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Paul Rudolph: The DNA Of Architecture (September 2, 1995)01:29:24

Ray Kappe introduces Paul Rudolph, discussing Rudolph’s break onto the post WWII architecture scene and his influence on Kappe and his contemporaries. Kappe goes on to explain Rudolph’s significant role in architectural institutions including his tenure as dean of Yale’s architecture school. Ultimately, he describes Rudolph as a man of architectural principles unencumbered by fad.

Rudolph begins his lecture by discussing the importance of urbanism and site in his thinking about architecture, focusing on the assembly of parts rather than on issues of style. He describes the transition in architecture away from the traditional hierarchies in building types and toward architecture of multiple usages including the flows and geometries of automotive transportation. He sites examples such as the use of air-space for structures above the expressway along the East River in New York and looks back to classical examples of flexible column spacing to accommodate chariot dimensions.

Rudolph describes architecture as used space that accommodates the human spirit. He sees characteristics such as forms, dimensions, colors, and method of entry as appropriate or not appropriate for building types in terms of the psychological satisfaction to the user. He additionally focuses on movement through space and the balance of forces involved in movement’s creation, its velocity, and its ultimate destination. He decries the lack of well-designed public space in the United States and the isolation of most highrises. He presents some recent examples of his attempts to resolve this issue in highrise construction through greater connectivity at multiple levels.

Rudolph stresses the importance of both structure and scale. Rudolph’s primary interest in structure is in the generation of space, asserting that truth of structure is much less important than the resulting spatial relationships. He goes on to touch on the use of materials as similarly important in the creation of the spirit of the space, citing Louis Sullivan, Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier who played with and pushed the boundaries of material properties. Rudolph also suggests that there is no such thing as “in” or “out of scale.” Instead, all architecture operates at multiple scales and the play of light and the implied relationships are the important outcomes.

Rudolph concludes his lecture by addressing function, the selling of a building to a client and the importance of spirit in architecture. Going through a few recent works, Rudolph discusses the use of the ostensibly functional in generating architecture that both achieves its stated goal while providing additional urban and psychological benefits for those who engage with it. He explains the importance of this spirit in architecture with examples from Machu Picchu to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Johnson Wax building which demonstrate urban delight, the importance of the play of light and the ability for architecture to move space.

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