Frank Lloyd Wright

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.

exhibit+view.jpg
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.)

Roberto+Modulightor+spread.jpg
Roberto+concourse+page+.jpg
Robeto+Beekman+section+drawing.jpg
Roberto+rear+beekman+drawing.jpg

Celebrating NATIONAL AVIATION WEEK - with Paul Rudolph !

A comprehensive designer is interested in (and interested in designing) Everything! Here are two scenes from Frank Lloyd Wright’s Broadacre City proposal—these showing examples of his flying saucer-esque personal helicopters, as well as his curious and intriguing designs for various types of roadsters and ships. Image    courtesy of Wikipedia   .

A comprehensive designer is interested in (and interested in designing) Everything! Here are two scenes from Frank Lloyd Wright’s Broadacre City proposal—these showing examples of his flying saucer-esque personal helicopters, as well as his curious and intriguing designs for various types of roadsters and ships. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

National Aviation Week got off to a flying start on August 19th—and who better to celebrate it with than Paul Rudolph!

But hold on. Other architects have clear connections with flight. Eero Saarinen, Helmut Jahn, Minoru Yamasaki, I.M. Pei, and SOM (and, most recently, Zaha Hadid) designed some great Modern airport terminals. And Le Corbusier and Wright included aviation imagery (and fantasy) into their manifestos and projections of future living.

Le Corbusier even write a whole book expressing his delight in flight and aircraft—and used them as a symbol for forward-looking thought as well as aesthetics. His book, “Aircraft” came out in 1935, Image courtesy of    Irving Zucker Art Books.

Le Corbusier even write a whole book expressing his delight in flight and aircraft—and used them as a symbol for forward-looking thought as well as aesthetics. His book, “Aircraft” came out in 1935, Image courtesy of Irving Zucker Art Books.

Other futurists incorporated airships into inventive notions of how constrution would proceed in days to come, as in this example from Buckminster Fuller:

This is one of Buckminster Fuller’s many inventive ideas of how we could live and build in the future. He envisioned an airship delivering one of his apartment houses—so efficiently designed that the fully constructed building was light-enough to lift by dirigible—to the site. But the building would be lowered into its foundation only after the ship first dropped an explosive charge to make the hole!

This is one of Buckminster Fuller’s many inventive ideas of how we could live and build in the future. He envisioned an airship delivering one of his apartment houses—so efficiently designed that the fully constructed building was light-enough to lift by dirigible—to the site. But the building would be lowered into its foundation only after the ship first dropped an explosive charge to make the hole!

Rudolph never completed an airport. But he certainly did propose one—and it was a design with strong architectural character and inventive ideas.

Paul Rudolph: The Florida Houses, by Christopher Domin and Christopher King, is an indispensable resource for learning about the first phase of Rudolph’s career. Although the book focuses on his residential designs—the preponderance of the commissions Rudolph was receiving then—it also includes his work on other building types: schools, restaurants, beach clubs, an office building—and an airport.

Rudolph’s site plan , from the mid=1950’s, for a proposed new terminal for the Sarasota-Bradenton Airport in Florida. His terminal building is at the left side of the drawing. Image © The Estate of Paul Rudolph, The Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation.

Rudolph’s site plan , from the mid=1950’s, for a proposed new terminal for the Sarasota-Bradenton Airport in Florida. His terminal building is at the left side of the drawing. Image © The Estate of Paul Rudolph, The Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation.

According to Domin’s and King’s book, Rudolph’s proposed terminal would have replaced a “primitive” existing structure, and the new building would have included “…an air traffic control tower, overnight accommodations, eating facilities, and a large swimming pool to accommodate the weary traveler.” Moreover, according to an Architectural Record article of February 1957, “The qualities of lightness and precision felt necessary to an airport have been sought throughout.”—and this was conveyed by the use of open web columns and trusses.

The building, as designed, did not proceed due to budgetary issues—but we can still see that Rudolph was as inspired by aviation as many of the other master architects of his age. So let’s celebrate National Aviation Week with a toast to Paul Rudolph’s aerial aspirations!

An aerial view of the proposed terminal (dramatically drawn in 3 point perspective—a rare technique for Rudolph, or any architect). In this rendering, originally published in Architectural Record, the roof is lifted off in order to reveal the various functional areas of the building. Toward the front is a rather sizable swimming pool (as signaled by the diving board)—a nearly-unknown feature for any airport (but one that might have fit unusually well for this building’s Florida setting). Image © The Estate of Paul Rudolph, The Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation.

An aerial view of the proposed terminal (dramatically drawn in 3 point perspective—a rare technique for Rudolph, or any architect). In this rendering, originally published in Architectural Record, the roof is lifted off in order to reveal the various functional areas of the building. Toward the front is a rather sizable swimming pool (as signaled by the diving board)—a nearly-unknown feature for any airport (but one that might have fit unusually well for this building’s Florida setting). Image © The Estate of Paul Rudolph, The Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation.

Rudolph’s rendering of the inside of the main concourse. The double-height space is supported by the kind of trussed structures whose forms were associated with airplane construction—-the high-tech of its time. Yet there are pure architectural grace-notes, like the grand spiraling stair seen at the far-right end of the space, which connects the main floor with the upper galleries. Image © The Estate of Paul Rudolph, The Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation.

Rudolph’s rendering of the inside of the main concourse. The double-height space is supported by the kind of trussed structures whose forms were associated with airplane construction—-the high-tech of its time. Yet there are pure architectural grace-notes, like the grand spiraling stair seen at the far-right end of the space, which connects the main floor with the upper galleries. Image © The Estate of Paul Rudolph, The Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation.

An exterior side elevation of the terminal building. The capsule-like control tower [another saucer?—perhaps Rudolph saw Wright’s renderings?] is in the background at the right. The building’s columns appear to flare outward at their tops: a form reminiscent of the profile of ancient Minoan columns—and a silhouette that would be seen in later architectural works—from Rudolph to Nervi to Leon Krier. Image © The Estate of Paul Rudolph, The Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation.

An exterior side elevation of the terminal building. The capsule-like control tower [another saucer?—perhaps Rudolph saw Wright’s renderings?] is in the background at the right. The building’s columns appear to flare outward at their tops: a form reminiscent of the profile of ancient Minoan columns—and a silhouette that would be seen in later architectural works—from Rudolph to Nervi to Leon Krier. Image © The Estate of Paul Rudolph, The Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation.

Paul Rudolph’s rendering for the    Greeley Memorial Laboratory for the Yale Forestry School—   a building, on the Yale Campus, which he designed within a couple of years of his proposal for the Florida airport. While the columns at Greeley were of precast concrete    (with mathematically-derived sculptural curves)   , their overall silhouette is reminiscent of the tops of the columns at for the airport—so might it be that the airport terminal project was where those forms germinated? Image © The Estate of Paul Rudolph, The Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation.

Paul Rudolph’s rendering for the Greeley Memorial Laboratory for the Yale Forestry School—a building, on the Yale Campus, which he designed within a couple of years of his proposal for the Florida airport. While the columns at Greeley were of precast concrete (with mathematically-derived sculptural curves), their overall silhouette is reminiscent of the tops of the columns at for the airport—so might it be that the airport terminal project was where those forms germinated? Image © The Estate of Paul Rudolph, The Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation.

DINING WITH RUDOLPH

Some of the architectonically delicious creations of architect-turned-pastry-chef    Dinara Kasko   . Image courtesy of Dinara Kasko Pastry Art.

Some of the architectonically delicious creations of architect-turned-pastry-chef Dinara Kasko. Image courtesy of Dinara Kasko Pastry Art.

ARCHITECTS EAT…

One can easily imagine architects eating—or at least snacking. All those endless professional conferences, presentation meetings, site visits, class design crits, touring of the great monuments, ‘till-midnight toil at the drawing board (or screen)—surely any that will induce hunger and thirst.

Food is also a chance for bonding and relaxation. There are several pictures of the Frank Lloyd Wright’s fellowship community (including Frank and Olgivanna) out for what look like rather enjoyable picnics—and one can presume that Wright partook in the al fresco fare.

Some types of foods are the special focus of chefs with an eye for composition—particularly the design of cakes and pastry, which have a long history of architectonic expression. In fact, professional competitions in that field seem to bring out the builder in chefs’ hearts—and there is always the opportunity for innovation, as is shown so richly in the work of architect-designer-turned-pastry-chef, Dinara Kasko.

Frank Lloyd Wright and members of his Taliesen Fellowship, out for a countryside picnic. Wright is seated just right-of-center, in the hat and striped jacket. Photo by    Pedro E. Guerrero   , a superb photographer of architecture and the arts (many of whose works    are collected in fascinating books   )—and who is well-known for creating some of the most memorable images of Wright and Wright’s community. Photo (c) The Estate of Pedro E. Guerrero

Frank Lloyd Wright and members of his Taliesen Fellowship, out for a countryside picnic. Wright is seated just right-of-center, in the hat and striped jacket. Photo by Pedro E. Guerrero, a superb photographer of architecture and the arts (many of whose works are collected in fascinating books)—and who is well-known for creating some of the most memorable images of Wright and Wright’s community. Photo (c) The Estate of Pedro E. Guerrero

And we have this, from Robert A. M. Stern, It is from his affectionate memoir of fellow architect Charles Moore, recounting their time together during a group project in which they were engaged: 

“… we . . . stayed in a great downtown club where we would gather for breakfast before embarking on our day's work in the SOM offices. I remember those breakfasts with him vividly: Charles was not a person who watched his figure, and he would seat himself in the cavernous dining hall and dive into an enormous breakfast, taking generous helpings of chipped beef on toast and all kinds of other calorie-laden goodies. Faced with the pleasures of the table, he just couldn't say no.”

Philip Johnson was well-known for his regular lunches at the The Four Seasons restaurant in the Seagram Building (a set of elegant dining spaces he had designed, within Mies’ great skyscraper). Famously, Johnson even had his own booth, often inviting those whom he thought were the most-promising architectural up-and-comers.

Philip Johnson: master of many things—including the power lunch—but that’s not a napkin tucked under his chin. Image courtesy of Wikipedia; photo by: B. Pietro Filardo

Philip Johnson: master of many things—including the power lunch—but that’s not a napkin tucked under his chin. Image courtesy of Wikipedia; photo by: B. Pietro Filardo

And in Timothy M. Rohan’s comprehensive study of Paul Rudolph, he mentions that Johnson and  Paul Rudolph—old friends and rivals—used to eat at Billy’s: a bar-restaurant on Manhattan’s 1st Avenue (located about equidistant from both of their self-designed homes.) [Billy’s, which originally opened in 1870, closed in 2004—an amazing run, having been in continuous operation for 134 years!]

This may be an authentic, archival view of the old bar at Billy’s. We don’t know what it was like when Rudolph, Johnson, and their friends & colleagues dined there—but in this 1936 photo, it certainly had a most intriguing look. [And if it was like this when our heroes dined there, Johnson might have picked-up some ideas for his Post-Modern phase.] Photograph by: Bernice Abbott, courtesy of the Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs - Photography Collection, The New York Public Library

This may be an authentic, archival view of the old bar at Billy’s. We don’t know what it was like when Rudolph, Johnson, and their friends & colleagues dined there—but in this 1936 photo, it certainly had a most intriguing look. [And if it was like this when our heroes dined there, Johnson might have picked-up some ideas for his Post-Modern phase.] Photograph by: Bernice Abbott, courtesy of the Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs - Photography Collection, The New York Public Library

Finally, we learn something we hadn’t before heard about Luis Barragan, according to an article in the famously fact-checked New Yorker. Among the design signatures of Barragan’s severely-shaped architectural work, was his use of color—frequently quite saturated—as in the intense pink he specified for some of his sun-drenched walls. It turns out that

“He enjoyed melon halves drizzled with sherry, and was known to have his maid prepare entirely pink meals.”

But be careful: getting architects mixed-up with food can be hazardous—at least as interpreted by this satirical news story fromThe Onion:

News story courtesy of the   www.theonion.com

News story courtesy of the www.theonion.com

…BUT IS ARCHITECTURE EDIBLE?

We can’t think of too many buildings named after architects. Offhand, the couple we can readily recall are the Yale Art & Architecture Building which has been rededicated (after renovation) as “Rudolph Hall”; and the “Met Breuer”—the Marcel Breuer-designed Madison Avenue branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (which had previously been the Whitney Museum.)

 But on-the-other-hand, naming restaurants after architects does seem to be a thing—as in:  

  • The Aalto Lounge in Portland, Oregon (which is filled with mid-century Modern furniture.)

  • The The Wright which opened in 2009, within the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Guggenheim Museum.

  • The restaurant which is part of the Le Corbusier Hotel, within Corb’s famous “Unite” apartment house in Marseilles (a venue whose appetizers look well-designed and proportioned.)

  • The Auberge de Mies, in Switzerland.

And, speaking of Mies, we discovered that this taste treat which had been offered by the creative (and design-oriented) dessert company, Coolhaus:

Image courtesy of    www.cool.haus

Image courtesy of www.cool.haus

WHAT ABOUT RUDOLPH?

Well, of course Rudolph ate: as noted above, he used to go out with nearby-neighbor Philip Johnson—and, in the archives of the Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation, we have snapshots of him at various dining events.

But now you too can eat with Rudolph—or at least in Rudolph’s—the new restaurant, named for him, that’s opened within The Sarasota Modern, a boutique hotel in the Rosemary District of Sarasota, Florida.

Image courtesy of    The Sarasota Modern

Image courtesy of The Sarasota Modern

Sarasota is the perfect place for a restaurant honoring Paul Rudolph, as the “Sarasota School of Architecture” is the appellation for the post-World War II set of architects who practiced in that area, creating significant Modern designs. Rudolph was the creative & energizing center of that group (similar to the way that Wright is the pivotal figure for the “Prairie School”.)

Sarasota Magazine gave it a very good review, starting with:

If you name your restaurant after a legendary architect, you’d better make sure the space looks sharp. Rudolph’s, the restaurant inside The Sarasota Modern hotel, which opened in the Rosemary District in December, is named in tribute to Paul Rudolph, and its lush environs do justice to a revered name.

The restaurant is divided into three main areas: a brightly lit, glass-walled dining room that offers nighttime street-corner vistas; a mellow-mood round bar; and a lattice-ceilinged patio adjacent to the pool. Does it follow the strictures of the Sarasota School of Architecture that Rudolph helped pioneer? You’ll have to ask an architecture critic.

Sarasota Magazine’s reviewer went on to lavishly praise the food, the creative and enterprising chef, the selection of cocktails, and the overall ambiance. From some of the views we’ve seen—like of the interior—

Image courtesy of    The Sarasota Modern

Image courtesy of The Sarasota Modern

—and of the food—

Image courtesy of    The Sarasota Modern

Image courtesy of The Sarasota Modern

—a visit to Rudolph’s looks like it would be a well-designed (and tasty) treat.

HONORING A MASTER: Frank Lloyd Wright—celebrating the birth of an architectural Titan

Frank Lloyd Wright in 1954, photographed when he was late 80’s—but still going strong and working on new designs.  Photo by a staff photographer for the New York World-Telegram and Sun newspaper, courtesy of the Prints and Photographs division of the Library of Congress.

Frank Lloyd Wright in 1954, photographed when he was late 80’s—but still going strong and working on new designs.

Photo by a staff photographer for the New York World-Telegram and Sun newspaper, courtesy of the Prints and Photographs division of the Library of Congress.

A FORCE OF NATURE

Frank Lloyd Wright endlessly spoke about (and celebrated) Nature—particularly nature’s importance as the teacher for designers. Wright—also a prolific writer—is an abundant source of quotes about this, as in this example:

“Nature is my manifestation of God. I go to nature every day for inspiration in the day’s work. Follow in building the principles which nature has used in its domain.”

But in the world of architecture, Wright himself was a “force of nature”: for nearly three-quarters of a century he was innovating and exploring all aspects of architecture and urbanism, and his activities extended to every aspect of design: interiors, landscaping, furniture, lighting, textiles, the decorative arts, sculpture, graphics—and he even designed some futuristic vehicles for land, water, and air! His concerns extended to larger issues of ecology and lifestyle.

Especially relevant for today is that, of all the great Modern architects, he was the first “Green” one—both in integrating low-energy-use principles into his designs, as well as in the long-term value of his buildings. A Wright building, well-maintained, could last 100’s of years (or longer), a most responsible use of “embodied energy”—both in beauty and resources!

A TITANIC EFFECT

Wright influenced generations of architects during his long life—and continues to do so. Here at the Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation we’re especially aware of his impact: a key moment in Rudolph’s development was his visit to Wright’s Rosenbaum House, in Florence, Alabama.

Here is Rudolph recalling it:

I was twelve or fourteen when I first saw a Frank Lloyd Wright house. That was in Florence, Alabama. I forget how I knew about this house, but I did, so I got my parents to drive over. I lived in Athens, Alabama. My father was head of a school there, a rural school, a Methodist girls’ school. I have probably told you about the piano hinges and cantilevered roof, no? The cantilevered roof, I suppose, was about eighteen feet. I had never seen anything like that. Well! I was completely delighted with the whole idea that this would hold Itself up, and I didn’t understand it at all. There it was. I always thought the car looked a little funny, but I loved the roof. The interior of the house was in rather typical Usonian style. I had never seen detailing like that, the idea of storage units, of which there were many of various kinds, being such an important element in the house. I specifically the piano hinges, which I thought the most beautiful things I had ever seen. I still do think they are beautiful, and idea of the clerestory lighting. quite open above, and the way the light goes onto the ceiling and comes back down. I remember disliking and not understanding the narrowness of the passageways. That seemed terribly constricted to me. I also remember the built-in furniture and how completely satisfying it was. especially the couches. There are very few architects whose work I would go out of my way to see, but I would always go to see anything, even the worst, of Wright’s.

Young Paul Rudolph, at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Rosenbaum house in Florence, Alabama—a visit that had lasting impact on his views (and practice) of architecture.  Photo: Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation

Young Paul Rudolph, at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Rosenbaum house in Florence, Alabama—a visit that had lasting impact on his views (and practice) of architecture.

Photo: Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation

Rudolph went on to say of Wright:

You must understand that all my life I have been interested in architecture, but the puzzle for me, in many ways, is the relationship of Wright to the International Stylists. Now perhaps for you that seems beside the point, or very, very strange. It has a little bit to do with when you come into this world, and that is when I came to grow. Wright's interest in structure was, to a degree. a psychological one. I am fascinated by his ability to juxtapose the very heavy, which is probably most clear, almost blatant, too blatant, in Taliesin West with the very, very light tent roof. It isn’t that his structures are so clear, because they are not. It is that he bent the structure to form an appropriate space. He would make piers three times the size that they needed to be in order to make it seem really secure. Or he would make the eaveline two or three inches deep by all sorts of shenanigans, from a structural point. My God, what did to achieve that, because he thought it ought to light. I would agree with him in a moment, but the International stylists would not. Well. they did and they didn’t. It was the bad and ones who did not. They didn’t know how, didn’t know why.

[Quotes are from: “Paul Rudolph—Excerpts from a Conversation” which appeared in Perspecta 22, 1986]

CELEBRATING WRIGHT

Over his long life (and after!) Wright has been celebrated in many ways, including the creation of 3 dozen house museums and endless exhibits, books (including some novels in which he’s the featured character), and TV documentaries—and there’s a line of Wrightian scarves, lamps, posters, hardware, journals… The US Postal Service even put Wright and his work on postage stamps 4 times—probably the record for any American architect.

Two of the four stamps, devoted to Wright and his work, created by the United States Postal Service.

Two of the four stamps, devoted to Wright and his work, created by the United States Postal Service.

To celebrate his 152nd birthday, you might want to seek-out a “Wright site” to visit. Since Wright built all over the US (and internationally), chances are that there’s one to visit that’s not far from you. The Frank Lloyd Wright Trust has put together a list of publicly visitable sites in the US: https://flwright.org/researchexplore/publicwrightsites

The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation offers a list of “5 Ways to Celebrate Frank Lloyd Wright’s Birthday”: https://franklloydwright.org/5-ways-to-celebrate-frank-lloyd-wrights-birthday/

And for those who really want to “take him in,” this link will take you directly to the recipe for his favorite birthday cake! https://franklloydwright.org/frank-lloyd-wrights-birthday-cake-recipe/

Wright & Johnson & Rudolph

Frank Lloyd Wright (left) with Philip Johnson

Frank Lloyd Wright (left) with Philip Johnson

FRANK AND PHILIP

Wright and Johnson: given their contrasting personalizes, background, design orientations, and different generations—they were born nearly 40 years apart—they were not a likely pair.

Yet they had decades of interaction, and two main factors contributed to that ongoing phenomenon:

  • In some ways, architecture is a small world. If you’re in the field, chances are that you know (or know of) scores and even hundreds of colleagues though journal articles, exhibitions, lectures, teaching, organizations, juries, conferences - and now, on-line. And if you’re famous (or ambitious and working on it), it’s likely that you’ve personally met and engaged with each other at the kinds of venues mentioned above. That, in turn, begets even more such occasions and encounters: further exhibits, more meetings, additional panels & symposia, recommendations for fellowships, new conferences… as well as mutual acknowledgment on social media.

  • Charming, social, strategic, ambitious, energetic, mentally sharp - that set of characterizations can accurately be applied to both Wright and Johnson. Creatively, Wright was a force-of-nature - and he can be justly included as one of Modern architecture’s foundational trio (the other two, generally selected for that pantheon, are Mies and Corbusier) And Johnson - whatever you think of his design oeuvre (and we do like some parts of it) - can be well described as an architectural entrepreneur. Not just in the matter of obtaining clients, but rather in the broadest sense of his working to influence & explore culture through exhibits, writing, curation, making connections, public pronouncements, and pouring his personal resources into many projects (a.k.a.: various kinds of patronage.)

Wright did those things too, but with Johnson it was a bit different. It seems funny to say it, but in a way Johnson was the less selfish of the two. Wright was relentlessly focused on himself and his self-designed community/universe. But Johnson - while no slouch when it came to self-promotion, and in actively seeing out clients for his growing practice - was also sending energy outwards. So the exhibits, books, organizations, and other projects to which Johnson contributed or organized were not always just about him—and that’s a contrast with Wright.

There were a variety of occasions and reasons for them to interact - as recounted in a full-length study of the pairing by Hugh Howard.

Hugh Howard’s recent book on Wright and Johnson, “Architecture’s Odd Couple” Photo: Bloomsbury Press

Hugh Howard’s recent book on Wright and Johnson, “Architecture’s Odd Couple” Photo: Bloomsbury Press

Some of Johnson’s projects brought them together, most notably MoMA’s “Modern Architecture: International Exposition” of 1932, for which Philip Johnson and Henry-Russell Hitchcock were the curators (which also resulted in an equally famous and influential book & phrase: “The International Style”). Wright, possibly annoyed at not being the show’s center of attention, was grouchy about the whole thing and seems to have played “hard-to-get” - but he did eventually decide to take part in this historically significant exhibition.

Wright’s work, as shown in MoMA’s architecture exhibition. Photo: The Museum of Modern Art, New York

Wright’s work, as shown in MoMA’s architecture exhibition. Photo: The Museum of Modern Art, New York

PAUL AND PHILIP

A snapshot of Philip Johnson (with folder in hands), Paul Rudolph (in center, on stool), and Vincent Scully (to the right of Rudolph), at a Yale architecture school jury in 1960. Photo: Stanley Tigerman

A snapshot of Philip Johnson (with folder in hands), Paul Rudolph (in center, on stool), and Vincent Scully (to the right of Rudolph), at a Yale architecture school jury in 1960. Photo: Stanley Tigerman

Paul Rudolph and Johnson were old friends, rivals, and sociable sparring partners. For example: Rudolph invited Johnson to teach at Yale; they’d dine together at a pub about midway between their Manhattan homes; they’d poke fun at each other’s work; and Rudolph was a welcome guest at Johnson’s famous Glass House estate in New Canaan.

Sunset at Philip Johnson’s Glass House. Photo: Arthurious.com

Sunset at Philip Johnson’s Glass House. Photo: Arthurious.com

A WEEKEND IN THE COUNTRY

A special 1996 issue of ANY [Architecture New York] magazine was devoted to celebrating Philip Johnson’s 90th birthday. 33 essays, from luminaries ranging from Stanley Tigerman -to- Zaha Hadid -to- Hans Hollein -to- Kevin Roche (and 29 more!) offered their memories, thoughts, anecdotes, and tributes to Johnson - including one from Paul Rudolph, titled “A Sunday Afternoon.” As you’ll see, it records a unique occasion when the three of them - Wright, Johnson, and Rudolph - were together:

Now that’s what we’d call a perfect day.