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Paul Rudolph: Concrete Connoisseur

Posted by Noah On June 20th

In a small Kentucky town, Paul Rudolph was born to a nomadic Methodist preacher in 1918. His unique childhood was spent traveling the American south from church to church. The charm of these pious concrete structures and other regional landmarks inspired Rudolph to earn a bachelor’s degree in architecture from Auburn University. His serendipitous meeting with Walter Gropius, the founder of Bauhaus, while pursuing his master’s degree at the Harvard Graduate School of Design would help shape his bright future as an architectural visionary.

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Orange Country Government Center in Goshen, New York.

After attaining his master’s, Paul Rudolph partnered with Ralph Twitchell in Florida and became a kingpin of the “Sarasota School”. This style of architecture focused on a clean contemporary floor plan and highlighted natural light, sweeping overhangs, and flat roofs. In 1958, Rudolph completed the Art and Architecture Building at Yale University. While there he felt a strong desire to share his passion and he became Dean at the Yale School of Architecture. After six years of inspiring a new generation of builders, Rudolph relocated to New York. He continued to focus all of his attention on the controversial Brutalist style. Brutalist architecture was inspired by the modernist movement. These buildings tend to be extremely linear, square, and feature predominantly concrete.

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Yale Art and Architecture Building.

Despite being idolized by his peers, the public found many of his larger brutalist designs to be “brutal indeed” and criticized the abundance of concrete and steel. When Paul Rudolph passed away in 1997, his obituary in the New York Times said, “With the exception of Louis I. Kahn, no American architect of his generation enjoyed higher esteem in the 1960’s.  But after 1970, his reputation plummeted. Many of his buildings are being torn down, or are in danger of being torn down.  Mr. Rudolph leaves behind a perplexing legacy that will take many years to untangle.” However; a little over 15 years later, the unique appeal of Paul Rudolph’s brutalist designs is reaching  new audiences who are embracing the incredible buildings with open arms.

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Paul Rudolph’s 1961 Miami home.

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