A look inside Paul Rudolph’s masterfully crafted Harkavy House.
At first glance, Paul Rudolph’s Harkavy House is shielded behind latticework lashes, the exterior belying the depth within. Built almost like a Japanese Shinto shrine with overhangs like a warrior’s outstretched arms flying out from either side—the easternmost hidden by the late-2000s addition—the Harkavy House’s interior warrants a sharp inhale upon entering, as you are met with 365 degrees of pure light shining unfiltered into the grand living space.
Janet Minker, chair of the board of the Sarasota Architectural Foundation (SAF), notes that like in all Rudolph designs, he begins with “one small detail and then everything else builds on it.” Here, the building blocks come from walls that aren’t walls, constructed on a symmetrical grid system. Dr. Christopher S. Wilson, a professor of architecture at Ringling College and an SAF board member, says Rudolph would set up a grid that would follow through the entirety of the design. “In the Harkavy House,” he says, “it’s a three-part grid.” In the belly of that grid lies the living area; the rectangular space bordered on the left and right by high-walled sliders, the front wrapped in floor-to-ceiling windows, with ceilings throughout the house held up by long white beams like ribs. What are seemingly solid walls take on the essence of Japanese fusama, sliding walls that open onto a secondary space—in this case, the lush outside. Open both the east and west walls and the living room and kitchen become bathed in a tropical glow, the amount of space itself almost doubled. Though awe-inspiring, the home feels innately comfortable—nothing is so dainty that it may break by simply looking at it, the bones of the structure industrial, hardy and usable.
The home is wrapped in a sort of lattice, a screen, Wilson explains, that helped to provide shade (and privacy) before the days of air conditioning. Go up the original stairs to witness the next parts of the grid; head left into the addition—the wide bay window of the bedroom looks out onto the pool through the crisscrossed lens of the sunscreen, the once visible from the outside arms of the overhang at eye level here. Look down and you’ll see the two-by-fours holding the house up sit perched on cannonballs, a characteristic pulled from the Walker Guest House. Head right off the stairs and you’ll be met with the two original bedrooms, both modest in size, one typified by Rudolph’s classic built-ins, the other by the lattice wrap on the exterior, where sliders open to nothing but a thin screen and salty air. Of the house, Minker puts it simply: “It’s pure Rudolph.”