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Custom Works from 23 Beekman Place
The present lot was commissioned directly from Paul Rudolph by Lesley Friedman, who at the time of the commission, was a resident in Rudolph’s famous building at 23 Beekman Place. Rudolph originally acquired the building during a housing slump in 1976, keeping the penthouse for himself and converting the first four floors into apartments. Constructed over a twenty year span, the multi-level penthouse featured cantilevered balconies and daring staircases situated atop the existing brownstone. Friedman moved into an apartment on the third floor of 23 Beekman place in 1990 and consulted Rudolph for decorative advice, eventually purchasing several custom pieces designed by the architect.
Paul Rudolph was a leading modernist architect, known for his use of interlocking forms, concrete blocks and complex floor plans. He was born in Elkington, Kentucky in 1918, studied architecture at what is now Auburn University and, in 1947, after serving three years in the Navy, he received his master’s degree from the Harvard University Graduate School of Design. After school, he moved to Sarasota, Florida, opening his own firm in 1951. Rudolph became known for his sensitivities in designing around the Florida climate and terrain and was progressive in his thinking about ventilation and natural light. His Sarasota buildings received national attention, bringing him larger commissions and an appointment as the chair of the Yale University School of Architecture in 1958. That same year, he won the commission to design Yale’s Art and Architecture Building, which was celebrated for its modernist use of materials and articulated spaces. Rudolph left Yale in 1965, moving to New York City to return to his own private practice. His first major project was renovating his residence at 23 Beekman Place in Midtown. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Rudolph was designing university campuses, government buildings, apartment complexes and affordable housing. When his Brutalist style fell out of favor in the United States, replaced by a revival of historicism and ornamentation, Rudolph began designing high-rise buildings in southeast Asia that were praised by the architectural community. Rudolph passed away in 1997, generously releasing his work’s intellectual property rights to the public and his archive to the Library of Congress, subsequently helping to establish the Center for Architecture, Design and Engineering. There have been great efforts in recent years to preserve Rudolph’s singular vision of modernism and his mastery of materials, form, light and space.