. Image: Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation archives.

That drawing shows Rudolph concentrating on the uppermost levels of the building. But there’s another drawing which shows him considering the Modulightor Building as-a-whole. It’s not a very preprocessing graphic: it’s just some small, black & white pencil sketches on a letter-sized piece of paper. Indeed, when faced with the attractions of Rudolph’s other magnetically involving drawings, this is one most people would probably pass by.

Paul Rudolph’s study of the section of the Modulightor Building. Image: Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation archives.

Paul Rudolph’s study of the section of the Modulightor Building. Image: Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation archives.

But a careful look shows that Rudolph is trying-out alternatives for the sectional arrangement of the building. It looks like he’s taking a cue from the way Le Corbusier wove apartments together in his “Unite” apartment house designs. That’s shown in Le Corbusier’s section of two apartments, (over 3 levels), sharing a common corridor:

A section through Le Corbusier’s “Unite”

A section through Le Corbusier’s “Unite”

In the little Rudolph drawing, one can see a similar approach: he’s fitting the parts together like a puzzle, just-so—the various units are closely packed—but the arrangement allows each unit to have internal access to more than one level. Of course, Rudolph would not be satisfied with just one attempt at a design, and the drawing shows him trying varying approaches.

Once more we see: Rudolph is thinking in section.

How many other architects make that such a leading part of their design thinking?

P.S. — TAKING NOTICE

It’s nice to know that we’re not the only ones who have appreciated Rudolph’s section drawings. Here are some other resources:

  • Fosco Lucarelli has written a fine appreciation for Rudolph’s drawings, and it includes a good selection of them to enjoy and study on this website.

  • In the fascinating, recently-published collection of papers, “Reassessing Rudolph” (published by Yale University Press), the book’s editor—and preeminent Rudolph scholar—Timothy M. Rohan has an essay: “Drawing as Signature: Paul Rudolph and the Perspective Section.”

  • And Tony Monk’s excellent study, “The Art and Architecture of Paul Rudolph” includes a consideration of Rudolph’s presentation techniques. You can read Tony Monk’s essay on our website here.

Paul Rudolph's Futuristic Vision: The Galaxon

Rendering of Paul Rudolph’s ‘Galaxon’. Image: Shimahara Illustration

Rendering of Paul Rudolph’s ‘Galaxon’. Image: Shimahara Illustration

VISIONS OF THE FUTURE

There are not many phrases more evocative than “THE FUTURE”. Whether in joyous expectation or fear (of a mixture of both), imagining, predicting, envisioning, and forecasting The Future has been one of humanity’s longest obsessions - and indeed, many religious and social practices, going back to the most ancient of times, are concerned with prognostication.

New York World’s Fair Button from the General Motors Futurama Exhibit. Image: www.tedhake.com

New York World’s Fair Button from the General Motors Futurama Exhibit. Image: www.tedhake.com

But, beyond the products of imagination (literature, art, and film), where can one actually go to get a tangible touch, a taste of the future? Not a virtual reality version, but rather an experience where one can actually wander around samples of a futurific world? The answer is—or rather, was—world’s fairs.

WORLD’S FAIRS — THE GEOGRAPHY OF WONDER

Humans also have a taste for novelty, adventure, the exotic, and news from beyond our borders (and products, material and cultural.) One phenomenon brings such appetites together with our fascination with the future: World’s Fairs.

World’s fairs were international events, taking place in intervals varying from several years to several decades. A city—like Paris, London, Osaka, New York, Seville, Rome - would be selected, and countries, states, companies, and trade organizations (and even religions) would erect pavilions - each of which would show the sponsor’s self-image and aspirations to the fair’s visitors (coming, often from all-over-the-world, during the fair’s few months duration.)

For countries, their industrial, consumer, and agricultural products would be featured, along with something of the nation’s culture—and generally there would be a lauding of the leaders, government, and “way of life”.

Companies, too, would extol their accomplishments, productive might, and the quality of their products. Most interestingly, they would often present displays about the forefront - The Future - of technology in their field. Sometimes such demonstrations were startlingly dramatic, but sometimes amusingly humanizing—like the talking (and joking) robot, Elektro (with his robot dog, Sparko), who were featured in the Westinghouse pavilion of the 1939-1940 New York World’s Fair.

The architecture of the pavilions in world’s fairs have been particularly powerful evokers of “tomorrow.” Examples range from the jaw-droppingly giant (for that time) open space (377 feet x 1378 feet, and open to a height of 13 storeys) of the Galerie des machines in the 1889 Paris fair to the gargantuan geodesic dome of the US pavilion in Montreal’s Expo 67. Each building competed for the visitor’s attention—and, through striking shapes, unusual construction systems, and the manipulation of light (natural and artificial), often created dream-like, fantasy, forward-looking/futuristic icons. Sometimes a whole landscape would be populated by these odd, wonderful, future-dreamy buildings—like this view from Expo 67:

Photo: Laurent Bélanger from  wikipedia

Photo: Laurent Bélanger from wikipedia

One of the most famous pavilions of the 1939-1940 New Fair was the “Futurama” exhibit created by Norman Bel Geddes for General Motors: using architecture, and giant, detailed, moving, and carefully lit models, it showed kinetic, luminous visions of tomorrow, beguiling visitors with an image of a motorized utopia. Upon leaving, attendees were given a button that read “I Have Seen The Future”—and no they doubt felt they had.

Even at the distance of decades, the images created by Bel Geddes and his team—and the future-oriented displays and architecture of the fair’s other pavilions—continue to fascinate, and evoke that “If only…” feeling. The great author William Gibson wrote of the ongoing seductiveness of such visions in his short story, “The Gernsback Continuum.”

NEW YORK AND THE FUTURE—AGAIN!

The New York World’s Fair, spoken of above - considered to be one of the greatest fairs of all - took place in 1939 and 1940, just before World War Two. But well after that war - in the midst of the 60’s, one of the USA’s most economically & militarily strong (and socially vibrant) periods - a second world’s fair was held in New York City.

Photo: Anthony Conti; scanned and published by  PLCjr

Photo: Anthony Conti; scanned and published by PLCjr

That fair—the 1964-1965 New York World’s Fair—was planned on the same pattern as the previous one: countries, companies, and groups each showing themselves off—only this time, with updated images of the future. For better-or-worse, the world had moved from planes to jets, from vacuum tubes to transistors, and from hydro to atomic power. The Future had new horizons—and that future was: Outer Space.

EVERY FAIR NEEDS A SYMBOL

Almost all world’s fairs have had a central building or structure—that serves to symbolize the fair. It is used both to distill the message of the fair, as well as to create an icon around which communication and marketing can be done (as well as being suitable for souvenirs!)

For the 1939 New York World’s Fair, that symbol had been the Trylon and Perisphere: these were huge platonic forms - a gigantic sphere and a spiky, towering, elongated tetrahedron (designed by Harrison and Fouilhoux). They were large enough for visitors to enter, and there was an exhibit inside about the city of the future (designed by Henry Dreyfuss).

Trylon & Perisphere Monuments of 1939 World's Fair in Flushing Meadows Linen Postcard. Photo:  Michael Perlman

Trylon & Perisphere Monuments of 1939 World's Fair in Flushing Meadows Linen Postcard. Photo: Michael Perlman

But for New York’s 1964-1965 fair, a new symbol would be needed. Here’s what Robert Moses - the fair’s boss - said about the search for a symbolic structure:

“We looked high and low for a challenging symbol for the New York World's Fair of 1964 and 1965. It had to be of the space age; it had to reflect the interdependence of man on the planet Earth, and it had to emphasize man's achievements and aspirations. … and built to remain as a permanent feature of the park, reminding succeeding generations of a pageant of surpassing interest and significance.”

A LOFTY VISION - IN CONCRETE

Concrete may be hard and heavy—but it can be manipulated make soaring structures of deft grace and even visual nimbleness. Nor does the concrete industry  want to be thought of as stodgy, as they are always showing that they are moving ahead with forward-looking research and engineering—indeed, the American Concrete Institute once produced a set of research findings and projections on the possibility of using their material in a non-terrestrial environment, a book called “Lunar Concrete”!

The Portland Cement Association is, since 1916 “ the premier policy, research, education, and market intelligence organization serving America’s cement manufacturers.  …  PCA promotes safety, sustainability, and innovation in all aspects of construction, fosters continuous improvement in cement manufacturing and distribution, and generally promotes economic growth and sound infrastructure investment.”

Like other trade associations and companies, the Portland Cement Association wanted to be represented at the fair—and in a very forward-looking way. So they put forward a design for the fair’s central, symbolic structure—one that would embody a feeling of future-oriented optimism (and, of course, use portland cement!)—and they hired Paul Rudolph to design it.

THE GALAXON

Paul Rudolph came up with one of his most daring designs—and, given that Rudolph was one of the world’s most adventurous architects, that’s saying a lot.

His design was christened “The Galaxon”, and Architectural Record magazine reported:

“The Galaxon, a concrete ‘space park’ designed by Paul Rudolph, head of the Department of Architecture at Yale University, has been announced by the Portland Cement Association as ‘a proposed project’ for the 1964 New York World’s Fair. Its cost is estimated at $4 million.

Commissioned by the P.C.A. as ‘a dramatic and imaginative design in concrete,’ the Galaxon consists of a giant, saucer-shaped platform tilted at an 18-degree angle to the earth and held high above it by two curved walls rising from a circular lagoon. The gleaming 300-foot diameter disc of reinforced concrete would hover in the air like some huge space ship. Visitors would be lifted to the center of the ‘saucer’ by escalators and elevators inside the curved supporting walls. From the central ring they would walk outward over curved ramps to a constantly moving sidewalk on the disc’s outside perimeter. The sidewalk would rise and fall from the 160-foot high apex of the inclined disc, to a low point approximately 70-feet above the ground.

A stage is projected from one of its two supporting walls and a restaurant, planetary viewing station and other educational or recreational features could be located at points along its top surface to make it an entertainment center. The Galaxon was among several designs displayed at an exhibition in New York of the use of concrete in so-called ‘visionary’ architecture.”

- Architectural Record, July 1961

Rudolph did not disappoint—and he created drawings and a model to convey his striking design. The drawings themselves are impressive, with the main one stretching to nearly 20 feet long.

rendering.jpg
section.jpg
site plan.jpg
Photo of Rudolph’s presentation model. Image: http://www.nywf64.com

Photo of Rudolph’s presentation model. Image: http://www.nywf64.com

Drawing of night view (with spotlights). Image: " Remembering the Future,"  " Something for Everyone: Robert Moses and the Fair " by Marc H. Miller, published to accompany the 1989 Queens Museum exhibition " Remembering the Future: The New York World's Fair from 1939 to 1964."

Drawing of night view (with spotlights). Image: "Remembering the Future," "Something for Everyone: Robert Moses and the Fair" by Marc H. Miller, published to accompany the 1989 Queens Museum exhibition "Remembering the Future: The New York World's Fair from 1939 to 1964."

A VISION SPURNED

The real power (to select the central, symbolic structure) rested with Moses - the famous (or, to some, infamous) Robert Moses, who’d built so many bridges, roads, and other facilities, all over the tri-state area. Of searching for an iconic central structure for the fair, he said:

“We were deluged with theme symbols - mostly abstract, aspirational, spiral, uplifting, flashing, or burning with a hard and gemlike flame, whose resemblance to anything living or dead was purely coincidental.”

Among the several many designs that Moses rejected was the Galaxon.

And so another structure was chosen, the Unisphere (made from a rather different material: stainless steel - and sponsored by a major manufacturer: US Steel). The Unisphere—still in place after all these years—admittedly has some uplifting visual power, and does still speak to the goal of a unified world.

But it’s not the forward-looking, FUTURE-evoking, space-expansive, upward-aspiring GALAXON.

Fortunately, we have Rudolph’s beautifully drawn visions to sustain our dreams.

PUBLICATIONS, ARCHIVE, AND EXHIBITION

When the Galaxon was originally proposed, it got some press—and it has since also appeared or been mentioned in books on Rudolph, and been on-exhibit.

Paul Rudolph was known for his virtuoso presentation drawings (especially perspectives and sections), and Paul Rudolph: Drawings is a beautiful, large book of them. It was edited by Yukio Futagawa, and published by A.D.A Edita Tokyo Co., Ltd. In 1972. The book includes a well-reproduced perspective view and a section of the Galaxon.

The preponderance of Paul Rudolph’s architectural drawings (well over 300,000 documents!) are in the Library of Congress. The collection includes several fascinating drawings of the Galaxon, which have been scanned and can be seen on-line.

Paul Rudolph’s original rendering. Image: Library of Congress

Paul Rudolph’s original rendering. Image: Library of Congress

From the Library of Congress, impressively large, full-size reproductions of Paul Rudolph’s Galaxon drawing were made, which were very prominently displayed in the exhibit, Never Built New York (which was on-view at the Queens Museum from 2017-2018.) While the Galaxon didn’t make it into the exhibit’s catalog (the curators discovered it after the book had gone to press), the catalog is still well worth obtaining, as it is an exceptionally rich collection of visionary proposals for New York City - and it does include other fascinating projects designed by Paul Rudolph.

Build-Your-Own-Rudolph!

When you want to build a Rudolph, but lack the upper body strength. Photo: Mini Materials

When you want to build a Rudolph, but lack the upper body strength. Photo: Mini Materials

TABLE-TOP CONSTRUCTION

 You’ve probably seen the growing number of Lego kits devoted to great architecture: sets that allow you build distinguished buildings such as Frank Lloyd Wright’s Guggenheim Museum, his Fallingwater Residence, London’s Buckingham Palace, Berlin’s famous Brandenburg Gate, and even Mies’ Farnworth House!  [Hint: These special sets, in Lego’s “Architecture” series, often sell out - so if you’re a design-oriented Lego-phile, get them while you can!]

Fallingwater in Lego. Image: Amazon

Fallingwater in Lego. Image: Amazon

One has to admit that it must have been a challenge to translate some of these buildings into such sets: not all of these buildings’ geometries readily lend themselves to the modules of Lego’s system. Even so, we commend all attempts to encourage more audiences to appreciate architecture—and especially salute Lego’s efforts.

But hey, Lego! - Why don’t you take on a building that would wonderfully translate into an impressive Lego structure:  Paul Rudolph’s most famous design, the Yale Art & Architecture Building (now redidicated as Rudolph Hall).

Now that would make an exceptional Lego set!

Anybody want to start a petition?

Imagine this - in Lego! Photo:  Gunnar Klack  from Wikipedia

Imagine this - in Lego! Photo: Gunnar Klack from Wikipedia

Meanwhile:  What’s the table-top builder to do?

MATERIALS AT LILLIPUTIAN SCALE

 There is an answer!

 For those of you who want to build at home - or rather, in your home, right on your kitchen table - there are sets of diminuitive construction materials that will allow you to get started.

For example:

  • There are miniature concrete blocks, made of real concrete, and real miniature bricks—which can be laid with minute amounts of mortar.

  • There are scale sets of miniature wood 2x4’s, 2x6’s, and plywood—all ready for your handy hands to assemble!

  • There are even mini palettes, to help you transport these materials across your table-top construction site! [And it’s been suggested that they make good drink-coasters too.]

Take a look at the full range of materials and accessories that Mini Materials offers. We’re sure you’ll be inspired to get building!

P.S. 

The only problem:  

There are no ribbed concrete blocks—like the kind that Rudolph created & used for many of his projects. 

Anybody want to start another petition?

Paul Rudolph's Picasso

Photo: Seth Weine, Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation Archives

Photo: Seth Weine, Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation Archives

An Intriguing Object

Many visitors to the Modulightor Building are intrigued by the Picasso sculpture that’s on display within it—or rather, the several Picasso sculptures.

The origin of the artwork, and how they got here, is an interesting story…

A Very Public Artist

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) is widely considered to be the most famous artist of the 20th Century. He worked in a plenitude of mediums: painting, drawing, ceramics, printmaking, stage design, and sculpture.

But his art is not found only in museums and private collections—for his sculptural work includes several commissions of monumental scale, to be used in public settings. The “Chicago Picasso,” a 50 foot high sculpture in Chicago’s Daley Plaza, is probably the most well-known example:

Picasso sculpture in Daley Plaza, Chicago, Illinois, US. Photo: J. Crocker, marked as public domain from Wikipedia

Picasso sculpture in Daley Plaza, Chicago, Illinois, US. Photo: J. Crocker, marked as public domain from Wikipedia

New York City also proudly has one of Picasso’s large public works: the concrete “Bust of Sylvette”, situated in the plaza of “University Village” (a complex of three apartment towers designed by I. M. Pei):

NYC - Greenwich Village: Picasso's Bust of Sylvette. Photo: Wally Gobetz

NYC - Greenwich Village: Picasso's Bust of Sylvette. Photo: Wally Gobetz

A Commission for both Architecture and Art

In the late 1960’s-early 70’s the University of South Florida wanted to build a visitors & arts center for their Tampa-area campus. The building design was by Paul Rudolph, and Picasso was approached to provide a sculpture that would be the centerpiece of the center’s exterior plaza. It was to be over 100 feet high, and - had it been built - would have been the largest Picasso in the world.

Rendering of Paul Rudolph’s building with Picasso’s sculpture. Image: USF Special Collection Library.

Rendering of Paul Rudolph’s building with Picasso’s sculpture. Image: USF Special Collection Library.

An OK from Picasso

As a famous artist - indeed, a world-wide celebrity - one can imagine that Picasso was continually besieged about all kinds of projects. Carl Nesjar (a Norwegian sculptor—and also Picasso’s trusted collaborator, who fabricated his some of his large, public works) spoke to Picasso about the Florida project, and got an approval.

Nesjar said: “He liked the whole idea very much….  He liked the architectural part of it, and the layout, and so forth. That was not the only reason, but it was one of the reasons that he said yes. Because it happens, you come to him with a project, and he will say oui ou non … he reacts like a shotgun.” [Recently, a tape of Carl Nesjar speaking about the project has been found—a fascinating document of art history.]

Picasso’s Proposal

Picasso supplied a “maquette” of the sculpture—the term usually used for models of proposed sculptures. His title for this artwork was “Bust of a Woman.”

Picasso’s model. Photo: USF Special Collection Library.

Picasso’s model. Photo: USF Special Collection Library.

The model was about 30” high, and made of wood with a white painted finish. Picasso gave the original to the University, and it is currently in the collection of the University of South Florida’s library.

“Bust of a Woman” sculpture with the audio reel of Carl Nesjar’s interview. Photo: Kamila Oles

“Bust of a Woman” sculpture with the audio reel of Carl Nesjar’s interview. Photo: Kamila Oles

The sculpture was to be towering—more than twice as high as his work in Chicago—and, at that time, would have been the biggest concrete sculpture in the world. Carl Nesjar made a photomontage of the intended sculpture, which gives an idea of its dramatic presence.

Carl Nesjar’s photomontage showing how “Bust of a Woman” would appear on the University of Southern Florida’s campus. Image: USF Special Collection Library

Carl Nesjar’s photomontage showing how “Bust of a Woman” would appear on the University of Southern Florida’s campus. Image: USF Special Collection Library

Not To Be

But, for a variety of reasons—cultural, political, and financial—the project never moved into construction: the university didn’t build the Picasso sculpture, nor Paul Rudolph’s building. That sad aspect of the story is covered in this fine article.

A Sculpture Greatly Admired by Rudolph

Although the project didn’t proceed, Paul Rudolph liked the sculpture so much that he requested (and received) official permission from Picasso to make copies of the maquette. Several faithful copies were made: the ones that are on view in the Modulightor Building.

Photo: Kelvin Dickinson, Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation Archives

Photo: Kelvin Dickinson, Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation Archives

A Virtual Life?

But this might not be quite the end for that Picasso sculpture, nor for Rudolph’s building design for that campus: they now have an existence - at least in the virtual world.

Kamila Oles (an art historian) & Lukasz Banaszek (a landscape archaeologist), working with the USF’s Center for Virtualization and Applied Spatial Technologies (CVAST) have created virtual models of what the building and sculpture would have looked like. You can also see a video of their process here.

Exciting visions - but ones that dramatically show an architectural & artistic lost opportunity.

NOTE:  Several authorized copies were made - one of which will always be on permanent display in the Rudolph-designed residential duplex within his Modulightor Building. But the other authorized copies are available for sale to benefit the Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation. Please contact the Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation for further information.