For people who are looking to read more about Paul's work, we put together a group on Goodreads here.
Saturday, March 21, 2009
For people who are looking to read more about Paul's work, we put together a group on Goodreads here.
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
He begins with mentioning the recent Yale rededication of Rudolph Hall, and goes on to review the recent release of "Paul Rudolph - Writings on Architecture":
It’s full of good sense. Rudolph was an acute critic of standard-issue modernism for its failure to deal with such ‘age-old human needs’ as monumentality, symbolism and decoration, and he tried to supply a remedy. Aware of history, but not just quoting precedents, he sought an architecture that served both the individual and the city while placing a premium on ‘visual delight’.
One wonders if the British media's notice of Rudolph's A&A restoration along with the uptick in his reputation might portend a brighter future for similar "brutalist" buildings threatened with neglect or demolition over there? We certainly hope so - that's also full of good sense.
Monday, March 16, 2009
Known: Paul Rudolph began to get noticed due to his much celebrated renderings in the 1950's. As his office grew, he would setup the renderings and have his employees finish them while he worked on other things. In many of the renderings a Porsche can be seen gracing the garages of houses in Florida to the parking lot of Yale's Married Student Housing.
Little Known: The car really existed and belonged to one of Paul's employees, who included it in every rendering he would work on. Paul liked the car so much, he posed with it in a picture he had taken of the completed Temple Street Parking Garage.
Now You Know
Sunday, March 15, 2009
On Friday, March 6th, Paul Rudolph Foundation Co-Director and architect Kelvin Dickinson visited the Library of Congress in Washington D.C. to see the Paul Rudolph Archives.
When Paul passed away in 1997, he left the drawings, slides and models in his collection to the Library of Congress as a part of the Center for American Architecture, Design and Engineering - which was created from a bequest by Paul to the Library as a part of his will.
The collection contains around 1,500 tubes of drawings, various models, furniture, and written materials Paul generated during his career.
The focus of the visit was to photograph the original construction drawings for the John W. Chorley Elementary School in Middletown, New York. Kelvin spent the day photographing the drawings with Greg Marcangelo, a cataloger for the Pictorial Collections and spoke with C. Ford Peatross, the Curator of Architecture, Design, and Engineering Collections at the Library of Congress.
"I've always wanted to see the drawings that went into each of Paul's projects. The amount of work - the attention and thought that went into each detail - is inspiring. You really get a sense of how he approached design and why his work is regarded so highly among the profession," he said.
Many thanks goes to Greg and Ford for the opportunity to see the collection first hand, and we look forward to working with them in the future to further promote Paul's legacy both on the web and through preserving his buildings around the world.
Saturday, March 14, 2009
"Always design a thing by considering it in its next larger context - a chair in a room, a room in a house, a house in an environment, an environment in a city plan." - Eliel Saarinen
Juan Montoya, the famed Columbian interior designer, plans to sell select pieces of his modern furniture collection this April. Among the items listed for sale is "a rare chair by the American architect Paul Rudolph in acrylic and chrome, the floating angles of the chair reflecting the same ideas as his modern architecture."
The auction is being held at the Sollo Rago Arts & Auction Center, located at 333 North Main Street with Annex Gallery at 204 North Union Street, Lambertville NJ. For more information phone 609-397-9374 or visit www.sollorago.com.If you are interested in the chair (or the other items from Montoya's collection) you can bid in person, by phone, by left bid or online through the-saleroom.com and liveauctioneers.com. An exhibition preview will be held on Saturday, April 18 - Friday, April 24, 2009 from 10 - 6 pm and by appointment. Doors open at 9 a.m. the mornings of the sale.
This is not the first auction to feature furniture designed by Paul Rudolph. Christie's, Stamford and Wright Auction Houses have all sold work designed by Paul - a similar chair was featured in Chicago in Semptember of 2003. The auction's catalog included the following description:
Lucite, chromium plated tubular steel - 28.25"w x 24"d x 30"h
The present lot is an updated version of Breuer's iconic "Wassily" chair of 1927 rendered in Pop materials. It was never mass produced; the plexiglass furniture was only intended for use in Rudolph's private commissions. Identical versions were used in the interior of Rudolph's own apartment on Beekman Place in New York City and are now in the permanant collection of the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C.
The chair, valued between $4,000-$6,000 - evetually sold for $8,000.
Paul Rudolph often designed furniture and light fixtures as part of his interior design projects, much like the work of Frank Lloyd Wright. He often used new materials (plastics, laminates) in innovative ways that were as much about experimentation as they were about fitting into his complex spaces.
The furniture shown above was constructed out of cut pieces of plexiglas attached to a modularized metal display system, meant for museum exhibitions, that Rudolph had found in Europe. Rudolph used the same system to design many types of chairs, tables, and even pedestals to display art work.
Visitors to the Modulightor open house in New York City can see many of the chairs and tables Paul designed while he was alive. Modulightor, a company Rudolph founded with Ernst Wagner to design light fixtures that Paul helped design, also offers copies of the chairs and tables for sale. If you are interested, please email the Paul Rudolph Foundation at firstname.lastname@example.org and ask for prices - they are made of the same materials as the originals and at a fraction of the cost.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
When Rudolph split with Gropius after Harvard, he was rebelling against a general conformity of the "Harvard Box" and the proliferation of the glass shed which left no questions to be pondered.
Breaking from the paradigm was a dangerous decision- many of his classmates would go on to work with Gropius at The Architects Collaborative or not go on at all, and just continue making glass boxes.
The work that Rudolph produced after the break was attentive to light, but heavily orchestrated. His nests, caves, pits and pulpits broke down scale and protected their inhabitants.
Often deemed contentious, Rudolph, ever the L'Enfant Terrible was happily (though often naively) grouped with other bad boys, there was Edward Durell Stone with his Ada Louise Huxtable-christened "Lollipop" on Columbus Circle, and to begin the procession from the South, there was Albert C. Ledner's JOSEPH CURRAN BUILDING at 12th Street, and then his Seamen's Quarters Annex- now the MARITIME HOTEL at 9th and 17th Street.
The MARITIME HOTEL was vacant for a number of years, and former Mayor Ed Koch even tried to make it a prison for a short while before it was taken over by Covenant House and then again by the swank Maritime Hotel. It had a hard life, but like so many mid-century modern buildings, it has rebounded and is a popular destination.
...and better decked out than in its original incarnation.
The CURRAN Building aka the O'Toole Building was never as lucky. After the Maritime Union vacated, it too was empty and then transferred to the nearby St. Vincent's Hospital who favored function and neglect over design.
Although the Catholic Church has shuttered numerous hospitals in NYC in recent years, and although St. Vincents has had a curious history of service, it was spared the ax and has apparently come down with Cancer. Teaming with RUDIN Developers, this "hardship" is allowing St. Vincent's to pursue the largest wholesale demolition within a historic district on New York- ever, and mostly to replace its existing square footage with luxury apartments. It sets a dangerous precedent for re-writing our laws and thumbs its nose at Jane Jacobs and others who worked so hard for landmarks and to save the West Village in the first place.
The NEW YORK TIMES covers the bad news.
While all of this is disturbing, so are the reactions and rationalizations. The CURRAN Building is often acknowledged as the Guggenheim of the West Village due to its "overbite". Its architect, Albert C. Ledner is still around, and still designing. He even came up with an adaptation of his own work, but like Rudolph in his later years, he has been quickly dismissed.
Apparently, curves are a bad idea. Then again, perhaps not. Harry Cobb, a named partner of Pei Cobb Freed and Partners, and another classmate of Rudolph's day at Harvard (and also apparently exposed to the Harvard Fishbowl) has won approval from Landmarks to tear down the Ledner and replace it with a 19-story tower.
As another cave comes down, the Fishbowls seem to be winning, and the trouble makers of the 1960's have been relegated to the memory of history. With the systematic removal of icons throughout New York, one has to wonder, if its not Rudolph, Stone, or Ledner, who really are the bad boys of today?
Monday, March 9, 2009
Things had begun to look brighter for the future of the building shortly after Renzo Piano walked away from his original design for Trans National Place at Winthrop Square in March of 2007. Undeterred, Mr. Belkin asked his associate architect to continue with the design - which included the demolition of Rudolph's building for a "public square" adjacent to the proposed tower.
Then came a series of "unfortunate" events - the city's transfer of an adjacent parking garage fell through, the aviation administration even going as far as to label the new tower as a flight hazard to nearby Logan International Airport.
Now, the Boston Business Journal reports that Mr. Belkin has revised the building design so that Paul Rudolph's historic office building will not fall under his wrecking ball.
According to the paper, Boston Redevelopment Authority Director John Palmieri stated the developer will submit a revised plan to the agency in upcoming months.
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
Much has been written about the comments made by the esteemed architectural critic Sir Nikolaus Pevsner during his key-note address at the original dedication of Yale's Art & Architecture building in early November, 1963. His speech, expected to be the high note of the presentation, began innocuous enough:
"There is a great fascination in standing in a new building. No rain has yet stained the concrete, no splinters have yet broken out of the steps of the staircases, nobody has yet explained something by a rapid sketch on a wall. No human desires and disappointments have yet left their invisible but unmistakable aura in the air. It is all still the dream of the architect miraculously come to life."
Things then began change when he turned to Yale's President A. Whitney Griswold and said, "You, Mr. President, have been unwise to invite a historian to address this audience on this occasion. The historian by definition is a relativist. For such an occaision you need an absolutist."
Pevsner, a strong supporter of functionalism in architecture, began to compare Rudolph's new building to the original 99 year-old building it was about to replace - and which he had visited that morning before writing his address.
He described Peter Wight's Street Hall, which he designed in 1864 when he was 26 years old, as a "provincial" reaction of individualism over the previous generation's preference for the "neutral" and "timid" Georgian style of architecture:
"At all costs no symmetry. At all costs no window without some strange and unexpected emphasis. Crescendos from emphasis to over-emphasis, whenever possible. Projections ... pretend to be butresses and turrets but were in fact introduced as geometry for geometry's sake."
Pevsner continued by comparing Rudolph's own building as a reaction to the strict "discipline and service" of the international style of modernism that grew in popularity from 1890 to 1914. His take on Rudolph's brand of "individualism":
"What do we see here? Massive piers of concrete rise. Projections are over-emphasized throughout. Heavy slabs are crossed by thin slabs. Spaces inside cross too and offer sequences of most dramatic effects by unexpected vistas inside the building and even out of it."
Yet even with the building's "too personal ambiance," Pevsner admired Paul's guiding principle that a teacher ought to have have a very pronounced, even provocative style - but that he should also help students to develop their own for that very reason. He encouraged the students present to appreciate the special opportunity to work with someone who had such a strong opinion about what constitutes good architecture - but not to imitate him.
Pevsner finished his speech with the conclusion that Rudolph's building was the very opposite of functionalism - which he believed was a building in which no aesthetic feature was allowed to detract from the function of the building for the user. In the rare case, he concluded, that the client is the architect or vice-versa - all notion of functionalism and the relevence of the building's program are impossible. Criticism becomes subjective and taste is all that is left over.
Looking back, it is interesting to see the building's problems and future (now past) so clearly laid out before an unsuspecting audience.
In a postscript to his speech added years later, Pevsner wrote:
"And what has happened since? In 1965 Paul Rudolph left to concentrate on private practice, leaving his school, designed to fit him and him only, to another head. This demonstrates the necessity of neutral designs for neutral buildings, i.e. buildings which must function well under command of a variety of men with a variety of ideas, and which must satisfy a variety of users."
We wonder what Sir Pevsner would think of the architecture being practiced by today's starchitects.
Sunday, March 1, 2009
Rudolph started his career designing houses alongside his one-day partner Ralph Twitchell as early as 1948- but even before then, he worked for other architects in Tennessee, and even completed a developer house or two in his accepted home state of Alabama.
In his time, he populated the Sarasota Architectural Landscape in tandem with other greats from Victor Lundy to Philip Hiss and even Gene Leedy. When he took a break to attend Harvard and serve in the Navy, he crossed paths with I.M. Pei, Henry Cobb, Philip Johnson, John Johansen, Hugh Stubbins and the partners of The Architects Collaborative, all while studying under Marcel Breuer and Walter Gropius.
He had no shortage of great influences about, yet after his term of duty and completing his studies at Harvard, he returned to Florida. Come 1952, he had reached a breaking point in his partnership with Ralph Twitchell,
Let's face it, architects were never meant to design together...Architecture is a personal effort, and the fewer people coming between you and your work the better...If an architect cares enough and practices architecture as an art, then he must initiate design-- he must create rather than making judgments
What is curious about this statement is that Rudolph would go on to work in teams with his contemporaries on numerous large projects. He would call them in to teach his students, and he would design against them in competitions. Rudolph's practice remained "independent" for the remainder of his career save for one known exception. An exception that occurred nearly sequentially with him voicing the above quoted statement.
When preparations were being made for the recent Eero Saarinen: Shaping the Futurebook and exhibition (now traveling) an interview with Cesar Pelli (a one time project-manager for Eero Saarinen and Associates) nonchalantly added the tidbit that Paul had come to Bloomfield Hills Michigan several times to work with the office.
Together they worked out a scheme for Time Inc. While the scheme was ill-fated due to a changing internal administration, and the indecision over a suburban corporate campus in Rye New York or an urban tower in Midtown Manhattan (a tower by Harrison Ambraovitz now lines Sixth Ave.) Rudolph sketched away with his signature colored pencils, and further explored the Frank Lloyd Wright pinwheel which would figure so prominently into so many of his later schemes from the Art and Architecture building to his Yale Married Students Housing.
The TIME project arrived in the office of Eero Saarinen and Associates in 1952. It was resurrected as a second scheme on a different site in 1954, but Rudolph was long gone.
With Eero's own father passing away in 1950, he too, was just coming to his own independently.
One can only imagine the works possible if the two men joined creative forces, but we must be content that such divergent, but equally forceful bodies of work resulted from each their individual careers.
There are several more encounters between Paul and Eero, few of which are documented, and even fewer of which are public. At the Foundation we are preparing a section of our main site exploring Paul and his body of friends and colleagues to project a better image of his career. Please check back for more updates.