For Sale

RUDOLPH'S LOUIS SULLIVAN PANEL

An ornamental panel, designed by Louis Sullivan for the Schiller Theater (later known as the Garrick Theater) in Chicago, which opened in 1901. Photograph courtesy of Modulightor.

An ornamental panel, designed by Louis Sullivan for the Schiller Theater (later known as the Garrick Theater) in Chicago, which opened in 1901. Photograph courtesy of Modulightor.

Visitors to the Modulightor Building—and particularly to the Paul Rudolph-designed duplex which is the spatial gem within it—are always curious about one of the objects on display here: a large (nearly 2 feet x 2 feet) panel, with a creamy finish and a complex composition of organic and geometric forms. The panel was designed by Louis Sullivan, and we thought you’d like to hear its interesting story.

ORIGINS: THE WORK OF ANOTHER MASTER

Louis Sullivan (1856-1924) was a renowned American architect, often considered one of the creators of the modern concept the skyscraper. Frank Lloyd Wright, who worked for him, asserted Sullivan to have been his greatest mentor, referring to Sullivan as “Lieber Meister” (beloved master)—and for Wright, a towering ego, it says something that he so strongly acknowledged another architect. Sullivan was based in Chicago and worked mainly in the Midwest—although he also designed major buildings as far away as Buffalo and New York City.

Sullivan was famous for his exuberant, lively, and inventive ornament, creatively integrating both natural (generally plant-based) and geometric forms. The ornament was used on the exteriors and interiors of his buildings, and was made from a variety of materials: terracotta, carved stone, plaster, as well as cast and wrought metals such as bronze and iron.

 Adler & Sullivan—the firm he formed with his architectural partner, Dankmar Adler—designed the Schiller Theater (later known at the Garrick Theater) in Chicago, opening in 1901 with 1,300 seats. It was demolished in 1961, amid protests by preservationists. Although the building was not saved, a large number of ornamental elements from the building were recovered—including our ornamental panel made from cast plaster.

The Schiller Theater Building (later known as the Garrick) was designed by Louis Sullivan and Dankmar Adler of the firm Adler & Sullivan. Our “Sullivan panel” was part of the ornament of the theater’s proscenium arch. Image: Historic American Buildings Survey copy of a photograph taken circa 1900, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

The Schiller Theater Building (later known as the Garrick) was designed by Louis Sullivan and Dankmar Adler of the firm Adler & Sullivan. Our “Sullivan panel” was part of the ornament of the theater’s proscenium arch. Image: Historic American Buildings Survey copy of a photograph taken circa 1900, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Louis Sullivan is also considered to be America’s prime practitioner of Art Nouveau in architectural design. Though often grouped with other Art Nouveau practitioners, Sullivan’s personal “system of architectural ornament” really grew from his individual philosophy, as well as his investigations of patterns, systems of geometric and natural generation and growth, and by plant forms—and one can readily see that in his composition of this decorative panel.

This view, of the theater’s interior, shows that Sullivan used a variety of cast plaster ornament. The proscenium’s design (seen at the upper-right) is composed of a series of recessing, concentric arches, and one can see that those arches are lined by repeated castings of our “Sullivan panel.” Image: Historic American Buildings Survey copy of a photograph taken circa 1900, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

This view, of the theater’s interior, shows that Sullivan used a variety of cast plaster ornament. The proscenium’s design (seen at the upper-right) is composed of a series of recessing, concentric arches, and one can see that those arches are lined by repeated castings of our “Sullivan panel.” Image: Historic American Buildings Survey copy of a photograph taken circa 1900, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

FROM CHICAGO -TO- YALE

 When the Schiller/Garrick was demolished, at the beginning of the 1960’s, efforts were made to create a comprehensive record of the building (as well as to preserve as many examples of the ornament as possible.) Heroic in this work was Richard Nickel (1928-1972)—the Chicago-based photographer and preservationist. It is to him that we owe much of the documentation and artifacts which survive of Chicago’s lost architecture, as well as his helping to create the preservation movement.

Paul Rudolph took over as Chair of the architecture school at Yale in 1958—and he was to have a long run as head of the school, not leaving the post until 1965. While there, he achieved what is probably the dream of any chair or dean: to design his own school building. The design process began shortly after he started at Yale, and the building—now known as Rudolph Hall in his honor—was completed in 1963, almost instantly becoming one of the most famous Modern buildings in the world.

Although the building rapidly became an icon of the Modern Movement, Rudolph had placed examples of vintage architectural fragments, ornament, and sculpture throughout the building—including examples of Sullivan ornament. We don’t know the exact process whereby the Garrick panels got from Chicago to Yale, but the timing was right: the theater was demolished about the same time that Yale’s school building was being constructed and fitted-out. [Perhaps there was some intersection between Nickel and Rudolph?]

The Yale Art & Architecture Building—Paul Rudolph’s most famous design, and an icon of Modern architecture—was featured in Architectural Record’s February 1964 issue. The cover shows one of the interiors in which, as with many of the building’s other spaces, Rudolph had incorporated vintage ornament, fragments, and objects.   Image: Courtesy of USModernist Library.

The Yale Art & Architecture Building—Paul Rudolph’s most famous design, and an icon of Modern architecture—was featured in Architectural Record’s February 1964 issue. The cover shows one of the interiors in which, as with many of the building’s other spaces, Rudolph had incorporated vintage ornament, fragments, and objects. Image: Courtesy of USModernist Library.

Placing these objects into such an educational setting aroused responses of a “How could you!” flavor (as some thought that their inclusion was a betrayal of Modern principles)—most pointedly from Yale teacher, artist (and Bauhaus alumnus) Josef Albers. [The controversy is covered in recent book from Princeton University Press, Plaster Monuments: Architecture and the Power of Reproduction by Dr. Mari Lending, a professor of architectural history and theory at the Oslo School of Architecture and Design.]

FROM YALE -TO- RUDOLPH

Ernst Wagner, founder of the Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation, tells us that when Rudolph left Yale in 1965, he was told that he could take anything he wanted—and the Sullivan panel was among the things he brought with him to his new home, New York City. In his New York rental apartment, Rudolph used the panel in a unique way: to form the back plane of his living room sofa. Actually, the images we’ve seen of that room show several panels in-a-row, forming that sofa back—so we don’t know if Rudolph owned several original Sullivan panels -or- if he had multiple castings made.

An article in the May, 1967 issue of Progressive Architecture magazine focused on innovative interiors—including Paul Rudolph’s floor-through apartment in a townhouse near the UN. In this view of the living room, the sofa back---made of a series of Sullivan panels—can be seen on the far left. Image: Courtesy of USModernist Library

An article in the May, 1967 issue of Progressive Architecture magazine focused on innovative interiors—including Paul Rudolph’s floor-through apartment in a townhouse near the UN. In this view of the living room, the sofa back---made of a series of Sullivan panels—can be seen on the far left. Image: Courtesy of USModernist Library

THE PANEL GOES UPSTAIRS

Later (in collaboration with Ernst Wagner) Rudolph purchased the townhouse in which he’d been renting: 23 Beekman Place—and he went on to create his famous “Quadruplex” penthouse apartment atop the building. The Sullivan panel, placed at the Eastern end of the living room, acted as a strong formal focus point.

Paul Rudolph’s section-perspective of his Beekman Place “Quadruplex” apartment. In this longitudinal section, looking South, one can see the Sullivan panel at the lower-left. Image: Paul Rudolph Archive, Library of Congress – Prints and Photographs Division

Paul Rudolph’s section-perspective of his Beekman Place “Quadruplex” apartment. In this longitudinal section, looking South, one can see the Sullivan panel at the lower-left. Image: Paul Rudolph Archive, Library of Congress – Prints and Photographs Division

A view of the Living Room in Rudolph’s Quadruplex apartment, looking East. The Sullivan panel at the end of the room, in front of the main window which looks out over the East River. Photograph by Ed Chappell

A view of the Living Room in Rudolph’s Quadruplex apartment, looking East. The Sullivan panel at the end of the room, in front of the main window which looks out over the East River. Photograph by Ed Chappell

FROM QUADRUPLEX -TO- DUPLEX

When Rudolph passed in 1997, Ernst Wagner was one of his heirs. A number of Rudolph’s possessions—including objets d’art from Rudolph’s Quadruplex apartment, passed to Wagner, and among them was the Sullivan Panel (with the mounting frame which Rudolph had designed for it).

The duplex residential spaces, within the Modulightor Building, were originally designed to be revenue-producing rental apartments, but Ernst Wagner (who’d become the sole owner of the building with Rudolph’s passing) began to occupy those spaces in 2000, opening up the doors between the north and south apartments so that it became one spacious, light-filled duplex. He furnished them with things he’d collected, as well as the legacy of objects and antiques he’d received from Rudolph—including the Sullivan panel—and that’s where the panel resides today.

The Sullivan panel, where it now resides in the living room of the Rudolph-designed duplex within the Modulightor Building. Photograph: courtesy of    Annie Schlechter

The Sullivan panel, where it now resides in the living room of the Rudolph-designed duplex within the Modulightor Building. Photograph: courtesy of Annie Schlechter

SEE THE PANEL IN PERSON

The Modulightor Building—including the Rudolph-designed duplex (with the Sullivan panel) can be visited, either by attending our monthly Open House, or by scheduling a private tour. Find out about that through the Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation’s Visit page on our website.

READ ALL ABOUT IT

This American Life’s Ira Glass, Chris Ware, and Tim Samuelson have produced a densely rich book-DVD set, “Lost Buildings,” which focuses on Sullivan’s work—including the efforts that Richard Nickel made to save that built heritage (and the Schiller/Garrick building receives a lot of the book’s attention).

“Lost Buildings” is a book-DVD set, which focuses on the lost work of Louis Sullivan in the Chicago area. The Schiller/Garrick building—and especially its ornament—is one of the buildings which the book delves into.

“Lost Buildings” is a book-DVD set, which focuses on the lost work of Louis Sullivan in the Chicago area. The Schiller/Garrick building—and especially its ornament—is one of the buildings which the book delves into.

If you’d like to get a copy, you can obtain it directly through This American Life’s website. Copies are also often available through Abebooks or Amazon—and the quickest way to locate them on those sites is by putting these 4 words into those pages’ search box: lost buildings collaboration ware

AND GET THE PANEL!

The Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation, in collaboration with Modulightor, is also making available full-size reproductions of the Sullivan panel. They are fabricated by an art-casting firm (who also applies a finish which matches the original with great fidelity), and a portion of each sale goes to support the work of the Foundation. [If you’d like to discuss obtaining one of them, please contact us at:  office@paulrudolphheritagefoundation.org ]

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'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 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