Paul Rudolph was born Oct. 23, 1918. The centennial of his birth has sparked a celebration across the city and the nation. Here’s why.
Rudolph was a pioneering architect. His father was an itinerant Methodist preacher from Kentucky. Growing up, Rudolph got an eyeful of Southern vernacular architecture when he joined his father on the preaching circuit.
At Harvard, Paul Rudolph absorbed the lessons of Walter Gropius, founder of the Bauhaus school in Germany. In Sarasota, he teamed up with Ralph S. Twitchell and put those lessons into practice. The result? A new breed of modern architecture. Not the cold geometry of the Bauhaus. Not a variant of Wright’s organic architecture, either. Something new and touched by the sun. Lucid design schemes using high-tech materials, a seamless “blend of inside and outside” before that became a Realtor’s catch phrase.
Rudolph’s innovations sparked what we now call the Sarasota School of Architecture. Other local architects would follow in his footsteps. Rudolph would eventually leave Sarasota, but the master builder left his mark across the city.
The Umbrella House in Lido Shores — a rectilinear volume of floor-to-ceiling jalousie windows, entirely covered by a wood-louvered sunscreen extending past the house and over the pool.
The Cocoon House on Siesta Key — a two-bedroom guest house, with a bow-like catenary roof and a wall of glass looking out on a placid canal.
The architectural music of the Sarasota High School addition — a dramatic stairway rising up to a vast open volume, flanked by a rhythm of brise soleil panels on either side.
These structures were part of my childhood landscape. I took classes in some of them. A few of my friends lived in others. It was easy to take Rudolph’s legacy for granted. “These cool buildings will be here forever.” So I thought. But I was wrong.
In the decades that followed, Rudolph’s legacy was neglected and sometimes demolished, both in Sarasota and around the world. The post-modernist movement rejected and mocked his so-called “Brutalist” structures. (Legend has it, an unhappy student set fire to a building he’d designed at Yale.) Locally, his work also suffered. Riverview High School was torn down in 2009.
That’s the bad news. Now here’s the good news.
The global architectural community is giving Rudolph’s work a second look. Locally, architectural advocates and organizations such as the Sarasota Architectural Foundation are giving it the respect it deserves. SAF sponsored a Rudolph celebration in 2015. This weekend, it’s doing it again.
In honor of Rudolph’s 100th birthday, SAF will revisit Rudolph’s legacy at its fifth annual Sarasota MOD Weekend. Paul Goldberger, the Pulitzer Prize-winning architecture critic, will deliver the keynote address. Goldberger and other distinguished architects and architectural historians will also offer insights at several presentations and a panel discussion. The three-day tribute will include an exhibition of the architect’s futuristic renderings of unrealized projects, a yoga session in the Umbrella House, the screening of “Spaces: The Architecture of Paul Rudolph,” and trolley tours and guided walk-throughs of Rudolph’s iconic residences and public buildings.
Friday, Nov. 9
What: An exhibition of Rudolph’s drawings of unrealized, experimental architectural projects, curated by Nathan Skiles.
When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Nov. 9-10
Where: Art Center Sarasota, 707 N. Tamiami Trail
Info: Call 365-2032.
MOD Opening Party
When: 5:30-7:30 p.m. Nov. 9
Where: Burkhardt-Cohen residence, 1240 N. Casey Key Road, Osprey
Sponsored by Lisa Russo, Baird Wealth Management
Saturday, Nov. 10
Paul Rudolph Legacy Morning
What: Includes Paul Goldberger’s keynote presentation, breakfast, film screening and panel discussion.
When: 8 a.m. to noon Nov. 10,
Where: Holley Hall, Beatrice Friedman Symphony Center, 709 N. Tamiami Trail
Co-presented by the Sarasota Museum of Art
Dinner Under the Umbrella
Featured speaker: Paul Goldberger
When: 7-10 p.m. Nov. 10
Where: Umbrella House, 1300 Westway Drive
Sponsored by Williams Parker
Tours will visit the Cocoon, Revere Quality and Lamolithic houses on Siesta Key; and the Umbrella House, Harkavy House and Hiss Studio in Lido Shores.
Visit sarasotamod.com for prices and details.
Sunday, Nov. 11
Yoga at the Umbrella House
What: A sun salutation led by Lynn Burgess of Yoga from the Heart
This auction raises funds for SAF and its ongoing programs. The four winning bidders each receive one of four prizes. These include a signed archival print of artist John Pirman’s painting of the Cocoon House, and an overnight stay in one of Paul Rudolph’s signature residences. Bidding continues through Nov. 11. Visit: sarasotamod.com/auction
Visit sarasotamod.com for complete schedules, tickets and information.
Marty Fugate is a writer, cartoonist and voiceover actor whose passions include art, architecture, performance, film, literature, politics and technology. As a freelance writer, he contributes to a variety of area publications, including the Observer, Sarasota Magazine and The Herald Tribune. His fiction includes sketch comedy, short stories and screenplays. “Cosmic Debris,” his latest anthology of short stories, is available on Amazon.