He was one of the most acclaimed — and confounding — architects of the 1960s; then his reputation tanked. But Rudolph’s concrete and Plexiglas buildings are winning new love.
“If you wait long enough, what is admired will be relegated to history’s dustbin,” wrote Ada Louise Huxtable, “and if you wait even longer, it will be rescued and restored.”
That cycle has repeated more than once for Paul Rudolph (1918-1997), one of the most celebrated architects of the 1960s, whose reputation keeps oscillating between fame and neglect. His hulking Yale Art and Architecture Building in New Haven, Conn., completed in 1963, put Brutalism on the map in the United States; his houses, with boggling layouts, were the height of Johnson-era chic.
Then his star fell, and clients and critics dismissed his hard-edge slabs for postmodern wackiness. By this century, his buildings were most often in the news when facing the wrecking ball. But time is the best critic. Brutalism is back in vogue, and Rudolph, born a hundred years ago in October, is back in the matte Lucite frame.
A pair of exhibitions now on view in Manhattan offers a lesson in the vagaries of architectural taste and a reintroduction to a master of solid and light. The show “Paul Rudolph: The Personal Laboratory,” through Dec. 30, concentrates on the architect’s residences, which is fitting given the location: the top floors of the Modulightor Building, a townhouse he built toward the end of his life on East 58th Street, which houses a light-fixtures firm he co-founded.