Yale

MIES & RUDOLPH: A MYSTERY—SOLVED!

At the upper-left is a photo of Mies van der Rohe, taken during in 1958 during a review of student work at Yale.    Image: The picture, by James Righter, is as shown on a spread from “Pedagogy and Place” by Robert A. M. Stern and Jimmy Stamp—the authoritative book on the history of the architecture program at Yale.

At the upper-left is a photo of Mies van der Rohe, taken during in 1958 during a review of student work at Yale.

Image: The picture, by James Righter, is as shown on a spread from “Pedagogy and Place” by Robert A. M. Stern and Jimmy Stamp—the authoritative book on the history of the architecture program at Yale.

The great architect, Mies van der Rohe (1886-1969), surrounded by students—and, among them, the already distinguished Phyllis Lambert. But what was the occasion and setting?—and whose arm it that, coming from the photo’s left edge?     The Canadian Center for Architecture (CCA) did some work on the photo, and the sliver of a face at the upper-left (the owner of that mysterious arm) began to become clearer.    Photo: Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation archives, with grateful acknowledgment for the photographic enhancement work done by the Canadian Center for Architecture (CCA).

The great architect, Mies van der Rohe (1886-1969), surrounded by students—and, among them, the already distinguished Phyllis Lambert. But what was the occasion and setting?—and whose arm it that, coming from the photo’s left edge? The Canadian Center for Architecture (CCA) did some work on the photo, and the sliver of a face at the upper-left (the owner of that mysterious arm) began to become clearer.

Photo: Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation archives, with grateful acknowledgment for the photographic enhancement work done by the Canadian Center for Architecture (CCA).

LOST—AND FOUND

Things get lost: keys, glasses, papers, treasure…. Particularly the kind of papers that are, themselves, “treasures”: documents that give us insight into a historical situation, or proof of an extraordinary occurrence, of photos that establish a significant connection.

In the archives of the Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation, we recently came across such a treasure: a tiny, vintage, color snapshot—the image size being no bigger than a couple of inches across. The scene shows the great Modern architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, seated at the right side of a table. Behind him are several figures—students, we believe—and one of them is Phyllis Lambert. [Phyllis Lambert has made many profound contributions to architecture—not the least of which was to move her family to select Mies to design the Seagram Building. Later, she went on to attend architecture school, practice architecture, and found the great Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA).]

In front of Mies, on that table, is a drawing—and, reaching out from the left side of the photo is an arm, pointing to the drawing.

But whose arm? And where and under what circumstances was the photo taken? And what’s all this got to do with Rudolph?

We decided to investigate! But—before we reveal what we contend are the answers—it’s worth reviewing a few Mies-Rudolph connections.

MIES AND RUDOLPH

In one of our earlier posts, “The Seagram Building—By Rudolph?” we wrote about how Rudolph was—very briefly—on the list of the many architects that were considered for the Seagram Building. And in another post, “Paul Rudolph: Designs for Feed and Speed,” we showed both Mies’s and Rudolph’s comparable designs for highway/roadside restaurants.

We were also intrigued to learn that Paul Rudolph had been asked to be Mies’s successor at IIT! This is mentioned in “Pedagogy and Place” by Robert A. M. Stern and Jimmy Stamp, the grand history of Yale’s architecture program. That information-packed volume covers a century of architectural education, 1916-2016—and includes a large chapter devoted to the era when Rudolph was chair of the Architecture department (1958-1965).

The book relates:

Yet even before the Yale appointment, Rudolph was so respected as an architect-teacher, despite his youth, that in 1955 he was asked to succeed Mies van der Rohe as head of the architecture program at the Illinois Institute of Technology.

Rudolph did initially agree to take the position, but a few weeks later withdrew. It’s tantalizing to muse about what might have happened to mid-century architectural culture—especially in America—had he gone ahead to become head of ITT’s program. [One thing for sure: there would have been no Yale Art & Architecture Building—and the world would have been deprived of one of the greatest of Modern architectural icons.]

MIES’S VISIT TO YALE

At the age of 39, Paul Rudolph received his appointment to become chair of Yale’s architecture school and took office in 1958—a very young age, in that era, for such a position. One of the ways that he began to energize the school was to bring in a great diversity of instructors and guest critics (“jurors”)—and the book lists names of the many luminaries that he invited to the school: practitioners, teachers, and historians that were either already famous, or would later become so. Among them: James Stirling, Philip Johnson, Peter Smithson, Alison Smithson, Reyner Banham, Bernard Rudolfky, Ulrich Franzen, Edward Larrabee Barnes, John Johansen, Ward Bennett, Craig Elwood, and Sibyl Moholy-Nagy. Stern and Stamp also note:

…with the help of Phyllis B. Lambert (b. 1927), a reluctant Mies van der Rohe came to New Haven as a visiting critic for a portion of the fall 1958 term.

And among the book’s copious illustrations, there’s a photograph of Mies reviewing the work of Yale students.

Timothy M. Rohan’s magisterial study of Paul Rudolph’s life and work, The Architecture of Paul Rudolph, also mentions Mies’s visit.

OUR PHOTO…

In attempting to identify the owner of the arm, in our mysterious photo, we looked at it with a magnifying eye loupe. Rudolph was known for his tweedy suits, sometimes in earth-tone hues or grays—or something approaching a blending of the two. Under magnification, the material of the jacket sleeve which clothes that arm seemed to have the right color and texture—but, beyond that observation, we couldn’t arrive at much of a conclusion.

So we reached out to Ms. Lambert: we sent a scan of the photo and asked if she recalled whose arm it might be, the occasion of the photo, and whether it might have been made during a visit by Rudolph to IIT—or—a  visit by Mies to Yale.

Phyllis Lambert graciously responded, via her executive assistant, who sent us the below note:

Ms. Lambert Lambert has seen the snapshot and below are her comments:

 I cannot identify the students. I was at Yale from when Rudolph was dean and Mies visited for a few days at that time. And I also saw Albers walking in the street and talked briefly with him. To my knowledge, Rudolph never came to IIT when I was there.

 That overlaps with what is in Stern’s and Stamp’s book, and Rohan’s, about Mies coming to Yale. Moreover, we’ve also never heard of any visits by Rudolph to IIT.

But there’s more. Ms. Lambert’s executive assistant had a further gift for us, and she writes:

About the picture size and luminosity:

Attached is a scan of the picture we worked on a bit, bigger and with more luminosity which reveals a bit of the unidentified person’s face.

Here’s the enhanced version which they sent:

We think we've solved the mystery of who is on the left side of the photo---as the text of our article reveals. Photo: Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation archives, with grateful acknowledgment for the photographic enhancement work done by the Canadian Center for Architecture (CCA).

We think we've solved the mystery of who is on the left side of the photo---as the text of our article reveals.
Photo: Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation archives, with grateful acknowledgment for the photographic enhancement work done by the Canadian Center for Architecture (CCA).

Before the CCA did their enhancements, we really hadn’t noticed the “sliver” of face (the owner of that arm!) in the upper-left edge of the photograph—but we’re very glad to have it pointed-out to us. What can we see there?  A bit of a forward-leaning crest of hair, and a part of the face below—mainly the forehead. Hmmm. Well, one of the most prominent aspects of Rudolph’s post-World War II “look” was his crewcut, whose front silhouette included a small forward prow of hair—and that sat over a high forehead (with dark, curved eyebrows.)

Here’s a prime example, a well-known photograph of Rudolph which show those characteristics well:

A photographic portrait of Paul Rudolph:    Photo: from the archives of the Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation

A photographic portrait of Paul Rudolph:

Photo: from the archives of the Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation

Over the years, we’ve looked at nearly every known photograph of Rudolph. Comparing those photos (like the one above) to the bits of head in our snapshot, we think we see a possible match.

So might that be Paul Rudolph, emerging at the left edge of the snapshot?

Here’s a summary of the evidence:

  • Mies at Yale (invited by Rudolph when he was chair): The historical record establishes that as true.

  • Mies at Yale, with Phyllis Lambert:  Ms. Lambert recalls that.

  • Clothing:  The arm’s jacket sleeve material’s color and texture appear to match Rudolph’s well-known “uniform”.

  • Hair:  The front crest of hair, shown in the snapshot, matches known photo portraits of Rudolph

  • Forehead:  Ditto

  • Eyebrows:  Ditto

Conclusion: This is likely the only known photograph of Mies and Rudolph together.

Mystery solved? We think so!


Paul Rudolph & Education

The  Yale Art & Architecture Building —now rededicated as  Rudolph Hall —which Paul Rudolph designed (and was constructed and completed) during the time he was chair of the Yale’s school of architecture. Photo: Sage Ross, Wikipedia

The Yale Art & Architecture Building—now rededicated as Rudolph Hall—which Paul Rudolph designed (and was constructed and completed) during the time he was chair of the Yale’s school of architecture. Photo: Sage Ross, Wikipedia

Paul Rudolph was involved in so many tributaries of the world of design—architecture, urbanism, interiors, furniture, and lighting. But also in design education in its many forms: teaching, writing, lecturing, mentoring, and—most famously—as chair of Yale’s architecture school from 1958 to 1965.

In his Yale Alumni Day speech, given as he was about to assume the chairmanship, he concluded with these ever-thrilling, adventurous, and toughly challenging words:

 We must understand that after all the building committees, the conflicting interests, the budget considerations, and the limitations of his fellow man have been taken into consideration, the architect’s responsibility has just begun. He must understand that exhilarating, awesome moment.

 When he takes pencil in hand, and holds it poised above a white sheet of paper, he has suspended there all that has gone before and all that will ever be.

Under his leadership, he helped the school become one of the country’s most dynamic places to get an architectural education—and not the least of those reasons is the great diversity and quality of teachers and guest jurors which Rudolph invited to the school.

These were certainly not all people who agreed with Rudolph. An example would be Serge Chermayeff, who was invited by Rudolph to come to Yale—and became a rather controversial figure within the school.

Serge Chermayeff (1900-1996), architect, designer, and educator. Photo: Alchetron

Serge Chermayeff (1900-1996), architect, designer, and educator. Photo: Alchetron

Serge Chermayeff’s studio-vacation house in Cape Cod. Photo: The Modern House

In an oral history interview about his years of educational work (in Chicago and elsewhere), Chermayeff recalled:

I left in 1962 to go to Rudolph in Yale and he very typically said, “I’d love to have somebody on the jury with whom I can argue in front of the students.” That suited me very well because I’m very argumentative. I had a lovely time because he was a very nice man, I liked him very much and we got on very, very well.

The 7 years that Rudolph was chair at Yale - a good long run, for any chair or dean - continue to fascinate.

Photo: Google

Photo: Google

Numerous former students of Rudolph affirm that it was a super-intense (and maybe the) key educational experience of their lives, as Norman Foster did in his heart-felt essay on Rudolph. [It is one of several chapters devoted to Paul Rudolph in Architects on Architects, edited by Susan Gray.]

In the compulsively readable, pulls-no-punches memoir by the ever-creative Stanley Tigerman, Designing Bridges To Burn—truly a must-read!—he also shares scenes and feelings from his years as a student at Yale (and, simultaneously, a part-time employee of Rudolph.)

Stanley Tigerman

Stanley Tigerman

Tigerman’s book ‘Designing Bridges to Burn’

Tigerman’s book ‘Designing Bridges to Burn’

Here’s a brief quote from it:

“For Paul Rudolph, architecture and life were inextricably intertwined. He lived, breathed, slept, lectured, taught, and of course practiced architecture. I was thoroughly bedazzled by the depth of his commitment to unpacking the never-endling layers of space and mas that architecture represented for him. He was, other than simply being a superb teacher, the consummate architect, if by that one means a person who, in a Zen-like sense “became” his work. In all these years of practicing the discipline, if there was anyone I met who “walked the walk” it was Paul Marvin Rudolph.”

Robert A. M. Stern, former Dean of Yale’s school of architecture. He is shown standing on a portion of Rudolph’s  Yale Art & Architecture  building. Yale’s  Harkness Tower  is in the background. Photo: Peter Aaron/OTTO

Robert A. M. Stern, former Dean of Yale’s school of architecture. He is shown standing on a portion of Rudolph’s Yale Art & Architecture building. Yale’s Harkness Tower is in the background. Photo: Peter Aaron/OTTO

Robert A. M. Stern was an architecture student at Yale during the Rudolph years - in fact, Stern’s thesis was presented at the last review which Rudolph attended before leaving the chairmanship in 1965. Paprika (the student publication of Yale’s architecture school) conducted a fascinating, wise, and hilarious interview with Stern, just before he stepped-down from the deanship at Yale. Paul Rudolph comes up quite alot - and we really recommend a full reading of this extraordinarily frank and fun session.

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For a comprehensive overview - a deep and utterly interesting dive - into a century of the history of Yale’s School of Architecture, we recommend looking at this fascinating book - a copy of which we’ve just acquired for the library of the Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation:

Pedagogy and Place: 100 Years of Architecture Education at Yale
By Robert A. M. Stern and Jimmy Stamp
Published by the Yale University Press
https://yalebooks.yale.edu/book/9780300211924/pedagogy-and-place

The book—spanning from 1916 -to- the school’s centennial in 2016—covers its early traditional and Beaus-Arts beginnings, it’s turn towards Modernism, the Rudolph era, and the interesting transformations since then. But, while deeply & fully-researched and aplenty with citations, this is not dry academic writing—instead: it is a richly told story, with strong personalities that are vividly portrayed.

The section dealing with the years when Rudolph was chair is titled “A Time of Heroics 1958-1965”—and here are a few shots of illustrated page spreads from that chapter:

AN INVITATION:

Rudolph-as-Educator is an enticing potential focus for further research, and we would like to return to it in the future. If any readers would like to share memoires (or materials) relating to this, we’d certainly welcome them - and that would fuel additional explorations of this important subject.

If there’s anything you’d like to share, please feel welcome to contact us at office@paulrudolphheritagefoundation.org

10 Years Later: The Yale School of Architecture & what might have been

Model of Richard Meier’s proposed addition to the Yale School of Architecture.  Renderings: Richard Meier & Partners Architects, Model Photography: Jock Pottle

Model of Richard Meier’s proposed addition to the Yale School of Architecture.
Renderings: Richard Meier & Partners Architects, Model Photography: Jock Pottle

As a result of a 1996 planning study, Yale University decided to undertake the exterior and interior renovation of Paul Rudolph’s iconic Yale School of Architecture building along with a seven-story addition.

A number of proposals were generated from well-known architects such as Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, Richard Meier, and Beyer Blinder Belle. Gwathmey Siegel Kaufman Architects were finally awarded the $126 million project which included renovation of Rudolph’s original 116,000 sf building along with a 87,000 sf addition to be known as the Jeffrey H. Loria Center for the History of Art. The project was completed in 2008 and won many awards including the AIA NY State - Award of Excellence for Historic Preservation in 2009.

Rudolph meets Gwathmey Siegel Kaufman Architects Photo: Kelvin Dickinson, Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation

Rudolph meets Gwathmey Siegel Kaufman Architects
Photo: Kelvin Dickinson, Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation

To see what might have been, Richard Meier & Partners Architects has a page on their website that describes their original 2001 - 2004 proposal:


The proposed new building for the Department of the History of Art and for an expanded Arts Library is located adjacent to the Art and Architecture Building by Paul Rudolph of 1963. The two will be closely interconnected, and this integration reflects the time-honored interaction between the arts and architecture. Encompassing a total gross area of some 175,000 square feet, the new building rises seven floors above the street and has two levels below grade, following the sectional precedent of the Rudolph building.

A top-lit atrium, which accommodates the main reading room of the expanded Arts Library, connects the two buildings. It occupies a void adjacent to the existing structure, which Rudolph had envisioned as a courtyard in the potential expansion of his building. While the principal entrance is located in the new building, the original entry into the Rudolph building will be maintained with direct access into the original northeastern stair/elevator tower or indirect access up the adjacent grand staircase.

The ground floor is mainly given over to the reference library, but it also provides an auxiliary semi-public element, a small exhibition space and a café close to the main entrance. There are two lecture halls in the lowest level of the new building, which, together with Hastings Hall in the basement of the Rudolph building, constitute the new lecture complex.

The new building juxtaposes a small number of enclosed volumes – faculty offices and seminar rooms – with expansive spaces mostly clad in either translucent or transparent glass. In contrast to the “corduroy” concrete of the Rudolph building, the curtain walls and glass roofs of the new building act as membranes filtering natural light into the structure and creating a variety of light conditions according to the time of day and the season.

To see more of the proposal by Richard Meier & Partners Architects, click on one of the images below: