When you hear the name Paul Rudolph, you most likely think of controversial, "sweater-snagging" Brutalist buildings such as Boston City Hall or Yale's Rudolph Hall, just two of his buildings that have been under threat of destruction. But there is another period in his career that is lesser known than the East Coast concrete bohemoths threatened by preservation battles and arson. Rudolph helped to pioneer American modernism in a very different context: delicate, wood beach homes in Florida.
Image via the Ringling Museum of Art
He spent years before and after World War II designing post-and-beam residences in Sarasota and surrounding beach towns. Examples of this early American Modernism included the Healy House, the Denman House, and the Hook House, and culminated with the Walker Guest House on Sanibel Island. This seminal Midcentury Modernist work, a 24-foot by 24-foot vacation home, is now being rebuilt as a newly-constructed replica on the grounds of the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota, so that visitors can experience the home and pay homage to Sarasota's most well-known architect.
Image via treehugger
The house is distinguished for its wooden shutters and the system of weights and rigging that is used to open and close them. These sail-like contraptions brought the cool modernism of the house closer to its context of the breezy Florida beach. This challenged the International style, but also began to foreshadow some of the architectural innovations that would come later, such as adjustability that lets the user control their environment.
The house is also known for its passive cooling technologies, including the shade and cross-ventilation provided by the system. The marine-style design used for the shutters in the Walker Guest House, as well as much of Rudolph's work in Florida, was informed by emerging military technology, especially boat-building materials such as new plastics and plywoods that he encountered while building ships for the Navy.
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The museum is working with the Sarasota Architectural Foundation to recognize the Walker Guest House as part of the Sarasota School of Architecture, a movement that flourished from roughly 1941 to 1966, and was particularly focused on terrain and climate issues. The replica will allow a large number of people to visit and appreciate the house—an exciting opportunity, and one that does not come around very often.
Image via sarasotamusicscene.com