Paul Rudolph honored on what would have been 95th birthday

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SARASOTA - A birthday celebration was held Wednesday for a man whose name you might not know, but whose work is known around the world. Paul Rudolph made his name as an architect in Sarasota, and then taught others who carry his legacy today.

Before Rudolph became the dean of the School of Architecture at Yale, he designed everything from schools to homes -- like the one in Sarasota called the Umbrella House.

Wednesday would have been his 95th birthday.

You can't tell by looking at it now, but a run-down part of Sarasota High School that is currently under renovation once made international news. “That was one of the most published buildings in the world in the ‘60s; not Florida, the world,” says Carl Abbott.

He can speak with authority on the matter, as an architect who's had a book written about his work, and having studied under Paul Rudolph at Yale. What made the school stand out went beyond what it looked like, to how it worked. “His use of sunscreens was totally original. The hallways running through so you had cross-ventilation without air conditioning, which was not around in those days. All totally amazing.”

The actual school is part of what people know as the Sarasota School of Architecture. And people know Rudolph as its father.

After World War II, modern architecture happened around the country. “What was unique was the fact that this modern architecture was being adapted to our semi-tropical environment,” says Abbott.

Lorrie Muldowny from the Sarasota County History Center says the designs maximized air flow, even sitting slightly above ground to let cooler air in at the bottom. Features that so-called green buildings have now, Rudolph's had 60 years ago. "He was green before green was cool, yes."

Rudolph went on to design buildings of all kinds all over the world: Hong Kong, Indonesia, and taught others not to copy him, but to perfect their own visions of architecture.

“Some of his students who studied under him at Yale are some of the most important architects in the world today. So Rudolph's influence isn't just Sarasota, it's not just Yale, it's the world.”

Paul Rudolph died in 1997. Many of his buildings have disappeared, torn down on places like Lido Key to make room for “McMansions” or condo buildings. That makes ones like the Umbrella House stand out. And Wednesday night, its owners hosted a celebration of Rudolph's life and his legacy.