Robert Rubin has always been a personal hero and in my wildest dreams, role model. After making a fortune on Wall Street he went back to architecture school and became an architectural historian and collector. And what a collection; first he rescues Jean Prouvé's Maison Tropicale from the jungle near Brazzaville, and donates it to the Pompidou Center in Paris; Then he purchases Pierre Chareau's Maison De Verre, which I consider to be the most beautiful house in the world. I have had the honor of twice being a speaker at design conferences with Rubin, and visiting the Maison de Verre.
Moving beyond great French modernists, Rubin is now restoring a classic Bucky Fuller Fly Eye dome. The Architects Newspaper explains, describing the link among Prouvé, Chareau and Fuller.
Rubin has a sterling track record in the area of modernist preservation. He lives in one of the world’s most important modern houses, the Maison de Verre in Paris, designed by Pierre Chareau. He also purchased and restored one of Jean Prouvé’s prefabricated Maison Tropicales. Operating in different periods and contexts, Chareau, Prové, and Fuller might at first seem and unlikely trio, but Rubin sees a similarity in all their approaches. “They were all entrepreneurs, not architects,” he said. “I’m interested in people who don’t fit neatly into categories.” All three used new technologies and industrial processes to reshape architecture.
Rubin claims that he has a very light touch when it comes to restoration. He described it to Alastair Gordon in the Wall Street Journal a few years ago:
"One of the things I learned from restoring vintage cars is that if you clean up something too much it undermines the overall effect--the gestalt--of the object." (In the early '80s Rubin felt that a vintage Ferrari he purchased had been "over-restored," so he leased an old icehouse in Southampton and began supervising the restoration and maintenance of the cars himself.) "You make a distinction between dirt and patina," he says. "If you take off the patina you might as well rebuild the whole thing from scratch."
On the other hand, I have seen his work at the Maison De Verre, where it is clear that he will do whatever it takes to get it right, to make it absolutely historically accurate. This dome is in good hands.