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Ambitious reconstruction plan rescues Rudolph house

Paul Rudolph's first-ever building, a private house built with Ralph Twitchell on the Florida coastline, has been saved from the threat of flooding by being taken apart and rebuilt 30km away.

The owner of the 1941 private house, Rudolph historian Joe King, found he could not afford to keep the building on its Siesta Key site - certainly not in the manner that Rudolph and the Sarasota School architects had intended it.

On average, King faced a flood insurance claim every four years, and told the local Sarasota Herald-Tribune 'I came to the conclusion that it wasn't really smart to restore it right there. Why would you stick all that money into it and then it floods?'

So he carefully documented and photographed the entire house, created detailed drawings, took it apart piece by piece, and now plans to rebuild it as an addition to his family home, which was also built by Rudolph and Twitchell, in nearby Bradenton.

Funded by local contractor Forristall Enterprises, King had more success than the owners of a Rudolph house in Rhode Island, who planned to save it by moving it 400km to New York State. These proposals fell apart due to arguments over details such as timing and liability (Plans to save Rudolph home fall apart).

King, who co-authored Paul Rudolph: The Florida Houses, salvaged almost all the cypress and the pale yellow Ocala blocks from his building. He found that the materials had hardly weathered despite 66 years on the pale sands of the beachfront site.

The structure, acknowledged as the first building in which Rudolph's design is fully visible, is now being stored in a barn in Bradenton until it can be rebuilt.

Architect Tim Seibert, one of the surviving members of the Sarasota School, recalls visiting the house on its original site in the 1950s.

He said: 'We use to go out there every night and Marc, the French butler, would come out into the surf with martinis. That's how I remember it.'

by Angus Montgomery

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