Revisiting Paul Rudolph

Submitted by digital on Fri, 01/23/2015 - 03:22
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FAIA; Robert A. M. Stern, FAIA; Charles Gwathmey,\nFAIA; Stanley Tigerman, FAIA; David Childs, FAIA. Rudolph also chaired the\nDepartment of Architecture at Yale University\u2019s School of Art \u0026\nArchitecture (which he also designed) from 1958 to 1965\u2014a particularly fertile\ntime in both architectural education and architecture."]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"\u201cRudolph was this\namazing instructor who made you do things and think things you never thought\nyou had in you. In our class there were 15 people, and half were from other\ncountries. He called us his \u2018little United Nations,\u2019\u201d says Carl Abbott, FAIA, a\nformer Rudolph student who returned to Yale in 2008 to rededicate the School of\nArt \u0026 Architects as Rudolph Hall, after a multimillion dollar renovation by\nGwathmey Siegel \u0026 Associates."]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"With its staggered towers, corrugated concrete surfaces,\nand complex interior spaces, Rudolph Hall was as difficult as the architect,\nhimself."]]],[10,0],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"\u201cRudolph\u2019s whole life was architecture and his students\nwere his family,\u201d says Abbott. \u201cHe was very violent to some [students] and\namazingly generous to others. If you were in a group he really cared about, he\nwould push you harder than you could ever stand, and he would make you see\nthings in your own work that you could never have possibly seen.\u201d"]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"A mysterious fire gutted Rudolph\u2019s school in 1969, only\nsix years after it opened, damaging the building and destroying student work,\ninstructor materials, and administrative files. It also damaged Rudolph\u2019s\nreputation at a time when campus unrest\u2014at Yale and hundreds of other schools\naround the country\u2014represented a perfect metaphor for a broken academic system."]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"The curricula within America\u2019s \u201ccitadels of learning\u201d\nwere out of step with the social change that students desired. But the physical\ncitadels, the results of campus growth and monolithic planning throughout the\n1950s and 1960s, were also out of step with burgeoning ideas about community,\naccess, and social equity."]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"Although he completed an eclectic mix of over 150\nbuildings, and designed an almost equal number of unbuilt ones during five\ndecades of practice, Rudolph has been categorized\u2014and marginalized\u2014as a\nBrutalist who fell out of favor in the 1970s when the architectural milieu\nshifted away from High Modern concepts of form, procession, and materiality."]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"While that may have very well been the end of Rudolph\u2019s\nlegacy, he has come roaring back in the last several years\u2014and there\u2019s plenty\nto reconsider."]]],[1,"h3",[[0,[],0,"Restoring the Last Modernist"]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"\u201c[Rudolph] cultivated the image of a maverick who would\nsave architecture from the monotony of the dominant International Style by\nreintroducing subjects that he said had been \u2018brushed aside,\u2019 namely:\nmonumentality, decoration, symbolism, and urbanism,\u201d writes Timothy M. Rohan,\nassociate professor of art history at the University of Massachusetts Amherst,\nin "],[0,[0,1],2,"The Architecture of Paul Rudolph"],[0,[1],1," "],[0,[],0," (Yale\nUniversity Press, 2014). \u201cRudolph advocated a heroic approach to modernism that\nextolled individuality, aesthetics, and creativity.\u201d Rohan\u2019s book is the first\nscholarly monograph on Rudolph since his death, in 1997, and it provides\nmuch-needed context for the architect\u2019s long and often misunderstood career."]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"From Rudolph\u2019s Sarasota, Fla., beach cottages in the\n1940s and \u201950s\u2014such as the Healy Guest House and Revere Quality House, to his\nrole as one of the developers of the expressive concrete monumentality known as\nBrutalism in the 1960s\u2019 Government Service Center in Boston, Orange County\n[N.Y.] Government Center, and Endo Laboratories, in Garden City, N.Y., Rohan\u2019s\nbook has prompted a re-evaluation of Rudolph\u2019s work, and his working style."]]],[10,1],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"\u201cHe drew every day, from when he was a teenager to the\nlast weeks of his life,\u201d said Rohan. \u201cHe didn\u2019t become a larger-scale shop like\nhis contemporaries I.M Pei and Philip Johnson and Marcel Breuer. At the most,\nin New York in the late 1960s, he never had more than 30 architects and never\npartners. He believed that nothing should come between you and your work, and\ndidn\u2019t think architectural partners were a good idea."]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"\u201cHe had close supervision of everything and his approach\nwas very artisanal,\u201d said Rohan. \u201cHe was never a brand. His office may have\nchanged, but it always had a nimbleness and an adaptability to it. We are living\nin an age of low overhead\u2014I think architects today can appreciate that anew.\u201d"]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"After his 1960s rejection Rudolph turned inward, to\nlavish interior-design projects during the 1970s that made use of reflective\nsurfaces, curvilinear geometry, and experimental lighting, including Rudolph\u2019s\nown Beekman Place residence and the townhouse of 1970s fashion designer Halston\nin Manhattan along with numerous Fifth Avenue apartments. In the 1980s, he\nreworked many of his expressive Modernist ideas in projects overseas, such as\nthe Colonnade Condominium in Singapore and the Lippo Centre in Hong Kong."]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"But, unless you were a hardcore Rudolph junkie, you\nwouldn\u2019t necessarily have known about these projects. They were not part of the\nRudolph brand that, for many observers, reached its apogee in the late 1960s;\nnor were they as prominently featured in architecture media when they were\ncompleted."]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"\u201cHow do you preserve a legacy when you don\u2019t know it\u2019s a\nRudolph?\u201d asked Sean Khorsandi, AIA, co-chair of the Paul Rudolph Foundation.\n\u201cI went through a five-year undergraduate bachelor of architecture program at\nCooper Union, and I never once heard of Paul Rudolph."]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"\u201cRudolph\u2019s government and civic projects may be among\nhis most important, but the range of his career is staggering\u2014including\nsuper-lush New York City interiors people never got to know and see,\u201d said\nKhorsandi. \u201cPeople like to categorize him as a Brutalist, but he had many\nphases and was very multifaceted, including prefab, urbanism, interior design,\nand glass-and-steel towers in Asia."]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"\u201cHe, in many ways, was the last modernist and became a\nfall guy for Modernism as Post-Modernism ascended. There has been an\noverabundance of attention on projects that were torn down,\u201d said Khorsandi. "]]],[1,"h3",[[0,[],0,"Heightened Awareness, Increased Preservation"]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"It\u2019s not hard to see the connection between a\nreconsideration of Rudolph and the demolition threats faced by some of his\nprojects. He has become a preservation cause, for sure, but a particularly\nchallenging one due to market forces or, in other cases, failing structure or\ndeteriorating materials. Two of the three public schools Rudolph designed are\nnow gone: Sarasota\u2019s Riverview High School, built in 1958, was torn down in\n2009, and the Chorley Elementary School in Middletown, N.Y., built in 1964, was\ndemolished in 2013."]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"In 2007, Rudolph\u2019s residential oeuvre was diminished\nwith the destruction of three homes: the 1979 Louis Micheels House in Westport,\nConn., the oceanfront 1956 Cerrito House in Watch Hill, R.I., and the Twitchell\nHouse in Siesta Key, Fla. The destruction of all three is documented in Chris\nMottlaini\u2019s revelatory photo essay,"],[0,[2],1," "],[0,[3],1,"After You Left\/They Took It Apart (Demolished\nPaul Rudolph Homes)"],[0,[2],1,"."]]],[10,2],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"But the tide may be turning. On Jan. 5, Randolph\u2019s sole\nsurviving public school, Sarasota High School, reopened for the first time\nsince 2009 to nearly 2,000 returning students. Built in 1959 without air\nconditioning or modern security systems, Rudolph\u2019s aging school was part of a\n$42 million campus restoration effort that preserved the iconic roofline and\nfa\u00e7ade while taking Rudolph\u2019s structure down to the studs before rebuilding the\ninteriors."]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"\u201cThe construction team put it back as close as we could\nfrom an exterior point of view to Rudolph\u2019s original building,\u201d said Paul\nPitcher, project manager, Construction Services Department, Sarasota County\nSchools. \u201cYou will hear people say that we destroyed the inside of the\nbuilding, but we are here to support students and we saved the building. Given\nthe asbestos abatement and what it took to get the building back to where it\nneeded to be, we will have spent more on this building than if we had just\nknocked it down and built a new building.\u201d"]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"Elsewhere, restoration of the interiors as well as the exterior\nmosaic patterned sunscreens that envelope the Jewett Arts Center at Wellesley\nCollege (1958) has been completed. Executed from 1955 to 1958, the arts center\nwas Rudolph\u2019s first significant project outside Florida\u2014a commission he\nreceived over other better-known contemporaries at the time such as Eero\nSaarinen and Edward Durell Stone."]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"Following widespread preservation protests, Rudolph\u2019s\nOrange County Government Center, once on the chopping block, has been saved but\nstands mostly vacant\u2014at least for now. UMass Dartmouth\u2019s campus, which contains\n16 of Rudolph\u0027s best buildings, now operates the website "],[0,[4],1,"Paul Rudolph \u0026 His Architecture"],[0,[],0,"\nthat chronicles his work and offers some perspective on preserving not just a\nsuite of buildings, but an individual talent\u2019s legacy."]]],[1,"h3",[[0,[],0,"New Generation, New Appreciation"]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"Today, a new generation of architects and design\nenthusiasts are paying homage to Rudolph in both word and deed."]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"\u201cI grew up around the Umbrella House,\u201d said Florida\nnative Lawrence Scarpa, FAIA, principal at "],[0,[5],1,"Brooks + Scarpa "],[0,[],0,".\n\u201cThe Umbrella House was built in 1953 [in Sarasota]. Air conditioning existed,\nyet Rudolph shaded the house with an umbrella canopy, buying tomato sticks from\nlocal farmers to construct the slats. It is so ahead of its time\u2014not just in\nits beauty but in the way it coexists with nature."]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"\u201cWhen I built my own Solar Umbrella House [in Venice\nBeach, Calif.], Rudolph\u2019s Umbrella House was my inspiration,\u201d Scarpa explained.\n\u201cLike the original, it has proper orientation, shading, and cross-ventilation.\nBut it also has 80 solar panels, and the solar canopy is part of the\narchitecture. Our utility bill is less than $500 a year. When I start projects,\nI look for historical precedents, and I always wind up in the 1950s and \u201860s.\nIt was a magical time of new technologies and building thinking.\u201d"]]],[1,"blockquote",[[0,[],0,"\u0022Paul Rudolph was dealt a bad deal at some point. This is my way to help restore his legacy.\u0022 Joyce Owens, AIA"]]],[1,"p",[[0,[6],1,"Susan Harkavy"],[0,[7],1," "],[0,[],0,"grew\nup three blocks away from the Umbrella House in a two-bedroom house in Lido\nShores, Fla., that Rudolph designed in 1946. She returned decades later for a\nvisit and encountered a sympathetic addition that expanded the original\nstructure, which remained mostly intact. Memories flooded back on how the house\nchanged her life."]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"\u201cWhen I got to college, I found myself veering towards\nEuropean modern art history classes and I didn\u2019t know why,\u201d said Harkavy, who\nnow lives in New York City."]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"\u201cI went to Yale\u2014which of course had so much Gothic\narchitecture\u2014and I didn\u2019t realize it but the house where I had lived for 18\nyears had seeped into my being, and I just felt like Modernism was home. When I\nstarted my own business, the clients I chose were all modernists. I ended up\nwriting a letter to the editor of Interiors magazine after it had done a\nfour-page story on the renovation of the Umbrella House, about how Rudolph had\ncharted my career direction.\u201d"]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"\u201cI didn\u2019t learn anything about Paul Rudolph in\narchitecture school,\u201d said "],[0,[8],1,"Joyce Owens"],[0,[],0,",\nAIA, who is now using his original drawings to help re-create a full-scale\nreplica of Rudolph\u2019s first solo commission\u2014the 1953 Walker Guest House\u2014in a\nproject spearheaded by the "],[0,[9],1,"Sarasota Architectural Foundation"],[0,[],0," ."]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"The house, which still stands on Sanibel Island, Fla.,\nwill be duplicated exactly from Rudolph\u2019s original drawings as a kit of parts,\nso visitors can tour it later this year on the grounds of the Ringling Museum\nof Art, and in other venues in the future."]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"\u201cFor various reasons, Paul Rudolph was dealt a bad deal\nat some point. This is my way to help restore his legacy,\u201d Owens said."]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"As we approach the 100th anniversary of Paul Rudolph\u2019s\nbirth, in 2018, projects like the Walker Guest House, along with increased\nscholarship and preservation, are painting a new place in modern architectural\nhistory for a designer committed to teaching and practice, and driven by a\nconsistent vision to improve and reinvent. He showed the world that Modernism\nis so much more than a steel and glass box."]]],[1,"p",[[0,[10],1,"Mike Singer is a frequent contributor to "],[0,[],0,"AIA Architect"],[0,[10],1,"."]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n\n"]]],[1,"p",[[0,[],0,"\n\n\n\n\n\n"]]]]}
While the legacy of Paul Rudolph has diminished over the years, he's now being reconsidered in the architectural world as "the last modernist."
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