Errol Barron: Creativity Embodied (Plus: a New Memoir of Paul Rudolph)

Of all the photos we’ve seen of the insides of Paul Rudolph’s various offices, this is one that intrigues us most. In this version of the drafting room, the lower level was used for “tube storage” of rolled-up architectural drawings, and drafting stations were positioned on platforms above. Errol Barron says that’s a photo of a staff member of Rudolph’s office, Max Lieberman, stepping across the gap—and describes that getting around the office as having its adventurous side.. Image © The Estate of Paul Rudolph, The Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation.

Of all the photos we’ve seen of the insides of Paul Rudolph’s various offices, this is one that intrigues us most. In this version of the drafting room, the lower level was used for “tube storage” of rolled-up architectural drawings, and drafting stations were positioned on platforms above. Errol Barron says that’s a photo of a staff member of Rudolph’s office, Max Lieberman, stepping across the gap—and describes that getting around the office as having its adventurous side.. Image © The Estate of Paul Rudolph, The Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation.

DISCOVERING A RENAISSANCE MAN

 We sometimes refer former to staff members of Paul Rudolph’s office as “Rudolph veterans”—and we’re always glad to meet them and are curious to hear the stories they have to tell (and the assessments they’ve made, over time, of their former boss.) We’ve just discovered another such “veteran”:  Mr. C. Errol Barron. We came across his name while doing some Rudolph research, seeing him listed as one of Rudolph’s employees—so we decided to look him up.

In the case of Mr. Barron, “discovered” may be a strange way to put it, as he’s has been there all the time: living a professionally & artistically active life (in Louisiana, Greece, Italy, and other places), creating some beautiful architecture (and just-as-beautiful artwork), and also teaching (he’s a professor at Tulane) and writing.

Mr. C. Errol Barron—architect, artist, photographer, writer—and the author of a fascinating memoir-essay about Paul Rudolph. Image: photograph by Lasimpson504, via Wikipedia.

Mr. C. Errol Barron—architect, artist, photographer, writer—and the author of a fascinating memoir-essay about Paul Rudolph. Image: photograph by Lasimpson504, via Wikipedia.

DISCOVERING PAUL RUDOLPH

Mr. Barron is a prolific writer, with many articles, and several books to his credit. We asked  him if he’d ever written anything about Paul Rudolph and he sent us a paper: “PMR”   In it, he recounts applying for a job in Rudolph’s office—intending to stay only one year, but ending-up being there for seven—and the fascinating projects in which he participated. With this, he also shares his overall observations of Rudolph: both his architecture and as a person.

You can read his entire text about Paul Rudolph at the Articles & Writings section of our website.  But we thought you’d like a taste of it here, so below is his description of the layout of Rudolph’s office when it was on 58th Street in Manhattan, and of the first project he worked on:

Rudolph’s office on 58th street was on the top floor of a typical row house out of which he fashioned a labrynthian space of many levels and floating planes creating precarious work spaces, ledges for magazines and benches and the main conference table that doubled as a landing of the stair leading to Mr. Rudolph’s work space at the very top of the space. He created this space( and the conference room) by raising the center section of the roof some 15 or 20 feet to bring in light and create more work levels.

In the rear of the 4th floor was the drafting room of about 8 work stations perched on boxes that contained the tubes of drawings of completed projects. To gain access to this storage one would walk under the drawing boards above and we were obliged to step across this gap to get to our desks. Occasional falls occurred!

It was a lively unorthodox, slightly dangerous environment but a delight to work in. There was just enough head height under the slope of the original room to make the space usable.

My first assignment was to assist Constantine “Connie Wallace”, the job captain, in the construction documents for the Interama Pavilion for the so named fair in Florida, a North and Central American project meant to stimulate commerce. Many other architects, Louis Kahn included, were enlisted. The Rudolph project was a delightful concoction of elliptical pavilions sunk into a sloping concrete floor under a curving sun shade roof  - it was never built. I remember the enthusiasm for this project was so high that we worked to complete the drawings on Christmas Eve of 1967.

You can learn much more about Mr. Barron--his career, architectural work, books, and artwork—at   errolbarron.com — but we’d like to share with you some images of his buildings and artworks (more of both can be seen on his website):

A house in Peleponnesos, Greece, designed by C. Errol Barron. Image: courtesy of C. Errol Barron

A house in Peleponnesos, Greece, designed by C. Errol Barron. Image: courtesy of C. Errol Barron

A house in Athens, Greece, designed by C. Errol Barron. Image: courtesy of C. Errol Barron

A house in Athens, Greece, designed by C. Errol Barron. Image: courtesy of C. Errol Barron

Water Land: Babb’s Rock, a watercolor by C. Errol Barron. Image: courtesy of C. Errol Barron

Water Land: Babb’s Rock, a watercolor by C. Errol Barron. Image: courtesy of C. Errol Barron

Water Land: Tower Rig II, a watercolor by C. Errol Barron. Image: courtesy of C. Errol Barron

Water Land: Tower Rig II, a watercolor by C. Errol Barron. Image: courtesy of C. Errol Barron