Zaha Hadid in Defense of Paul Rudolph

Excerpt from “Seven Leading Architects Defend the World’s Most Hated Buildings”
as told to Alexandra Lange, June 5, 2015
Read the complete article

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Paul Rudolph’s Orange County Government Center in Goshen, N.Y., was already dilapidated when Hurricane Irene dealt it further damage in 2011. Since then, many have argued that, with its more than 80 roofs and scores of boxy windows, the Brutalist government building from 1970 is an eyesore and a financial drain. It is one State Supreme Court ruling away from being partly demolished. Credit Jeff Goldberg/Esto

Zaha Hadid – ON THE ORANGE COUNTY GOVERNMENT CENTER, GOSHEN, N.Y.

“The 1960s were a remarkable moment of social reform. The ideas of change, liberation and freedom were critical. Now people think public buildings should be more flowery, but these were times when people did tough projects. The complex is arranged as a sequence of interconnected indoor and outdoor public spaces that flow into each other. There is an integrity within the design that displays a commitment to engagement and connectivity. As a center for civic governance, it enacted democracy through spatial integration, not through the separation of elected representatives from their constituents. Many similar projects around the world have also suffered neglect; yet sensitive renovation and new programming reveal a profound lightness and generosity, creating exciting and popular spaces where people can connect. Rudolph’s work is pure, but the beauty is in its austerity. There are no additions to make it polite or cute. It is what it is.”

Zaha Hadid was widely regarded to be the greatest female architect in the world today. She died suddenly at the age of 65 on March 31, 2016.

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Paul Rudolph’s Knock-Up Masterpiece

By Mark Lamster
The Design Observer

March 29, 2011

Paul Rudolph’s mid-modern masterpiece on the Sanibel beach.

Take a ride down Sanibel Island’s West Gulf Drive and you will find, lining its exclusive beachfront, one McMansion after the next, a palisade of Classical, Victorian, and Spanish Colonials with multi-car garages set behind landscaped gates. There is but one exception: Paul Rudolph’s Walker Guest House, a simple wood-frame box built in the early 1950s, when Sanibel was a remote island redoubt accessible only by boat, and a stay on its beach occasioned no great ceremony or ostentation.

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Walker Guest House on Sanibel Beach, © 2011 Mark Lamster

The beige house, perched on short stilts and tucked in the vegetation, could easily pass for a shed belonging to one of its neighbors. Unlike those behemoths, it is closer to the road than the beach, protected behind a shrub-covered dune. It may not look particularly sturdy in comparison to those much larger houses, but thanks to its judicious siting it has survived a series of destructive hurricanes. In plan it is square, with each side divided into three sections. One of these sections is glazed, the other two have panels that can be raised by a rope-and-counterweight system so that the entire house is open to the elements. When they are up, the panels serve also as a shade-giving lanai. The compact interior design and the pulley system betray Rudolph’s wartime experience in the navy.

The obvious precedent for the house is Mies’s Farnsworth House, but I’d say it is just as much a progeny of Philip Johnson’s Glass House (itself a child of the Farnsworth). Johnson and Rudolph were good friends, close since their days studying architecture at Harvard. Johnson visited Rudolph in Sarasota not long after this house was completed. Like the Glass House, it is classical in its symmetry, with the box-frame forming a kind of diagrammatic, low-end peristyle. The whole thing was built with off-the-rack parts on a tight budget. In this it is the antithesis of the very effete Glass House, but it shares the idea of creating a space open to nature in every direction.

It would be nice if this and other modest vacation houses of the same spirit (Andew Geller’s wonderful beach houses come to mind) were a precedent for more of today’s clients. On Sanibel, there are unfortunately few examples of the kind of project you’d find in illustrated in a magazine like Dwell. That is to say, relatively modest (to the extent that a vacation house can be), environmentally sensitive homes built with a modern sensibility.

For more on the Walker beach house and Rudolph’s other wonderful Sarasota work, Christopher Domin and Joseph King’s Paul Rudolph: The Florida Houses is indispensable.



Editor’s note: The Sarasota Architectural Foundation (SAF) built a replica of the Walker Guest House on the grounds of The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota, FL. The house and grounds are free and open daily, 10am to 5pm, with SAF’s docent-led tours. Over 22,000 visitors have toured the house since opening in November 2015 for the SarasotaMOD Architecture Festival. SAF-SRQ.org/WalkerGuestHouse
Walker Guest House Replica

Walker Guest House Replica, The Ringling, Sarasota FL, Architect: Paul Rudolph (1952), ©2016 Esto/Anton Grassl