The Architecture of Paul Rudolph: a new tome charts the rise and fall of one of America’s most divisive architects

The book cover for 'The Architecture of Paul Rudolph'
Published by Yale University Press, this new monograph offers the first comprehensive insight into American architect Paul Rudolph, shedding new light on a controversial figure
(Image credit: TBC)

It seems astonishing that no one has written a comprehensive monograph on Paul Rudolph before, given his significance in the history of American post-war architecture. His monumental bush-hammered concrete Art and Architecture Building at Yale University is one of the most iconic Brutalist structures of the 1960s. Timothy Rohan tells the story of this controversial monolith (a precursor of the Barbican), which was notoriously torched in 1969, possibly by disgruntled students, but restored in 2009.

Rudolph's career was overshadowed by this catastrophe, which marked his transformation from prophet to pariah. Once regarded as the saviour of American architecture, latterly he was shunned on his home turf and practiced mainly in southeast Asia. A salutary tale of a gifted architect falling spectacularly out of fashion, Rohan's perceptive account of Rudolph's rise and fall provides a fascinating read.

The buildings Rudolph - a complex individual - created, both pre- and post-Yale, were imaginative and refined. Initially based in Florida, he designed a string of innovative houses during the late 1940s and early 1950s that were both technically and aesthetically inventive. One had a concave sprayed plastic roof; another had an undulating plywood canopy.

Walker Guest House (1952-3), my personal favourite, was a glass box with white spider legs and red cannonball weights counterbalancing its cantilevered shutters. Although Rudolph later scaled up after turning his attention to public buildings, the expressive approach that he developed early on continued to prevail. His sculptural Temple Street Garage (1963) in New Haven - poetry in poured concrete - must surely be the most beautiful car park in the world.

A double page of the book which shows a garden that leads to a large house.

Rudolph was well-known for designing several private houses in the 1970s. Bass House (pictured) is located in Fort Worth, Texas and is one of the most celebrated of his domestic oeuvre

(Image credit: TBC)

A double page of the book which features a drawing of a building and a photo of its interior.

A spread from the book depicts the perspective section of the Dana Creative Arts Center at Colgate University

(Image credit: TBC)

A page inside the book has pictured the Wisma Dharmala Tower is in Jakarta

After the catastrophic torching of the Art and Architecture building (A & A Building) at Yale University, Rudolph worked increasingly in Southeast Asia. The Wisma Dharmala Tower, pictured here, is in Jakarta

(Image credit: TBC)

A street level view of Rudolph Hall, a large concrete block building.

Rudolph Hall - formerly the Yale A & A Building - was restored and expanded with new wing by Charles Gwathmey in 2009.

(Image credit: Timothy M Rohan)

A close up of corrugated cement.

The famed corrugated cement on the A & A Bulding at Yale. Rudolph used corrugated concrete to investigate light, shadow and texture.

(Image credit: Timothy M. Rohan)

A double page inside a book featuring a picture of The Mental Health Building at the Boston Government Service Cente with text in the right column.

In the 1960s, during a period of sensational success, Rudolph's name was synonymous with architecture in America. The Mental Health Building at the Boston Government Service Center (pictured) was designed during this period

(Image credit: TBC)

A double page spread shows auditorium, library and stairway of the A & A Building at Yale.

Ever confident Rudolph firmly believed that he was the master of interiors. This spread shows auditorium, library and stairway of the A & A Building at Yale

(Image credit: TBC)

Paul Rudolph wearing a white shirt and black trousers standing on the first floor of a beach house.

Rudolph at his Sanderling Beach Club, Florida,1952‐53. Courtesy of Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

(Image credit: TBC)

A black and white photo of two males spraying a ceiling.

Spraying 'Cocoon' at Rudolph and Ralph Twitchell's Healy 'Cocoon' House in Siesta Key, Florida, 1948-50. The roof was a chance for Rudolph to experiment with plastic.

(Image credit: Sarasota County History Center)

A close-up of a photo in a book which shows a bedroom curtain.

Pictured here is the bedroom curtain at 23 Beekman Place, New York, Paul Rudolph's apartment

(Image credit: TBC)