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Paul Rudolph (1918-1997)

Dates of Interview:

February 28, 1986

Location of Interview:

Rudolph's office in New York City


Robert Bruegmann

Length of Transcript:

66 pages
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Biographical Summary

Paul Marvin Rudolph was born in 1918 in Elkton, Kentucky. He studied architecture at the Alabama Polytechnic Institute, receiving his bachelor's degree in 1940. He was a fellow with Walter Gropius at the Harvard Graduate School of Design from 1940 until 1943, when his study was interrupted by military service. After three years in the Navy, Rudolph returned to Harvard and earned his master's degree in 1947. Upon graduation, he moved to Sarasota, Florida, and was in partnership with Ralph Twitchell for four years before opening his own practice in 1951. Rudolph was chairman of the Yale School of Architecture from 1958 until 1964, after which he returned to private practice. He died in New York City in 1997.

Interview Highlights

Rudolph speaks about working in the Far East in the 1990s: commissions in Singapore, Hong Kong, and Jakarta; how the masters handled space; influences; the Christian Science building, Urbana, Illinois; the effect of color; obtaining clients; commissions; regionalism.

Perspective section of the Christian Science Organization Building;
Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, 1968. Photo courtesy of Paul Rudolph.

Perspective elevation of the Grange Road Condominiums; Singapore, 1979.
Photo courtesy of Paul Rudolph.

Interview Excerpt

"The idea of what you express and what you don't express is a tantalizing thing. I think it probably comes as close to getting to the art of architecture as any single thing. You can't say that a building which expresses everything is better than one that doesn't express. I said a long, long, time ago that the reason why Mies made great architecture is he left so much of it out. He was very careful about what he wanted to show. It wasn't necessarily the truth of the matter as we all know, but he made great his hands it was a great work of art....Nobody can say that buildings are better or worse because of their articulation of the parts. Nobody can say that a building which shows all of its mechanical system is better than a building that doesn't show any of it. The art of architecture deals with why you have certain prejudices about certain things, which I've tried to say nobody knows. The other aspect has to do with what you choose to show and not show." (pp.12-13)

Additional Resources

Paul Marvin Rudolph images in the R&B Archives
Related archival materials in the R&B Archives
Works by Rudolph in the Department of Architecture and Design

Funding for this oral history was provided by the Department of Architecture, The Art Institute of Chicago.