In the words of David Waldman, the owner of a commercial real-estate company in Westport, Connecticut, 'any view of how good or bad an architect Paul Rudolph was is purely subjective'.
There are indications of a renewed appreciation of some of his most prominent projects. Rudolph's own apartment/test-bed on New York's Beekman Place has just been refurbished (with sympathy if not with slavish respect) by the architects Jared Della Valle and Andrew Bernheimer. Charles Gwathmey is renovating Yale's Art and Architecture building.
But the Micheels house in Westport, Connecticut is the latest in a string of Rudolph buildings, including Riverview High School in Sarasota, to face demolition ( ajplus 19.12.06).
Is it reasonable to expect the owner of a private house to act with the same degree of responsibility as the custodians of a public institution? Mr Waldman, the new owner of the Micheels House, may be an ignorant fool, but he is also a real-estate executive and a family man, who reports that 'a Modern structure wasn't appealing to us'. Why would he resist the urge to unlock the value of his site and bring up his family in a house he doesn't like?
Perhaps the time has come to establish an international system of subsidies for those who can demonstrate a suitable degree of sympathy for a home of outstanding architectural significance, and are prepared to comply with conditions concerning maintenance and access.
There are times when the basic laws of supply and demand simply do not work. The original owner of the Micheels house dropped the house price to $4 million after failing to find a purchaser who would pay $5 million on the basis of its architectural merits. The free market rewarded Mr Waldman for his indifference to Rudolph's architecture to the tune of $1 million.