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Paul Rudolph's rehabilitation - Critic's Choice

Paul Rudolph’s architecture is undergoing a welcome rehabilitation, writes Andrew Mead

Pictured is Paul Rudolph outside his Art & Architecture Building (A&A) at Yale University in 1963. It had just been completed and Rudolph’s reputation was at its height, but both suffered badly later. The A&A was victim of a fire in which arson was suspected, and its voluminous interiors were crudely partitioned, while Rudolph’s tough, ambitious designs were eclipsed in turn to post-modernism, leaving him to build mostly in Asia until his death in 1997. Now things are changing. Restored by Rudolph’s former pupil Charles Gwathmey, the A&A (renamed Paul Rudolph Hall) reopened last November to great acclaim, and a new book collecting his Writings on Architecture (Yale University Press, £12.99) can only further his cause.

It’s full of good sense. Rudolph was an acute critic of standard-issue modernism for its failure to deal with such ‘age-old human needs’ as monumentality, symbolism and decoration, and he tried to supply a remedy. Aware of history, but not just quoting precedents, he sought an architecture that served both the individual and the city while placing a premium on ‘visual delight’. One stirring paragraph on the need for different kinds of space appears almost verbatim three times, but this rhapsodising isn’t just rhetorical. Always thinking three-dimensionally and in section, Rudolph turned these sentiments into reality, and nowhere more so than in the spectacular interiors and 37 levels of the A&A.

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