From: Paul Rudolph — To: Philip Johnson

A detail from a snapshot of Philip Johnson (at left) and Paul Rudolph (at right) at a Yale architecture school jury in 1960. Photo: Stanley Tigerman

A detail from a snapshot of Philip Johnson (at left) and Paul Rudolph (at right) at a Yale architecture school jury in 1960. Photo: Stanley Tigerman

DISCOVERING TREASURES

One of the pleasures of archival research is the possibility of coming across surprising items—a bit like walking across a beach and tripping over a treasure. When we were preparing for last year’s Paul Rudolph centenary exhibits, we did a deep dive into our archives. This post is about one such item we came across (and we’ll be sharing more in future posts.)

What secrets lie beyond that door? The front facade of Philip Johnson’s home, at 242 East 52nd Street in Manhattan. Originally designed by Johnson—in his most Miesian phase—as a guest house for the Rockefeller family, it was later donated by them to the Museum of Modern Art (for the same use).    It is now a NYC landmark   . Among the later residents was Johnson himself, who made it his NYC home in the 1970’s. Photograph courtesy of   galinsky.com

What secrets lie beyond that door? The front facade of Philip Johnson’s home, at 242 East 52nd Street in Manhattan. Originally designed by Johnson—in his most Miesian phase—as a guest house for the Rockefeller family, it was later donated by them to the Museum of Modern Art (for the same use). It is now a NYC landmark. Among the later residents was Johnson himself, who made it his NYC home in the 1970’s. Photograph courtesy of galinsky.com

FRENEMIES

We’re often asked about the relationship, personal and professional, between Rudolph and Philip Johnson. Though Johnson was a dozen years older than Rudolph, and their origins and experiences growing up were very different (especially their economic backgrounds), they came to know each other rather well after World War II. Both had been in Harvard’s school of architecture (where Rudolph was a favorite of the program’s director, Walter Gropius)—and both became rising stars in the post-war/post-Bauhaus generation of American architects who were advocates for Modernism. When Paul Rudolph became Chair of Yale’s School of Architecture—he was in office there from 1958-1965—Johnson was invited by Rudolph to be a teacher or to join-in at end-of-term juries.

Philip Johnson was a mercurial personality, whose behavior could range from waspish and Machiavellian to loyal and generous. He was famous for his wit. Emily Sherman was a close friend of Rudolph, and spent time around both architects—and she says that Johnson could have had a career as a stand-up comedian. A facet of that wit was teasing—and Rudolph was long-term, friendly target.

We’ve discovered that Johnson designed a house for the Tuttle family, one that was not built—but Rudolph had the same client decades later, and completed one his most unusual houses for them. We wonder whether Johnson or Rudolph knew about each other’s work for the family—and, if Johnson did know of Rudolph’s success with the Tuttles, did it rankle Johnson? Even so, they were friends, and neighbors too: Johnson’s NYC home on Manhattan’s East 52nd Street (shown above) was close to Rudolph’s on Beekman Place—and they also sometimes dined together at Billy’s, a bar-restaurant about half-way in-between. Also, Rudolph was an occasional guest at Johnson’s Connecticut home, The Glass House.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, BUT…

Johnson was born in 1906, a dozen years before Rudolph. But in very real way, those dozen years made a profound difference: Johnson was of another generation—one that was born into the world that World War One would sweep away. Rudolph was born well after, in an America that had become a world power, and he grows up during the 1920’s and 1930’s. So they are, in so many ways, very different.

Yet they did develop a long-term friendship, and, as evidenced the item below. In 1991 Rudolph was invited to Johnson’s 85th birthday. As you can see, Rudolph, himself well into his 70’s, was still busy with projects—maybe, on the night of Johnson’s party, a bit too busy….

A birthday note—via fax—from Paul Rudolph to Philip Johnson. Since Johnson was born in 1906, and the there’s a reference in the note to this being his 85th, birthday, it must have faxed over in 1991. From the archives of the Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation, © The Paul Rudolph estate, Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation.

A birthday note—via fax—from Paul Rudolph to Philip Johnson. Since Johnson was born in 1906, and the there’s a reference in the note to this being his 85th, birthday, it must have faxed over in 1991. From the archives of the Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation, © The Paul Rudolph estate, Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation.