For Sale

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