Published: August 24, 2004
“Paul Rudolph: The Florida Houses & The Cannon Chapel” exhibitions will be on display at The Museum of Design Atlanta (formerly the Atlanta International Museum of Art and Design) from September 10 through December 30. Curators Christopher Domin and Joseph King, will attend the opening reception, Thursday, September 9, in the evening.
Rudolph (1918-1997) was a modernist, best known for his major public and academic projects. He received his master’s degree in architecture from Harvard, and served as chair of the School of Architecture at Yale from 1957-1965. It was there that Rudolph created his most famous and controversial building, the School of Art and Architecture (1958).
Rudolph’s early residential work in Florida, featured in “The Florida Houses” exhibit, provided the genesis for the renowned architect’s multi-layered design methodology and played a significant role in mid-Twentieth Century American design. Heavily influenced by Frank Lloyd Wright, Rudolph began his career designing modest experimental beach houses on the west coast of Florida. The houses were built economically and designed to harmonize with the natural surroundings. It is these houses that inspired Domin and King to write the book, Paul Rudolph: The Florida Houses, and curate the accompanying exhibit. The exhibit includes beautifully crafted scale models of a few houses, reproductions of drawings from the Rudolph archives and lush period photography by Ezra Stoller.
Rudolph was born in Elkton, Ky., in 1918, and he died of asbestos cancer in 1997. His father’s vocation as a Methodist minister caused his family to move periodically across the South. Although Rudolph lived in many homes, his childhood was not wrought with inconsistency. The climate, nature and architecture of the South became his backyard. Furthermore, his interests in piano, painting and drawing provided a constant refuge that nurtured his sensitivity to expression. Ultimately, during his childhood Rudolph found the harmony between the outer and inner life, which he expressed in his architecture.
During his studies at Alabama Polytechnic University with Professor Walter Burkhardt, Rudolph continued to learn from the Southern landscape. Burkhardt encouraged attention to climate and setting in design. He introduced Rudolph to shutters, awnings and porches as design features that address climate control and spatial circulation. With time, the South became not just an academic model but a stage for exploration and inspiration.
Before entering Harvard Graduate School of Design in 1941, Rudolph furthered his examination of the South. He spent the summer with his parents near Frank Lloyd Wright’s Rosenbaum residence in Florence, Ala. Rudolph found inspiration in Wright’s use of horizontals to emulate the expansive Southern landscape. In addition, he observed how building with natural materials, especially those indigenous to surroundings, harmonizes with the natural setting. In the work of Wright, Rudolph began to find his own definition of modernism.
As an additional component to the Rudolph focus, the museum has commissioned Domin and King to create an exhibit exploring the design of Atlanta’s own Rudolph treasure – The Cannon Chapel on the Emory University Campus (1981). Built near the end of his career, the chapel demonstrates the breadth of Rudolph’s vision, and a lifelong commitment to the ideals established in the early houses.
Domin, an architect and professor, teaches at the University of Arizona. King is an architect practicing in Florida and a specialist in regional sustainability. Both of the authors are graduates of Georgia Tech.
On Wednesday, September 8, from 5:30 to 7 pm at Georgia Tech’s College of Architecture auditorium, Domin and King will discuss their book and the early works of Rudolph. On Thursday, September 9, from 6 to 8 pm there will be a reception for the exhibition opening at the Museum of Design Atlanta.
On Thursday, October 21, Georgia Institute of Technology’s Robert Ferst Center will be the venue for a panel discussion “Creating & Re-claiming Communities Today, Ensuring Quality of Life for Tomorrow.” Ellen Dunham-Jones, director of the architecture program at Georgia Tech, and Ray Anderson chairman, Interface, Inc, will moderate. The panelists are Charles Brewer, Steve Nygren, Egbert Perry and Pam Sessions. A reception from 5:30 to 7 pm will be followed by the program from 7:30 to 9 pm.
On Wednesday, November 3, from 5:30 to 7 pm at the Georgia Institute of Technology’s College of Architecture Auditorium there will be a panel discussion with former students, co-workers and contemporaries of Rudolph highlighting dramatic stories about life and work. Panelists tentatively scheduled include Michael Dobbins, Ron Lewcock, Joe Martin and Frederick Gibson.
On Monday, November 15, at Emory University’s Cannon Chapel, designed by Paul Rudolph, there will be a reception and seasonal choral arts event with guest speakers in the evening at the chapel celebrating art and architecture. Reception, 5:30 to 6:30 pm; program, 7 to 9 pm.
The museum is located in the Marquis II Tower of Peachtree Center at 285 Peachtree Center Avenue. For information, 404-688-2467 or www.museumofdesign.org.
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