For Sale

PAUL RUDOLPH’S MILAM RESIDENCE: HISTORY & VIEWS OF AN ICON

An “elevation view” (a straight-on shot) of the Milam Residence in Ponte Verda Beach, FL. This photo, of the beach-facing side, was taken in 1962, not long after the building was completed. Photograph by Joseph W. Molitor.  Courtesy of the Joseph W. Molitor architectural photograph collection, located in the Columbia University, Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library, Department of Drawings and Archives.

An “elevation view” (a straight-on shot) of the Milam Residence in Ponte Verda Beach, FL. This photo, of the beach-facing side, was taken in 1962, not long after the building was completed. Photograph by Joseph W. Molitor.

Courtesy of the Joseph W. Molitor architectural photograph collection, located in the Columbia University, Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library, Department of Drawings and Archives.

A FASCINATING HOUSE

Our recent article about the Milam Residence went viral—and so we thought it would be good to share some more information about this landmark of 20th century design. Here, we’ll cover two other interesting aspects of the building: the story of its construction, and how the design was received by the architectural and lifestyle press.

BUILDING AN ICON

We asked the Robert C. Champion, the son of the original owner, to tell us about the origin of the project, including the Milam’s relationship with Rudolph. He answered several of our questions:

Q: Do you know anything about the relationship between your parents and Rudolph, and how they found-out about him?

A: My stepfather, Arthur Milam, knew of Rudolph’s work in Sarasota. My stepfather was a graduate of Yale Class 1950. Rudolph became Chair of Yale Architecture in 1958, so they had a common bond. Also my stepfather was a big collector of modern art, so he was interested in an architect and specialized in modern art.

Q: Do you know what “program” they presented to Rudolph (what set of requirements he was asked to fulfill?)

A: My stepfather gave Rudolph free rein to design the house. He did tell him how much square footage and how many bedrooms, but other than that he left the whole creation to Rudolph.

Q: Do you know how the architect-client relationship went with them all? [We’re guessing they got along pretty well, as Rudolph was invited back to do the additions/alterations.]

A: They got along very well as far as I know. My stepfather left the creating to Rudolph.

Q: Did you hear anything about the construction period—for example: stories about things that needed adjusting because of site conditions?

A: Rudolph wanted to build the house in poured concrete and rebar. When they calculated the cost it was very cost prohibitive so they changed it to concrete block with rebar and all concrete poured cells.

Q: Was this a year-round residence—or—primarily a vacation home?

A: It was a year-round residence.

Q: Any reflections of your own, about growing-up in it?

A: It was by far the largest home in north Florida when it was built. Most of the homes on the ocean were second homes and were cottages made out of cedar. So this house really stood out. It was known as the crazy house of rectangles and was labeled so on the fisherman’s map. We had very few neighbors back then. We had one neighbor a half mile to the north and another a half mile to the south.

Mr. Champion’s notes about the Milam’s initial knowledge of Rudolph meshes well with the information in a fascinating document: the National Register of Historic Places’ Registration Form for this building—which is also linked-to on the Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation’s Project Page for this house. The National Register’s document gives a complete history of the site and context---both physical, historical, and cultural—and a detailed description of the building, inside-and-out. It also includes an evaluation of the building’s significance and how it fits into Rudolph’s overall oeuvre, as well as drawings, maps, and photographs.

The building went through several phases:

  • Original state: As designed by Paul Rudolph, for Arthur and Teresa Milam—with the house being occupied at the beginning of the 1960’s.

  • Alterations by Rudolph: Rudolph was brought back more-than-once, by the Milams, to make alterations and/or additions. Their extent is well described in the National Register’s report:

    “After the house was complete, the Milams contacted Paul Rudolph for his design services once again. In the early 1970s, Milam had Rudolph add two ancillary structures on either side of the main house—one for a three car garage and one for a guest house/studio. Rudolph used the same materials and design vocabulary for the new wings. The two original garages, which flanked the house to the north and to the south, have been converted into a dining room (on the north side), and an office (on the south side). The addition, which runs perpendicular to the house on the south side is a guest house/office. The pool is on the west side of a courtyard, with the house on the east facing the ocean. So it fits together around the center courtyard. In 1973, Paul Rudolph designed a smaller addition southwest of the main house that serves as another family room with a downstairs bath and upstairs sleeping loft. A breezeway connects it to the main house. The original south garage was converted into an office, with a folding partition that hides away storage. This alteration connects to the breezeway and does not significantly alter the building’s facade. This alteration is complementary to Rudolph’s design and to his 1973 addition. During the Rudolph addition, phase, Teresa Milam redesigned the original kitchen. These additions and alterations are sympathetic to the overall vision of Paul Rudolph, and are considered to be contributing elements.”

  • Post-Rudolph: After Rudolph’s passing, KBJ Architects (a prominent Florida architectural firm, based in Jacksonville) was asked to add a weight room and an additional garage.

AN INFLUENTIAL DESIGN

Robert Adams Ivy, Jr., the editor of Architectural Record, told Ernst Wagner (founder of the Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation) that when the Milam Residence was published, it was a powerful and compelling design—and that it influenced a whole generation of architects.

The evidence is strong that this was a remarkable design for it’s time—in that it was widely noted and remarked upon by the editors and writers of architectural and lifestyle publications. Both American and international magazines covered the Milam Residence, either focusing on it individually, or including it as an indicator of larger trends in contemporary architectural design.

Prominent among the magazines which published the house (near the time of its completion) were:

  • Architectural Record (three times)

  • House and Garden

  • Vogue

  • Architectural Design (UK)

  • House and Home

  • Architecture D’aujourd’hui (France)

  • Architettura (Italy)

  • Zodiac (Italy)

The coverage seems to have, near-universally, given praise: either about the house itself, or about it as a representative of positive trends in residential design, or about its architect. Here are some examples:

HOUSE AND HOME:

Their April 1964 issue had an article about Modern trends in home design, “Three Houses WIth Daring New Shapes,” and illustrated it with designs by Eric Defty, John Rex, and Paul Rudolph. The introduction explained their viewpoint—and mentions Rudolph’s house with praise:

“Architecture worthy of the name never leaves the viewer bored. It is dynamic, exciting and often daring because the juxtaposition of shapes and volumes sets up a flow of space related to the textures, patterns and colors in the house. Often, it artfully contrasts a sense of openness with the security feeling of shelter. Too many of today’s houses are familiar, static and so impersonal they hardly qualify as architecture. Not so the houses shown at the right and on the following pages. Architect Paul Rudolph’s beach house in Jacksonville, Fla. has a three dimensional facade of concrete block that spells out the interior arrangement of rooms and floor levels. The working facade—some architectural critics believe it has started a whole new trend in design—is a series of deep squares and rectangles that look out on the sea and shade the interior. Inside the house, seven floor levels follow the pattern of the facade and help define the flow of space.”

The article’s extended captions pointed-out various features of the house’s design:

“Changing levels and varied ceiling heights emphasize the different uses of space in Architect Paul Rudolph’s concrete-block beach house. For example: the floor plane drops to form a big conversation pit in the high-ceilinged living room, then rises two steps in the rear to the open dining room and rises another three steps to an intimate, low-ceilinged inglenook. Space flows smoothly from one area to another.

Plan orients the active living areas and master bedroom to the sea. The basic planning module is the length of a concrete block. View of ocean, seen here from the dining room is framed by deep sun-breaks. The conversation pit is in foreground, the inglenook at right. View of living and dining areas from the inglenook in the foreground shows variety of floor levels and ceiling heights. Moors arc terrazzo. Facade on the sea is a geometric arrangement o f sun-breaks , or brise-soleils , that hint at the interior arrangement of space. Sand-colored concrete-block rectangles are deep enough to shade the interior and help keep the house cool without drapes which would block the magnificent ocean view. The lowest sun- break, at lower left, frames a utility room; the highest make a rooftop lookout — a widow’s walk in a modern idiom.”

House and Home’s article on contemporary examples of residential design had a section on the Milam residence---and it included some atmospheric views.  Image courtesy of: US Modernist Library of 20th century architectural journals.

House and Home’s article on contemporary examples of residential design had a section on the Milam residence---and it included some atmospheric views.

Image courtesy of: US Modernist Library of 20th century architectural journals.

The article’s extended captions pointed-out various features of the house’s design:

“Changing levels and varied ceiling heights emphasize the different uses of space in Architect Paul Rudolph’s concrete-block beach house. For example: the floor plane drops to form a big conversation pit in the high-ceilinged living room, then rises two steps in the rear to the open dining room and rises another three steps to an intimate, low-ceilinged inglenook. Space flows smoothly from one area to another.

Plan orients the active living areas and master bedroom to the sea. The basic planning module is the length of a concrete block. View of ocean, seen here from the dining room is framed by deep sun-breaks. The conversation pit is in foreground, the inglenook at right. View of living and dining areas from the inglenook in the foreground shows variety of floor levels and ceiling heights. Moors arc terrazzo. Facade on the sea is a geometric arrangement of sun-breaks , or brise-soleils , that hint at the interior arrangement of space. Sand-colored concrete-block rectangles are deep enough to shade the interior and help keep the house cool without drapes which would block the magnificent ocean view. The lowest sun- break, at lower left, frames a utility room; the highest make a rooftop lookout — a widow’s walk in a modern idiom.”

VOGUE:

While not an architectural journal, the fashion magazine, Vogue, did supply its readers with news about other trends in contemporary culture---including about architecture. An article, in the magazine’s September 1963 issue, focused on the architect (and showed the Milam residence), and it was titled “Paul Rudolph: Young Mover, Changing The Look Of American Architecture.”

The fashion magazine, Vogue, told its readers about new trends in design, including architecture. This 1963 issue carried an article about Paul Rudolph, and—as part of the article—included the Milam residence.

The fashion magazine, Vogue, told its readers about new trends in design, including architecture. This 1963 issue carried an article about Paul Rudolph, and—as part of the article—included the Milam residence.

ARCHITECTURAL RECORD:

Architectural Record seems to have been especially taken with the house, including it in their pages several times during the decade—and it was honored to be among the designs chosen for their annual Record Houses issue in May 1963.

Architectural Record  included the house in it’s 1963 Record Houses issue. This is the opening page of the article about the house---and the layout featured a photo by Ezra Stoller.  Image courtesy of: US Modernist Library of 20th century architectural journals.

Architectural Record included the house in it’s 1963 Record Houses issue. This is the opening page of the article about the house---and the layout featured a photo by Ezra Stoller.

Image courtesy of: US Modernist Library of 20th century architectural journals.

Architectural Record’s comments are worth quoting at length:

“One of the most uniquely different designs among this year’s Record Houses, is this one with its very sculptural use of concrete block. The exterior of the house is dominated by the powerful composition of rectangles forming a sunshade across the rear facade (shown above i the original sketch and completed structure). The spirit of this wall is continued on the interior of the house, where the floors rearranged on seven different levels. Comments of the owners, after having lived in the house for some time, are worth noting: “We knew enough of Mr. Rudolph’s previous works to know that the end result would correspond to our ideas of beauty . . . (and) our faith in the architect was well placed. We are extremely fond of the house. Externally, it is a beautiful piece of sculpture-blending graciously with the sea and the sand surrounding it. It is very comforting inside ... different ceiling heights, different views, different floor levels make it always interesting, always varied

The house is a very spacious and conveniently arranged one. All the living areas are essentially one room, with areas for dining, sitting by the fireplace, and the like, created principally by changes in the floor levels. The hallway linking the upstairs bedrooms is treated as a balcony, and adds yet another level to this varied space. As a counterfoil, colors and other decoration are subdued. As can be noted in these photos of the Milam house, the already big living areas are made to appear even larger and more open by using very few pieces of portable furniture. In fact, about the only ones are the dining table and its seats. Basic seating for conversation and lounging is formed by cushioned units supported by one of the floor levels. The house is constructed of sand colored concrete block, left exposed inside and out. The main floor is terrazzo, and the second floors are hardwood or carpet except for tile in the bathrooms. Ceilings are acoustical plaster for noise absorption in the big areas. The small windows in the baths are supplemented for daylighting by plastic skylights. One of the baths also has an outside exit and stair to serve as a dressing area for swimmers from the beach. Bedroom closets are provided in the nooks near each entrance. The kitchen is conveniently placed for access to the living and dining areas (via a pass through), to the garage for unloading groceries, and to the front door. The entire house is air conditioned. The cost of the house itself was about $88,074.”

OWNING A MASTERPIECE

If you’re interested in possibly purchasing this distinguished house in Ponte Verda Beach, Florida, please contact:

Mr. Robert C. Champion (904) 755-4785 robertchampion@bellsouth.net The asking price is $ 4,450,000

Milam Residence - with beach restored - put back on the market in time to celebrate NATIONAL PRESERVATION MONTH

It doesn’t get more “classic Rudolph” than this: the Milam Residence’s beach-facing elevation. The house is located in Ponte Verda Beach, FL, and this striking view was taken in January, 1962, one year after its completion. Photograph by Joseph W. Molitor. Courtesy of the Joseph W. Molitor architectural photograph collection, located in the Columbia University, Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library, Department of Drawings and Archives.

It doesn’t get more “classic Rudolph” than this: the Milam Residence’s beach-facing elevation. The house is located in Ponte Verda Beach, FL, and this striking view was taken in January, 1962, one year after its completion. Photograph by Joseph W. Molitor. Courtesy of the Joseph W. Molitor architectural photograph collection, located in the Columbia University, Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library, Department of Drawings and Archives.

Human beings are, for the most part, naturally acquisitive beings: if we see something desirable, we want it - to hold it, to keep it, to own it, and - hopefully - to protect it. There’s no shame in that yearning - it’s a response built into us, a product of our evolution. How much the better when our eyes and tastes are attracted to excellence: when our desires are for things of the greatest beauty, elegance, and high achievement. Well, you can now fulfill that thirst in the domain of architecture: one of Paul Rudolph’s most important homes - a true “signature” work - is now available.

The Milam Residence in Ponte Verda Beach, Florida, by Paul Rudolph, was completed at the beginning of the 1960’s, and instantly became one of - maybe the - paradigm image of what great, Modern, American residential architecture could be. And no wonder: Rudolph’s design elegantly combines:

  • visual richness, via a celebration of geometry

  • striking clarity in composition

  • functional rigor in planning

  • sensible response to the environment’s potential for creating intense solar gain and glare

  • a diversity of spaces which allow for varied uses—and a relaxed-but-elegant way-of-living

  • a practical approach to construction

  • superb siting along an attractive beach

Rudolph commented on his design:

“A composition of considerable spatial variety with vertical and horizontal interpenetration of spaces clearly defined inside and out. Gone are the earlier notions of organization through regular structure with subdivisions of space freely spaced. Spatial organization has taken the place of purely structural organization. Floors and walls are extended in elaborated forms toward the views, thereby making of the facade a reflection of the interior space. The brises-soleil also serve as mullions for the glass, turning the exterior wall into a series of deep openings filled only with glass. The exceptional wild Florida site 60 ft. above the Atlantic Ocean is a counterfoil to the geometry of the structure.” [Paul Rudolph quoted in: The Architecture of Paul Rudolph. New York: Praeger, 1970]

The family of Arthur W. Milam, who originally commissioned the building, have been owner-residents since the building was finished, and have cared for it with pride. Now, they are making the building available - and they are hoping that the next owner will be struck by the building’s many beauties and virtues, as well as understanding its importance as a work of truly great Modern architecture.

The Milam family has also been doing some site restoration: installing a new retaining wall along the beach. This stabilizes the beautiful terrain which ascends up to the house.

A new retaining wall has been installed, stabilizing the terrain on the beach-side of the house. Photo: courtesy of the Milam family.

A new retaining wall has been installed, stabilizing the terrain on the beach-side of the house. Photo: courtesy of the Milam family.

This could allow the next owner the option to build decks and/or stairs, as needed, upon the site—perhaps ones like Rudolph himself envisioned in his superb drawings of the house:

Paul Rudolph’s drawing of the Milam Residence’s site plan, and his perspective of the beach side of the house. They show his proposed design for stairs and platforms: they would elegantly cascade from the house, down the dunes, towards the beach below. Drawings: Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation

You can learn more about the Milam House (and see more images) at the Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation’s project page for this building.

Interested? As William F. Buckley once said “I cannot imagine that anyone who has the money will put off the purchase …; or that anyone who hasn’t the money will put off borrowing to buy…” We endorse such enthusiasm for excellence—and we’ll be happy to put you in-touch with the owner. Just contact us via our email at office@paulrudolphheritagefoundation.org

AN OCCASION FOR CELEBRATION

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.

We are happy to note the Milam Residence is on that distinguished list. It achieved that status in 2016, and you can see their official page on the house here—and their extensive and deeply researched report on the house here.

It is always a good time to celebrate Paul Rudolph—and the combination of Preservation Month and news of the restored beachfront at the Milam Residence is a double-treat.

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

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

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.

Paul Rudolph's Walker Guest House For Sale

Image: © Ezra Stoller / Esto

Image: © Ezra Stoller / Esto

The Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation has learned that Paul Rudolph’s iconic Walker Guest House will be for sale in the coming weeks. The listing will include the Walker Guest House and the main gulf-front residence on a 1.6 acre lot for $6,795,000.

The 1952 project was the first commission received by the thirty-four year old Rudolph after he left his partnership with Ralph Twitchell. Rudolph would later describe it as one of his favorite homes, saying the home “crouches like a spider in the sand.” The project would also be known as the ‘Cannonball House’ because of Rudolph’s use of red cannonballs as weights to hold the home’s signature wood panels in place.

Rudolph’s renderings showing the movable flaps for privacy. Image: Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation Archives

According to Rudolph in the 1970 book The Architecture of Paul Rudolph by Sibyl Moholy-Nagy,

"Two bays on each side of this guest cottage are filled with pivoting panels which function as
1  the enclosing wall,
2  the ventilating element,
3  the shading device,
4  the hurricane shelter.
The third bay is filled with glass, to admit light and splendid views. When the panels are closed, the pavilion is snug and cave-like, when open the space psychologically changes and one is virtually in the landscape."

Plan with raised wall elements.  Two sections each of all four walls can be swung upwards into a horizontal position, steel balls suspended from steel cables provide counter balances.  All connections of the white painted wooden structure are joined by screws.  Image: Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation Archives

Plan with raised wall elements. Two sections each of all four walls can be swung upwards into a horizontal position, steel balls suspended from steel cables provide counter balances. All connections of the white painted wooden structure are joined by screws. Image: Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation Archives

Author Tim Rohan wrote about the significance of the guest house in Curbed,

The Walker House was Rudolph's complex tribute to and critique of the International Style's most celebrated dwelling, the Farnsworth House by Mies van der Rohe (Plano, IL, 1946-51). With its lightweight, white wood frame, the Walker House was Rudolph's "poor man's" version of the Farnsworth's expensive white, steel frame, whose beauty he could not help but admire. Rudolph corrected the main drawback of the Farnsworth House, evident as well in the Glass House (New Canaan, CT, 1945-49) by Philip Johnson: lack of privacy. Edith Farnsworth felt exposed by her house's glass walls, which she was powerless to change. For privacy, Johnson retreated to the almost windowless confines of his adjacent Brick House. Rudolph rectified this drawback by allowing the user to adjust the shutters of the Walker House for privacy and to suit their moods. Rudolph explained, "With all the panels lowered the house is a snug cottage, but when the panels are raised it becomes a large screened pavilion. If you desire to retire from the world you have a cave, but when you feel good there is the joy of an open pavilion." The Walker House set Rudolph upon the path to concluding that architecture was the art of manipulating space in order to affect and reflect human emotions, as was evident from the interior complexity of his Brutalist buildings, the most famed being his Yale Art & Architecture Building (New Haven, CT, 1958-63).

Many architecture students have studied the design and built models of it while in school making it one of Rudolph’s best known early works along with his 1961 Milam Residence. The home was also recognized by the AIA Florida chapter as ‘Best Residential Building in the State of Florida’ in 2012.

Please spread the word about the upcoming sale and if you know anyone interested in preserving the house, please reach out to us at office@paulrudolphheritagefoundation.org