|MIT-based artist Mark Bain, who describes himself as an "anti-architect,"
tracked down Rudolph's ashes (which had been divided between two
friends) and released them into the A+A Building as part of what
he called his Ventilator Project.
by Philp Nobel
The late architect Paul Rudolph's career was dogged by fire. On
Bastille Day, 1969, his Art and Architecture Building at Yale
was torched by angry students. The fire was set to protest university
policies, but it was widely seen as a reaction to the oppressive
nature of the building itself. Whatever the reason, the incident
marked the beginning of Paul Rudolph's public fall from grace.
The story of that fire became a favorite bit of architectural
lore, but another remains more obscure. In the early Seventies,
shortly after the opening of Rudolph's Lindemann Mental Health
Center in downtown Boston, a patient responded to the swirling
Corbusian forms in the building's chapel by igniting himself beneath
a light-cannon on the crude slab altar. The room has been sealed
Now Rudolph's own ashes are adrift. Last year, on November 1 (the
Day of the Dead), eight ounces of Rudolph's cremated remains were
released into the A+A Building's ventilation system by an artist
hoping to "add a coda to the building and the man who built it."
No memorial could be more appropriate. Rudolph was always personally
linked with the glowering A+A Building. In 1964, the year it was
completed, Progressive Architecture magazine ran a cover photo
of the building with a ghostly superimposition of Rudolph's crew-cut
head. At the time, one critic wrote that it was "disquieting"
that Rudolph had "inserted himself so ruthlessly into his work."
But after the fire and the insensitive renovation that followed,
Rudolph separated himself from it, claiming that "the building
no longer exists for me."
In the decades that stretched from the fire to his death from
lung cancer last August, Rudolph was revered by an influential
group of colleagues, fans, and former students, but he was considered
almost untouchable by others. He did run part of the victory lap
enjoyed by aging masters--in 1993, critic Michael Sorkin preemptively
eulogized him in verse in the first issue of ANY magazine, and
the Cooper-Hewitt Museum put on a one-man show--but he was taboo
in the design studio and was seldom invited to contribute to publications
or public events organized by those beyond his immediate circle.
Arguably the most talented architect of his generation, Rudolph
would lurk in the back of lecture halls and sneak out before he
The simmering revival is likely to heat up now. Following Rudolph's
death there was a predictable outpouring of appreciation. His
papers are headed to the Library of Congress, and two books are
in the works.
But while others planned a critical resurrection, MIT-based artist
Mark Bain took more direct action. Bain, who describes himself
as an "anti-architect," tracked down Rudolph's ashes (which had
been divided between two friends) and released them into the A+A
Building as part of what he called his Ventilator Project. The
materials list for the project reads, in part: "ventilation duct,
electronics, and portion of the architect Paul Rudolph's cremated
remains." Bain is quiet about his intentions; he says only that
he wanted to "dust the interior with a symbolic residue of the
architect." Now we can all breathe deep: Paul Rudolph's demons