One measure of the lasting value of architecture, or the architect behind it, is how much effort and money people spend to preserve the work generations after it was built.
By that gauge, Paul Rudolph’s evocative architecture is turning out to be a success after all.
Yes, a number of his more than 300 buildings, including Sarasota’s Riverview High School, have been torn down. But a number has been restored, too, and at least one duplicated.
So the Sarasota Architectural Foundation’s decision to focus its second Sarasota MOD Weekend on Rudolph’s career seems especially appropriate.
The design legacy of Rudolph, who began his long and notable career in Sarasota, will be poked and prodded and proclaimed throughout MOD, to be held Friday through Sunday with seminars, parties and trolley and walking tours (see schedule).
Those taking the trolley tours will see Rudolph’s 1959 Sarasota High School annex, which the county school system recently renovated at a cost of about $10 million.
Those on the Lido Shores vintage walking tours will see the Umbrella House and the Harkavy Residence — two of Rudolph’s surviving beach houses. They now are owned by the same couple, MOD co-sponsors Bob and Anne Essner, who are rebuilding the shading “umbrella” that is the most widely recognized icon of Rudolph’s largely experimental houses of the 1950s.
On Casey Key, the Burkhardt Residence has been meticulously maintained by its current owners (it is not on a MOD tour). On Siesta Key, the Revere Quality House and the Sanderling Beach Club cabanas, the scene of another MOD Weekend event, are in splendid shape despite a seventh decade on the edge of the Gulf of Mexico.
Finally, the SAF has built a replica of Rudolph’s iconic 1952 Walker Guest House, still in private residential use on Sanibel Island. The replica will be unveiled at 5 p.m. Friday for an 11-month run as an educational exhibit on the grounds of The Ringling.
Friday’s lectures and panel discussions will be held at the Mildred Sainer Auditorium at New College, while Sunday’s lectures are at the Historic Asolo Theater on the grounds of The Ringling. Saturday is tour day. (Tickets and information: SarasotaMOD.com.)
“We hope MOD will be an annual event,” said Christopher Wilson, an SAF board member and an architectural historian who teaches at Ringling College. “It is a weekend now; we hope to parlay that into a whole week. The model is Palm Springs Modernism Week. It is a celebration of the architecture heritage we have here in Sarasota, especially from the 1950s and ‘60s.
“This year, we wanted to focus on Paul Rudolph. He is one of the founders of the ‘Sarasota school’ of architecture, and the most famous. He went on after Sarasota to Yale (as dean of architecture) and private practice in New York, and built in Singapore and around the world. He got his start here.”
Rudolph, who was born in 1918 and died in 1997, at times complained that because of his youth, he was given “the guest houses” and other minor projects during his partnership with Ralph Twitchell in the late 1940s and early 1950s. But in fact, he designed important houses that survive to this day and are being modernized and restored as a new appreciation grows for Rudolph’s career.
“Here is where it started,” said Wilson, “and where he had quite small projects, but we in Sarasota are quite proud of the things that he did here, like the Umbrella House, Sarasota High School and the Sanderling Beach Club cabanas.”
Rising and falling and rising again
Paul Rudolph was acclaimed as one of the top architects in the nation as his career blossomed in the 1950s.
He was known for an expressive brand of modernism. Where the Bauhaus-influenced modernism of the International Style was moderate and calming, he sought to stimulate emotional reactions to his work. He did this with the bold and often experimental use of materials, such as plywood and bush-hammered concrete, and a dramatic geometry in which squares and rectangles were cast about with a sense of machismo.
But the sensitive Rudolph suffered indignities in his career, as pointed out by the architectural critic Witold Rybczynski in his 2001 book “The Look of Architecture.”
“Paul Rudolph was probably the most promising young architect in the country” in the 1960s, he wrote. “His robustly monumental Art and Architecture Building at Yale reinvigorated postwar American architecture. A decade later, heroic monumentalism was out and Postmodernism was in. Although Rudolph continued to receive commissions in Asia, he was slighted in his own country. His contemporaries Gordon Bunshaft and Kevin Roche were awarded the Pritzker Prize, but Rudolph was passed over. By the time he died in 1997, he was virtually forgotten.
“Yet Rudolph, a gifted designer, may be admitted to the architectural pantheon one day. Architectural reputations can rise and fall and rise again.”
This is certainly true in Sarasota. A new appreciation of Rudolph’s work arose with the publication of “The Sarasota School of Architecture: 1941-1966,” by John Howey, in 1995; “Paul Rudolph: The Florida Houses,” by MOD speakers Joe King and Christopher Domin, in 2002; and a 2014 book by a University of Massachusetts professor, Timothy Rohan, “The Architecture of Paul Rudolph.”
“Rudolph was the visionary who really set modernism on its ear,” Howey once told the Herald-Tribune. “The Sarasota school architects ... were real visionaries after World War II. They did a particular thing in a particular climate, and answered the questions of the climate and how to solve it,” including the big overhangs, the open floor plans and the large plates of glass to bring the outdoors in before air-conditioning was widely available.
“Sarasota was really important to him as an experimental testing ground, where he could do a lot of things and be very creative, because there were fewer rules, less scrutiny,” Rohan said in a recent interview. Rohan will speak on the topic “Rudolph After Sarasota” at 1:45 p.m. Sunday at the Historic Asolo Theater.
Rudolph “wasn’t interested in architecture as a means of getting rich,” Rohan said. “If it made him famous, that was OK, but only to get more opportunities and jobs in order to build. He wanted to build. That is why he loved Sarasota; it gave him the opportunity to build, and build a lot. He wanted to do that up until the end of his life.”
Coming Sunday in Real Estate: A conversation with Timothy Rohan, author of “The Architecture of Paul Rudolph.”
Sarasota MOD Weekend schedule
Friday, Nov. 6
Presentation 1: "Twitchell and Rudolph," $40, 2 to 3:15 pm, Mildred Sainer Auditorium, New College. Moderator Christopher Wilson will lead the panel in a discussion of the complex relationship between Ralph Twitchell and Paul Rudolph. Panelists: John Howey, Richard Allen, Rick Garfinkel, Joe King and Julie Hutchins-Wilson.
Presentation 2: The Walker Guest House and Replica, $40, 3:30 to 4:45 pm, Mildred Sainer Auditorium, New College. Moderator Alastair Gordon and panelists Joyce Owens, Joe King and Kutzi Preist will discuss the iconic structure.
Opening Party at the Walker Guest House Replica, $40, 5 to 6:30 pm, The Ringling, sponsored by Realtor Louis Wery.
Friday Private Home Dinner Parties, 7 to 10 p.m.: Umbrella House Cocktail Party + Harkavy House Dinner (Paul Rudolph), $500, sponsored by homeowners Bob and Anne Essner
Round House Cocktail Party and House Tour, (Jack West), $100, sponsored by PNC Wealth Management.
Saturday, Nov. 7, Tour Day
Presentation 3: "Rudolph’s Sarasota Houses," $50, includes breakfast, 9 to 10:30 am, The Francis, 1289 N. Palm Ave. Co-authors of "Paul Rudolph: The Florida Houses," Christopher Domin and Joe King will present the innovative houses Rudolph designed in the late 1940s and 1950s.
Trolley Tours: "Paul Rudolph’s Sarasota," $90, includes Breakfast and Presentation 3
Tours 1 & 2: 11 am to 1:30 pm
Tours 3 & 4: 2 to 4:30 pm
10:45 am Boarding at The Francis, 1289 N. Palm Avenue
Trolley 1 & 3: John McCarthy tour guide
Trolley 2 & 4: Larry Kelleher tour guide
Walking Tours: Vintage Lido Shores, $35
Tours 1 & 2: Christopher Wilson tour guide
Tour 2 B: David Morrison tour guide
Tour 1: 10 am to 12 pm (Check-in 9:45 am)
Tours 2 & 2 B: 2 to 4 pm (Check-in 1:45 pm)
Walking Tours: Contemporary Lido Shores
$35, Tours 3 & 4: Tour guide TBD
Tour 3 B: Jonathan Parks, AIA, tour guide
Tours 3 & 3 B: 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. (Check-in 9:45 am)
Tour 4: 2 to 4 p.m. (Check-in 1:45 p.m.)
Paul Rudolph’s Umbrella House Tours, $40. Choose one of 4 timed tours of the interior of the house. Each tour includes a brief talk about the house and Rudolph.
11 a.m. to 11:45 a.m., 1 p.m. to 1:45 p.m.
12 p.m. to 12:45 p.m. 2 p.m. to 2:45 p.m.
Sarasota High School Rudolph Celebration, $20, 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., 1000 School Ave., featuring a talk by Carl Abbott, FAIA, and tour of the newly renovated interior and exterior. With the SHS Chorus and SHS Cheerleaders. Refreshments. Sponsored by the Gulf Coast Community Foundation.
Saturday Private Home Dinner Parties, 7 to 10 p.m.
Sandy Hook Residence Cocktail and Dinner Party (Tim Seibert), $150, sponsored by J.P. Morgan.
Rae Residence Retro Martini Party (Ralph Twitchell), $100, sponsored by the Community Foundation of Sarasota County.
Sunday, Nov. 8: Day at The Ringling
Presentation 4: "We Knew Rudolph," 10:30 to 11:45 a.m., Historic Asolo Theater, The Ringling. Moderator Larry Scarpa, FAIA, Pwith panelists Carl Abbott, FAIA, youngest member of the Sarasota School of Architecture and a student of Rudolph’s at Yale, and Roberto de Alba, the author of "Paul Rudolph: The Late Work."
Picnic Lunch, $35, 12 to 1:30 p.m., Walker Guest House Replica, The Ringling.
Presentation 5: "Rudolph After Sarasota," $40, 1:45 to 3 p.m., Historic Asolo Theater, The Ringling. Timothy M. Rohan, author of "The Architecture of Paul Rudolph," will focus his presentation on Rudolph’s work after he left Sarasota in 1958 to become chair of Yale University’s Department of Architecture.
Presentation 6: "The Rudolph Legacy," $40, 3:15 to 4:30 p.m., Historic Asolo Theater, The Ringling. C. Ford Peatross, Library of Congress, will discuss Rudolph’s legacy with Sean Khorsandi, co-director of the Paul Rudolph Foundation, Carl Abbott, FAIA, and Erica Stoller, director of ESTO and co-author of "Ezra Stoller: Photographer."
Closing Party and BBQ Supper, $60, 5 to 8:30 p.m., The Ringling bayfront. Sponsored by Latitude27 Properties.
After Hours Party, (Seibert Architects) $45, 9 to 11 p.m., 430 Acacia Drive, the Tetreault-Pirman House.
SarasotaMOD tickets: www.sarasotamod.eventbrite.com.