Recalling Rudolph

With the eyes of the architectural community focused on Rudolph’s controversial and revolutionary buildings, the Yale School of Architecture held a two-day symposium called “Reassessing Rudolph: Architecture and Reputation” this weekend.

At the round-table discussions and panels, various speakers addressed topics such as Rudolph’s use of materials, his reputation and his reception over the course of his career.

Adrian Forty, professor of architetural history at the University College London, gives the symposium’s keynote address.
Sergio Zenisek
Adrian Forty, professor of architetural history at the University College London, gives the symposium’s keynote address.

In an interview with the News, School of Architecture Dean Robert A.M. Stern ARC ’65 said he sees both the renovation of Rudolph Hall and the symposium as part of the re-evaluation of Rudolph’s design that is currently taking place in the architectural community.

Tim Rohan ’91, an associate professor of art and art history at the University of Massachusetts–Amherst and a Rudolph scholar, served the leading role in organizing the symposium and selecting the architects to speak on the panels. At the rechristening of the Rudolph Hall building in November, Rohan gave the keynote address called “The Enigmatic Architecture of Paul Rudolph.”

Rohan said many members of the rising generation of architects do not remember Rudolph, or lack a sense of the importance of his work. Rohan said he hopes to change this, and generate new conversation about Rudolph.

Rohan is currently writing a book about Rudolph, which will be published by the Yale University Press. It will be the first substantial analysis of Rudolph to appear since the 1970s, Rohan said.

In the symposium’s keynote address, Adrian Forty, a professor of architectural history at the University College London, discussed the significance of concrete architecture, placing Rudolph’s work into the larger context of others who have used the same material.

The final roundtable discussion of the symposium focused on Rudolph’s influence over some of today’s most important architects.

“Everyone has some encounter with Rudolph, some story,” Lawrence Scarpa, an architect from Pugh + Scarpa firm, said in his remarks.

Marion Weiss ARC ’84, a partner at the New York City firm Weiss/Manfredi, said she began to realize the extent of Rudolph’s influence over her own work as she was putting together her remarks for the symposium.

She compared Rudolph Hall, considered by many critics to be the epitome of Rudolph’s “brutalist” style, to the student center her firm designed for Smith College in 2003, the Olympic Sculpture Park in Seattle, which opened in 2007, and the firm’s current project, the Barnard College Nexus Building, which will open this spring.

Weiss talked about Rudolph’s engagement of peripheral vision and the way those who inhabit his spaces can both see those in other areas of his buildings and be seen by them. She also discussed his masterful blurring of the distinction between interior and exterior, and his use of corrugated surfaces. All of these techniques have influenced her own work, she said.

School of Architecture lecturer Carter Wiseman ’68 said nothing could make him feel that Rudolph’s work is being revitalized more than being inside the newly renovated Rudolph Hall. After he recalled the deterioration of the building following a fire in 1969, Wiseman said he is thrilled to see it restored to what Rudolph had intended.

This Thursday, the School of Architecture is hosting a lecture on the renovation called “Restoring Rudolph Hall: A Colloquium,” which will feature the architect who restored the building, Charles Gwathmey ARC ’62.

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