Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation, 2019
Paperback | 10-1/2 x 8 inches | 76 & 68 pages | 63 & 47 illustrations | English | ISBN: 978-1792304217 | $42.00
Paul Rudolph (1918-1997) was one of America’s greatest Modern architects. Rudolph was famous for his strong, expressive forms, powerful spaces, and innovative uses of materials & light. He achieved great success doing buildings all over the US, and is most famous for his “Mid-Century Modern” work in the 1950’s-60’s—of which the Yale Art & Architecture Building in New Haven is the internationally famous iconic example. A very prolific designer—in both architecture and interiors—his active career extended to nearly the end of the 20th century, and across the decades he continued developing his aesthetic and experimenting with space & materials.
Celebrating Rudolph’s 100th birthday, this catalog is the official publication of the centennial exhibition: Paul Rudolph: The Personal Laboratory. This exhibit focused on how Rudolph used his own residences as places for experimentation with space, materials, and light—truly as “laboratories” of architecture and interior design. From these experiments—in his own spaces—Rudolph took ideas & design lessons which he then used in architectural and interior projects for his clients.
Celebrating Rudolph’s 100th birthday, this catalog is the official publication of the centennial exhibition: Paul Rudolph: The Hong Kong Journey. Although Rudolph was based in the US, and had done most of his work in America, his reputation as a designer was international—and he was called upon by clients in Asia to design a variety of projects, both commercial and residential. The exhibit (and its catalog) focuses on Paul Rudolph’s work in Hong Kong. There is a special emphasis on the Bond Centre (also known as the Lippo Centre): the double-skyscraper towers that Rudolph designed, which are prominent on Hong Kong’s skyline.
Paul Rudolph was born October 23, 1918, in Elton, Kentucky, and died in New York City on August 8, 1997. The Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation, which spreads knowledge about the architect’s legacy and works to preserve his buildings, celebrated the centennial of Rudolph’s birth with two exhibitions in 2018: The Personal Laboratory at the Modulightor, a building on East 58th Street in Midtown designed by Rudolph, used as his office near the end of his life, and now housing the Foundation; and The Hong Kong Journey a few miles away at the Center for Architecture. The timing of the exhibitions entailed me seeing the exhibition at Modulightor — a treat, since I had not explored the building’s upper floors previously — but unfortunately missing the Hong Kong exhibition. Fortunately though, the Foundation has published two slim volumes on the exhibitions and packaged them together.
The Personal Laboratory volume presents drawings, photographs, and descriptions on four places where Rudolph lived and/or worked. The first is the Residence at 31 High Street in New Haven, the Connecticut city that is famously home to Yale University and his masterpiece, the Art & Architecture Building (now Rudolph Hall). The other three are all in New York City: his first apartment at 23 Beekman Place, the four-story duplex apartment he added at the same address, and of course the nearby Modulightor Building. In these pages, documentation of 23 Beekman Place is best, though I’ll admit the documentation on the Foundation website may be even better. (The apartment, designated a city landmark earlier this decade, is currently for sale, asking around $18 million.) Accompanying those projects are some words from Ernst Wagner, his friend, business partner, and founder of the Foundation, as well as archival texts by Peter Blake, Michael Sorkin, Stanley Tigerman, and others.
Sorkin’s long poem, delivered at Harvard GSD in 1993 when Rudolph was being honored, describes Hong Kong as “bristling pairs,” referring to Bond Centre (now Lippo Centre) from the 1980s, which is documented at length in The Hong Kong Journey. With lots of drawings — many of them yellow-trace sketches — not available on the Foundation website, this volume should be valuable to fans of Rudolph’s late work, which was more glass than concrete at Bond Centre but still exhibited his skillful manipulation of form. Accompanying the documentation of Bond and a few other Hong Kong projects that were not built is an essay by Nora Leung, who worked with Rudolph on those projects and curated the exhibition at the Center for Architecture. Having missed that exhibition last year, it’s a treat to look at the drawings of Bond, which move from plans to large-scale details. That period of Rudolph’s career is overshadowed by the Brutalism of the 1950s and 60s and the seemingly never-ending fights to preserve those buildings. So the Foundation’s decision to draw attention to Hong Kong in an exhibition and publication is commendable, hopefully inspiring younger architects who tend to be enamored by buildings from the 1980s.
Founded in in 2015, the Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation is a non-profit 501(c)3 organization. Its mission is to spread knowledge about the profound legacy of Paul Rudolph, and to preserve the work of this great and internationally-important 20th century architect.