Paul Marvin Rudolph (October 23, 1918 – August 8, 1997) was an American architect and the Chair of Yale University’s Department of Architecture for six years, known for his use of concrete and highly complex floor plans. His most famous work is the Yale Art and Architecture Building (A&A Building), a spatially complex brutalist concrete structure.
Paul Marvin Rudolph was born October 23, 1918 in Elkton, Kentucky. His father was an itinerant Methodist preacher, and through their travels Rudolph was exposed to the architecture of the American south. He also showed early talent at painting and music. Rudolph earned his bachelor’s degree in architecture at Auburn University (then known as Alabama Polytechnic Institute) in 1940 and then moved on to the Harvard Graduate School of Design to study with Bauhaus founder Walter Gropius. After three years, he left to serve in the Navy for another three years, returning to Harvard to receive his master’s in 1947. Rudolph was gay. He is one of the modernist architecture architects considered part the Sarasota School of Architecture.
Following his studies at Harvard, Rudolph moved to Sarasota, Florida, and partnered with Ralph Twitchell for four years until he started his own practice in 1952. Rudolph’s Sarasota time is now part of the period labeled Sarasota School of Architecture in his career.
Notable for its appearance in the 1958 book Masters of Modern Architecture, the W. R. Healy House – nicknamed The Cocoon House – was a one-story guest house built in 1950 on Siesta Key, Sarasota, Florida. The roof was concave and was constructed using a built-up spray-on process that Rudolph had seen used to cocoon disused ships during his time in the US Navy (hence, the house’s nickname). In addition, Rudolph used jalousie windows, which enabled the characteristic breezes to and from the Sarasota Bay to flow through the house.
Other Sarasota landmarks by Rudolph include the Riverview High School, built in 1957 as his first large-scale project. In 2006, there was a great deal of controversy in Sarasota when many members of the community appealed for the retention of the historic building after the decision reached by the county school board to demolish the structure. In June 2009, Riverview High School was demolished.
Another school building in Sarasota designed by Rudolph was the 1958 addition to Sarasota High School, a concrete structure that utilized large overhanging sunshades and “internal” yet outside corridors with natural ventilation. This building, along with a gymnasium structure built at the same time, is (as of December 2013) undergoing renovation by the Sarasota County School Board, which will reinstate the building’s 1958 exterior appearance but contain a completely new interior layout devoid of Rudolph’s original ideas.
In the late 1950s, Paul Rudolph’s Florida houses began to attract attention outside of the architectural community and he started receiving commissions for larger works such as the Jewett Art Center at Wellesley College. He then took the chairmanship of the Yale School of Architecture Department of Architecture in 1958, shortly after designing the Yale Art & Architecture Building. Rudolph stayed at Yale for six years until he returned to private practice. He designed the Temple Street Parking Garage, also in New Haven, in 1962.
While chair of the Department of Architecture at Yale, Rudolph taught Muzharul Islam, Norman Foster and Richard Rogers, all attending the Master’s course as scholarship students. Foster in particular has noted the significant influence that Rudolph had upon him. Rudolph was invited to Bangladesh by Muzharul Islam and designed Bangladesh Agricultural University.
He worked on the Milam Residence, which was designed and constructed between 1959 and 1961. It still stands today on Florida’s eastern coast, outside Jacksonville. Here, the only dimensional control was the size of standard concrete blocks that were used (8 x 8 x 16 in), fair-faced, for structural and partition walls alike. The large blocks provide shade for the windows, allowing the Florida home to be easily cooled. This house’s seaside facade of stacked rectangles exemplifies the sculptural nature of Rudolph’s work during this period. From inside the structure, Rudolf wanted the inhabitants to locate themselves according to mood, so the large two-story window in the living room contrasts other areas of the home which feel more cave-like and secluded. Rudolph’s fascination with European Modernism and the neo-Classical theory made this a difficult building to construct. Rudolph had to show concern for multiple influences as well as his own style. At the time, Rudolph was working independently and would later become an icon in European Modernism.
In 1958, Rudolph was commissioned to create a master plan for Tuskegee Institute in Tuskegee, Alabama. He also collaborated with graduates of Tuskegee’s architecture school on the design of a new chapel building, completed in 1969.
He later designed the Government Service Center in Boston, First Church in Boston, the main campus of University of Massachusetts Dartmouth (originally known as Southeastern Massachusetts Technological Institute, and later as the Southeastern Massachusetts University), the Jewett Arts Center at Wellesley College, the Endo Pharmaceuticals Building, the Dana Arts Center at Colgate University, and the Burroughs Wellcome headquarters in North Carolina.
While the Brutalist style fell out of favor in the U.S. during the 1970s, Rudolph’s work evolved, and became in demand in other countries. Rudolph designed reflective glass office towers in this period, such as the City Center Towers in Fort Worth, Texas, which departed from his concrete works. Rudolph continued working on projects in Singapore, where he designed The Concourse office tower with its ribbon windows and interweaving floors, as well as projects in other Asian countries through the last years of his life. His work, the Lippo Centre, completed in 1987, is located in the area near Admiralty Station of MTR in Hong Kong, and a culmination of Rudolph’s ideas in reflective glass. In Indonesia Rudolph pieces of art can be found in Jakarta, Wisma Dharmala Sakti, and in Surabaya, Wisma Dharmala Sakti 2.
Paul Rudolph donated his archive, spanning his entire career, to the Library of Congress, as well donating as all intellectual property rights to the American people. His bequest also helped to establish the Center for Architecture, Design, and Engineering at the Library of Congress.
The Paul Rudolph Penthouse & Apartments (1977–82), at 23 Beekman Place in Manhattan, was designated a New York City Landmark in 2010.