A Case of the Undervalued Man: Paul Marvin Rudolph - September 16, 1997


In his memoir, Designing Bridges to Burn, Stanley Tigerman (1930-2019) recounts that he was already a practicing architect when he applied to Yale’s architecture program in 1958. Paul Rudolph, department chair, sent an application with a note: “I’m sure I’ll live to regret this.” After two years—thrilling for the quality of education received directly from Rudolph, grueling for the long hours, tension, and loss of sleep (plus, in addition to his academic load, working part-time in Rudolph’s New Haven office)—Tigerman graduated and went on to a colorful and prolific career: designing, building, teaching, curating, writing, and highly articulate (and graphic) hell-raising about all aspects of architecture and urbanism. The below remarks were written on the occasion of a 1997 memorial exhibition of Rudolph’s drawings, presented by the Architectural League of New York.

[Note: in transcribing this text, we have retained most of the grammar, spelling, capitalization, and construction.]


A Case of the Undervalued Man: Paul Marvin Rudolph
By Stanley Tigerman

Remarks on an exhibition of Paul Rudolph's drawings presented at the Architectural League of New York.

Every so often a person comes along whose life is an embodiment of the theory of the “tragic hero”: Paul Rudolph is one such person. In architecture Borromini and Louis Sullivan were among those creative souls whose artistic brilliance outweighed their interpersonal skills, the result of which that they were more appreciated after their death than during their life.

Paul Rudolph is an example of a man whose peers never satisfactorily recognized his capacious career; e.g., he never won the Pritzker Prize, the AIA Gold Medal or the Topaz Award, yet others of equal (or questionable) stature somehow accomplished those very ends. No one who knew Paul Rudolph would debate his well known apolitical inclinations to suffer fools gladly, which in turn may have limited his potential for recognition. No matter: that only brings into question reward systems generally which come into view wily after the fact of accomplishment in any case. Paul Rudolph was as dedicated an architect as I have ever known. He was also simply the best teacher I ever had. His personal tragedy lay in his expectations that architecture would offer him that which only life can deliver. I know of these things because I was his student, his employee, and later his friend, and those who deserted him when he went [out] of fashion represent a side of architecture that I personally detest.

While others may feel that much of his later work was a Tour de Force, I always found his envisioning skills AND his courage throughout his career never lacking. He was committed to an extraordinary level of architectural innovation of a magnitude that exemplifies the very best of this discipline.

He was also a teacher of such resonance and authority that during his brief watch at Yale, he managed to produce graduates of an immense diversity ranging from Alan Greenberg, Robert A.M. Stern and Jacque Robertson on the one hand, through Charles Gwathmey, Norman Foster and Richard Rogers on the other. The best of those under his tutelage were nether intimidated by, nor sycophantically inclined towards, his own architectural production. As far as I am concerned, he encouraged just such independence.

There is a theory that it is far better to be appreciated after death, such that, that one's innocence is left intact during life. If the way in which adherents of this discipline exercised selective amnesia related to Paul Rudolph's accomplishments is an example of that theory, leave me out.

Stanley Tigerman
Chicago, September 16, 1997