Happy 100th Birthday, Paul Rudolph

Public Domain. Paul Rudolph in 1960/ Library of Congress

The American architect has been on TreeHugger many times.

Paul Rudolph was born on October 23, 1918 and died in 1997. TreeHugger was fond of his work because of his Sarasota Style houses and buildings, all designed to work with climate. Charles Gwathmey said, "He was so far ahead of his time, experimenting with sun screens and cross-ventilation."

credit: Migrated Image

He could do so much with so little, designing the airy Cannonball House on Sanibel Island, one of his first projects. I did a slideshow of it after visiting; sorry about the small photos. Touring Paul Rudolph's Walker Guest House

Many of his projects have been demolished, including his schools designed before Columbine turned them all into prisons and many houses, which were too small for modern tastes. We covered a lot of the lost works and asked Why Are So Many Paul Rudolph Buildings Being Torn Down? These were mostly written a decade ago when the pictures were small.

Another Paul Rudolph Bites the Dust: Sarasota's Riverview High School

Riverview High School photo

The most traumatic loss was Rudolph's Riverview High School in Sarasota. A "melding of Modern modularity and technology with sensitive siting, daylighting, natural ventilation, and aggressive shading against the relentless sunshine."

But after Columbine that turned every modern school into a prison, after demolition by neglect by school trustees who let maintenance lapse, and because of the inability of North Americans to consider life without air conditioning, it met its end in July 2009.

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Preservation or Parking? Two Takes on Riverview High

Riverview high entry

"Riverview High School is a fantastic prototype of what today we call green architecture," said the architect Charles Gwathmey, who is overseeing a renovation of the Art and Architecture Building at Yale. "He was so far ahead of his time, experimenting with sun screens and cross-ventilation. If it's torn down, I feel badly for architecture."

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Another iconic Rudolph school, John Chorley Elementary School in Middletown, NY, is slated for demolition as well. More in Preservation Nation.

Paul Rudolph House Saved, Sort Of

paul rudolph small house

Sometimes Rudolph houses are just too small or different from people's tastes today; this 3,900 sq.ft. house "wasn't an easy house to maintain. The flat roof leaked. It was almost impossible to find replacement parts for the quirky sink fixtures. There was no separate dining room." Life is tough without a separate dining room.

So this one was going to be moved by two New York designers.

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Paul Rudolph House Not Saved After All

rudolph house not moved photo

Unfortunately it was not to be.

According to the New York Times, the purchasers visited the property. Still planning to proceed, Mr. Sachs said, he and Mr. Lindores went to see the house on Monday and found it irreparably damaged. He said the kitchen cabinetry had been torn out, along with the distinctive bathroom tiles and fixtures. He also said copper flashing had been removed from the house's perimeter.

"For us this seemed insane -- how could this have happened?" Mr. Sachs said in a telephone interview. "It's not in original condition anymore."

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Off to the Dump: House by Paul Rudolph

rudolph big house demo image

Sometimes big ones get knocked down just so someone can build the house they want, never mind the history or the embodied energy. Said Nepal Asatthawasi of the Paul Rudolph Foundation: "As more and more architecturally significant modern homes reach critical points of neglect and eventual demolition, the consequences of devaluing the artifacts of our recent history will be felt by future generations."

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Documenting Destruction: Paul Rudolph Houses


It has got to the point that one can build a career documenting the destruction of Rudolph's houses. Photographer Chris Mottalini has documented the destruction of one and the deconstruction of another.

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Paul Rudolph on Chapel Street with Yale University Art & Architecture building in background, ca. 1963.

Not all of Rudolph's buildings will be lost; some have gone through significant restorations. But his houses are at risk everywhere. This is a crime, when we all know that the greenest building is the one already standing. Fix it, don't demolish it.

Another Paul Rudolph Might Bite The Dust: Orange County Government Center Under Threat

Orange County Government Centre Drawing

Save the Orange County Government Center/Promo image

Every time I write about yet another Paul Rudolph building under threat, the comments run the gamut from "Rudolph's shameless borrowings kept his work on the cover of architectural magazines of the time, but to hell with poor unfortunates condemned to use his buildings" to " Rip all this junk down! The horrors inflicted upon the urban landscape by Frank Gehry and Paul Rudolph need to be removed and replaced."

But this was a big one, sort of saved, sort of ruined with a horrible addition. A sad ending.