Celebrating the Centenary of American Architect Paul M. Rudolph

[Paul Rudolph, half-length portrait, drafting on a vertical surface as was his habit]. Photo by Hans Namuth, ca. 1960. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3c35842

[Paul Rudolph, half-length portrait, drafting on a vertical surface as was his habit]. Photo by Hans Namuth, ca. 1960. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3c35842

The Prints and Photographs Division, home to the archive of noted American architect and innovative modernist designer Paul M. Rudolph, is hosting a symposium and a display to celebrate the centennial of his birth.

A day-long symposium on Rudolph’s life and work will be held at the Library of Congress on Friday, Oct. 26, 2018, just a few days after what would have been his 100th birthday. Presented by the Center for Architecture, Design, and Engineering in the Prints & Photographs Division and the Paul Rudolph Foundation, the symposium will feature a full slate of speakers, including a keynote address from author, professor and architect Robert A. M. Stern.

The symposium will focus on modernist design and Rudolph’s contributions as a theorist, educator and practicing architect. Mari Nakahara, Curator of Architecture, Design & Engineering in the Prints and Photographs Division, related, “While I was being trained as an architect in the 1980-1990s in Japan, Rudolph was one of the architects we always studied, while in the United States his reputation suffered through a long fallow period. With the passage of time, people have been regaining interest in him, and more frequently accessing larger amounts of items from the Library’s Rudolph collection. I believe the symposium will be an exciting opportunity for dialogue.”

Rudolph, a 1947 Harvard graduate, designed buildings all over the world. After a partnership with architect Ralph Twitchell in the 1940s, he went on to form his own firm in 1952, and remained active until his death in 1997.  During his long career, Rudolph also served as the youngest ever Chair of the Yale School of Architecture from 1958 to 1965. This position led to one of his best-known commissions, the Yale Art and Architecture Building (renamed Paul Rudolph Hall in 2008). Nakahara cited this influential, early example of Brutalist architecture in the U.S. as her favorite of Rudolph’s work: “When I visited there for the first time as an architectural student, I was very much impressed by Rudolph’s design for the building and its interior, which I thought encouraged dialogue between students and fostered their creativity.”

Art & Arch. Bldg. Yale University, Paul Rudolph, Arch. Photo, between 1963 and 1973. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ds.09861

Art & Arch. Bldg. Yale University, Paul Rudolph, Arch. Photo, between 1963 and 1973. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ds.09861

Nakahara also recalled a time when her professor in Japan had the students copy at least ten perspective drawings by Rudolph. “As the section perspective of Yale’s Art and Architecture Building shows (below), Rudolph’s perspectives are composed of many lines, most of which connect to focus points; therefore they are not parallel. They were very time-consuming to copy. At the same time, I was impressed by the meticulousness of his design expression.”

[Art and Architecture Building, now Rudolph Hall, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut. Perspective section.] Photograph of drawing by Paul Rudolph, circa 1964, printed later. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.57003

[Art and Architecture Building, now Rudolph Hall, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut. Perspective section.] Photograph of drawing by Paul Rudolph, circa 1964, printed later. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.57003

This complex perspective section of the Yale Art & Architecture Building is part of another aspect of the Library’s celebration of Rudolph’s centennial: a selected display of items from the Paul M. Rudolph Archive, on display in two cases (below) in the Library of Congress Jefferson Building until November 5, 2018.

Centenary of Architect Paul M. Rudolph Display. Library of Congress Thomas Jefferson Building, 1st floor. Photo by Mari Nakahara, 18 Sept. 2018.

Additional items on display include physical artifacts from Rudolph’s career, including a selection of his pencils and pens, seen below.

Pencils and pens from personal office of Paul Rudolph. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.57007

Pencils and pens from personal office of Paul Rudolph. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.57007

A portion of the display is dedicated to design projects that were never built, such as the massive Lower Manhattan Expressway (LOMEX) in New York City. The LOMEX had been a divisive project for decades in New York. In 1967, the Ford Foundation commissioned Rudolph to study LOMEX, resulting in him publishing his own designs for the never realized project, an example of which is seen below.

Lower Manhattan Expressway, New York City. Rendering including monorail. Color slide. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.24383

Lower Manhattan Expressway, New York City. Rendering including monorail. Color slide. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.24383

Before his death, Rudolph began transferring his archive to the Library of Congress. The Paul M. Rudolph Archive numbers more than 100,000 items, including original preliminary design sketches and drawings in Rudolph’s hand, photographs, and his manuscript papers. The archive covers Rudolph’s wide-ranging work, from large scale urban planning to furniture design.

Access to materials in the large Rudolph archive requires advance appointment, and often Nakahara works directly with researchers. Upon being asked to characterize researcher requests and what she has learned from working with the archive in these situations, she said, “I have served patrons with many different types of projects (furniture to mega-structure buildings, including unbuilt projects) in all formats (drawings, photographs, manuscripts, etc).  I am always amazed at the vast amount of material Rudolph produced for each project.”

If you are in the Washington D.C. area next month, we hope you can join us for the Paul Rudolph Centenary Symposium and stop by to see the display in the Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress. If you are interested in researching Paul Rudolph’s work, please contact the Prints and Photographs Division to arrange an appointment. See below for the details on the symposium, display and researching in the Paul M. Rudolph Archive.

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