Book

A KEY book on Paul Rudolph: hard-to-find---But available from us!

Roberto de Alba’s book on the work of Paul Rudolph.   . It covers projects from the final phases of Rudolph’s half-century career—and was done with the architect’s input. Fortunately, copies are still available from the Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation.

Roberto de Alba’s book on the work of Paul Rudolph.. It covers projects from the final phases of Rudolph’s half-century career—and was done with the architect’s input. Fortunately, copies are still available from the Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation.

A KEY WORK

The above book is important. It is one of the keys to understanding Paul Rudolph’s oeuvre, and well worth obtaining [which is not easy—but we can help you with that.]

But to unfold why it is so important needs a little background…

THE TRAJECTORY

Paul Rudolph said that his career would parallel Frank Lloyd Wright’s: early and growing fame (in both cases reaching international dimensions), then a lull, then a late flourishing—and finally a rising appreciation as historical assessments are made of 20th Century architects. It appears that Rudolph’s projection was right about the waves & troughs of both Wright’s and his own success. We should be clear that the rises and falls, that Rudolph was referring to, were in the domain of professional and public acclaim (with its real consequences for the number of commissions that came in—or the lack thereof). But he was not speaking of his or Wright’s creative powers: those remained undiminished (no matter the state of their success).

THE 3 PHASES

Rudolph’s half-century career is generally seen to be in 3 phases (related to where, geographically, he was situated):

  • Starting in Florida, right after World War II (centered in Sarasota—but extending throughout the state and beyond). In those years, he grew from being unknown-to-national stature.

  • Respect for his work increased to the point where he was selected to be the Chair of Yale’s school of architecture. It was at a relatively young age for that position—40—and he held that office from 1958 -to-1965. In that time his professional practice became extremely active. So he wound-up his Florida office and re-opened his firm in New Haven, near Yale.

  • Upon leaving the Chairmanship at Yale in 1965, he moved to New York. New York City remained his personal and professional home until his passing in 1997—though, for his work, he traveled nationwide and internationally.

Rudolph experienced his greatest success in the period that bridges from his time at Yale/New Haven -to- his initial five years in NYC: he had a chance to work on every kind of building type, do large-scale and prestigious commissions (including civic projects), and achieved world-encircling fame.

FAME, SUCCESS—AND THEN…

The archives of the Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation have clippings and reprints of articles on Rudolph, primarily from that 1950’s-to-1960’s era when it seemed that editors and writers couldn’t get enough of him. His multiple commissions, intense work ethic (which produced an incredible number of designs,) and legendary drawing skills resulted in widespread coverage in the press.

Paul Rudolph, and his Yale Art & Architecture Building, on the cover of Progressive Architecture in 1964—at the height of his fame.

Paul Rudolph, and his Yale Art & Architecture Building, on the cover of Progressive Architecture in 1964—at the height of his fame.

But, after that, the lull which Rudolph spoke of became very much the case: he was virtually ignored by the same media that had helped give him fame. He always had some work, but by the 1970’s the river of large commissions began to evaporate. Yet his career extended for yet another quarter-century, to the time of his passing in 1997—and indeed there was a final flourishing, with large and significant commissions coming in during Rudolph’s final decade-and-a-half (mainly from overseas.).

AND NOW: A RUDOLPH REVIVAL

We seem to be in the midst of a Paul Rudolph revival. Rudolph would have been 100 in 2018, and his centenary featured two exhibitions (and the publication of corresponding catalogs) and a series of exhibit-related events (all sponsored by the Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation); and an all-day symposium at the Library of Congress; and the latest issue of the Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians features Rudolph’s Tuskegee Chapel on its cover (and contains a significant article on Rudolph by scholars Karla Cavarra Britton and Daniel Ledford,) In the previous year, a new anthology of Rudolph-focused papers had been published by Yale (“Reassessing Rudolph”.) All of this was preceded by Timothy M. Rohan’s comprehensive monograph on Rudolph, which had been published a few years before. And a new book on Rudolph, with an introduction by John Morris Dixon, has been announced for Fall 2019.

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Two views of one of the exhibits occasioned by Rudolph’s 100th birthday: “Paul Rudolph: The Personal Laboratory.” The show was on display within the Rudolph-designed    Modulightor Building    in New York City, and featured original drawings and documents from the archives of the Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation, loans from friends, prints from the Library of Congress, and models commissioned especially for the exhibit.

Two views of one of the exhibits occasioned by Rudolph’s 100th birthday: “Paul Rudolph: The Personal Laboratory.” The show was on display within the Rudolph-designed Modulightor Building in New York City, and featured original drawings and documents from the archives of the Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation, loans from friends, prints from the Library of Congress, and models commissioned especially for the exhibit.

THE BIG GAP

While Rudolph was extensively written and talked about during his most successful, mid-century period (with numerous articles and several books focused on him), there was not much available about that last period of his work, from about 1970 until his passing in 1997. Yet Rudolph was endlessly creative and still energetic when engaging with the projects of those final years—including ones of increasing scale and urban complexity. They show a designer who was able to make buildings and spaces of elegance, structural boldness, visual and spatial richness—and to work on an international scale.

FILLING THE GAP: DE ALBA AND RUDOLPH

Filling that informational gap is “Paul Rudolph: The Late Work,” by Roberto de Alba—a book which deals with a period of Rudolph’s work that had been unjustly under-covered and under-documented.

Roberto had met Rudolph when he was a student at Yale, through working on a 1987 exhibit, which he and a team of Yale architecture students had created about Rudolph’s iconic Yale Art & Architecture Building. Later, he spoke to the architect about doing a book on the later part of his oeuvre, and Rudolph agreed. Rudolph helped select the projects to be included, and when Roberto delved into the office’s files he found a treasure of creativity.

Roberto’s describes his approach to the book:

“In 1994 I approached Mr. Rudolph with an idea for a book that would document his work from 1970 onward. He seemed intrigued by my initiative, and we began working on an outline for the book. During the next three years, I visited Mr. Rudolph regularly, fist at his new office on 58th Street and later at his residence on Beekman Place, where he stored a huge number of drawing. We began by identifying a number of projects that would well represent the breath of his practice during those three decades Once the list was finalized, I searched the archives and office records systematically for every bit of information I could find relating to those projects. Rudolph was surprised by my interest in selecting “design process” drawings to represent the project but granted me the freedom to do so.”

He further explains:

“I saw the drawings, particularly the pencil sketches, and still see them today as evidence of his enormous talent and love for the art of building.”

In addition to the projects shown—the body of the book—there are further treasures in this volume: Mildred Schmertz’s insightful Forward, the penetrating Introduction by Robert Bruegmann, and the transcript of a fascinating Conversation between Rudolph and Peter Blake.

A BOOK THAT’S HARD TO GET—BUT IS OBTAINABLE THROUGH US

Yes, copies of Paul Rudolph: The Late Work are purchasable through the usual on-line booksellers: but only at high prices—often hundreds of dollars.

But there’s some Good News about that:

The Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation has copies available (and for a low price)—and you can order them on our website through this “shop” page.

Roberto de Alba’s book is a source for the study of Paul Rudolph—to see the level of creativity that Rudolph offered—even until his last days.

To give you a sense of the visual richness of the book, below are several selections: pages showing drawings and photos of some of Rudolph’s projects. On view here are: the Modulightor Building in New York; the Concourse Building in Singapore; and Rudolph’s own home: his “Quadruplex” townhouse & apartment on Beekman Place in NY (including a section drawing which shows the intensity with which he studied the possibilities for those spaces.)

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A HALF-CENTURY LATER—AND RUDOLPH IS STILL AVANT GARDE

Underground Interiors, published in 1972, showcased some of the world’s most unique, quirky, and creative new interior designs—tangible manifestations of that experimental late 60’s/early 70’s era. A work of Rudolph’s was included—of course!.

Underground Interiors, published in 1972, showcased some of the world’s most unique, quirky, and creative new interior designs—tangible manifestations of that experimental late 60’s/early 70’s era. A work of Rudolph’s was included—of course!.

UNDERGROUND—AND FAMOUS

We sometimes speak of Underground Culture: productions by independent makers, groups, and communities, which were created apart from the mainstream—and often in pointed challenge to it. The most well-known application of the term underground is in “Underground films”—like the kind originally associated with Andy Warhol and other independent filmmakers. Calling them “underground” allegedly came about because of where such films were first screened: literally, in basements—though the association of “underground” with secrecy and daring (and even Dostoevsky) may have given them some cachet.

Poster advertising several underground films, featuring one by Andy Warhol’s, for a showing in 1967. Poster courtesy of the    Underground Film Journal   .

Poster advertising several underground films, featuring one by Andy Warhol’s, for a showing in 1967. Poster courtesy of the Underground Film Journal.

The use of the term spread, and—while it certainly had a political face—”underground” was applied to all kinds of new and experimental things happening in the 60’s and 70’s:

  • Underground Press

  • Underground Music

  • Underground Comics (of which Robert Crumb is the most famous practitioner)

  • Underground Clubs

  • And even a popular guide to offbeat restaurants, The Underground Gourmet

An example of “underground” culture extending into wider use: the great designers, Milton Glaser and Jerome Snyder, had a column in New York Magazine about restaurants that were out of the mainstream. Their recommendations were collected into a book, which used the zesty graphic style which they had pioneered. Image: Design of the book: by Glaser and Snyder

An example of “underground” culture extending into wider use: the great designers, Milton Glaser and Jerome Snyder, had a column in New York Magazine about restaurants that were out of the mainstream. Their recommendations were collected into a book, which used the zesty graphic style which they had pioneered. Image: Design of the book: by Glaser and Snyder

Even if you were labeled “underground”, that didn’t mean you couldn’t become famous—and Warhol, Pink Floyd, and Crumb are probably the most recognized example of that. Today marketers speak of an “underground brand” —and it’s a useful association (especially when promoting to the mainstream) to connect ones product with, in Ian Volmer’s superb phrase, “a soupçon of subversion.”

 UNDERGROUND DESIGN?

If films, music,media, and even restaurants could be “underground”, then why not design too?

By the mid-60’s, a spirit of cultural rebellion and lifestyle adventurousness was sprouting in every domain—and in just a few years designs with “experimental” color, layout, materials, and function were beginning to appear in design magazines. Ultimately, this included architecture—but buildings are expensive and clients are, on-the-whole, conservative. So this explosion of colorful creativity first manifest in interiors: after all, they’re more personal, temporary, and (compared to whole buildings) lower-budget—and thus more likely to be the sites, at least initially, for adventurous design.

A collection of these interiors was brought together for a 1972 book, Underground Interiors: Decorating For Alternative Lifestyles. It showed some of the most exciting designs to date, and the book was published by The New York Times.

The book’s writer-editor was Norma Skurka, Home Editor of the New York Times. The photographer, Oberto Gili, has a distinguished career taking photos of a great range of subjects—including interiors.

The book’s writer-editor was Norma Skurka, Home Editor of the New York Times. The photographer, Oberto Gili, has a distinguished career taking photos of a great range of subjects—including interiors.

Oberto Gili—still an active photographer, with a creative portfolio—started the book project for the publisher L’Esperto. When they dropped the venture, it was picked-up by the New York Times’ long-time Home Editor (and prolific author) —who no doubt (having also worked for House Beautiful, Interior Design, and Contract magazines,) was aware of the most exciting interiors then being done—and together they completed the book.

 SURREALIST, RADICAL, POP, SPACE AGE…

Those are not our descriptions of the work they included in the book—they were the author’s, appearing unabashed on their contents page. While some of the designers and artistic personalities they included have fallen into obscurity, a number of them were already gaining prominence.

Before he achieved ultra-stardom in the world of fashion, Karl Lagerfeld was already making fascinating juxtapositions, as in his own apartment:

A spread from the book, showing Karl Lagerfeld’s combination bath-sitting room, and gym-bedroom, for his Paris apartment.

A spread from the book, showing Karl Lagerfeld’s combination bath-sitting room, and gym-bedroom, for his Paris apartment.

Dream, parade, or baking contest?—this Paris home offered them all at once:

A spread showing the Paris home of Antony and Dorothee Miralda offers treats that are visual (and possibly edible)

A spread showing the Paris home of Antony and Dorothee Miralda offers treats that are visual (and possibly edible)

The book came out at in the midst of the US space program’s most active period—and some interiors embodied that futuristic flavor:

A spread from the “Space Age Habitations” section of the book, showing the home Victor Lukens designed for himself.

A spread from the “Space Age Habitations” section of the book, showing the home Victor Lukens designed for himself.

One of the most influential designers included in the book was Gamal El-Zoghby. “Minimalism” does not do justice to the careful thought and planning he brought to each project. His modulated spaces, carpet-covered platforms, deftly-detailed built-ins, and hidden storage (designed to lower the distractions of everyday life) inspired a generation of designers—and helped create the vocabulary for multi-level living spaces.

A page from the book showing an El-Zoghby design: a NY apartment for entertainer Jackie Mason.

A page from the book showing an El-Zoghby design: a NY apartment for entertainer Jackie Mason.

RUDOLPH: AVANT GARDE AND TIMELESS ?

Paul Rudolph, most known for his muscular buildings, was also focused on interiors. He used his own home and office spaces as laboratories, trying out different spatial arrangements, lighting techniques, materials, and details—and, if pleased by the results of those experiments, he’s apply some of those lessons to the work he did for clients. [This was the subject of the Rudolph centennial exhibit, Paul Rudolph: The Personal Laboratory] Rudolph had a significant number of commissions for interior design, most often residential, but sometimes commercial (including an innovative dental office!)

In Rudolph’s design for a home of Mr. & Mrs. Elman in Manhattan, the walls remained unchanged—but he was able to shape the existing spaces through the placement of hanging light fixtures (of his own design) on an unexpectedly low plane, textures that flowed from floors to furnishings, and the creation of a living room that partakes more of landscaping than of traditional notions of room design.

Rudolph’s shows up too: a page in the Underground Interiors book.

Rudolph’s shows up too: a page in the Underground Interiors book.

Here’s the book’s caption, with what the author’s had to say about Rudolph’s interior:

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Many of the rooms in the book (a sample of which we’ve shown above) are amusing, but also like they’re “of their time” [and maybe a bit too much so?] If “timelessness” is one of the criteria for good design, It’s hard to imagine—with some exceptions, like El-Zoghby—later designers choosing to create them.

What about Rudolph’s design?

It is nearly 50 years since he received the commission. Yes, back then, it was an era identified with “shag carpets”—and we all make fun of that. So if Rudolph were doing this interior today, he might dial-back the woolly-mammoth textures a bit.

But—

But the room still looks striking, enticing, fun—and quite livable and flexible: a place one would like to visit and hang-out. A place that could accommodate a large party, yet maintains a sense of intimacy. A place to unwind—and a place to be theatrical. A place to shock—and a place to relax. We contend that Rudolph’s design, overall, holds-up rather well, even a half-century after its conception—another sign of a master.