Paul Rudolph’s Modulightor House

Modulightor House, by Paul Rudolph

I first found out about the architect Paul Rudolph after posting an image of one of his other houses, and reading a response to it by Kelvin Dickson of the Paul Rudolph Foundation. (It’s worth reading his interesting comment about Halston’s parties there, and Liza Minelli – click below.) I’m not sure why Rudolph, who died in 1997, is not more well-known. He began designing houses in Florida, eventually becoming responsible for the style now known as Sarasota Modern, but as he became more well-known he built houses in New York and elsewhere as well as major public buildings including the famous Yale Art and Architecture building (later post) and in later years many buildings in Asia. Like Halston, Rudolph believed in socializing in general and parties in particular, and his houses are evidence of his sociability. They’re minimalist, but not cold, and they contain the sort of rooms that should be photographed with people in them to properly demonstrate their function, which seems to be to encourage conversation. Dickson suggested looking at Rudolph’s 1989 Modulightor House, now a museum in NYC. It was one of the last houses he built and incorporates many of his most characteristic features. The building’s interior and exterior structure mimic each other: the exterior is a clear view of its structural white I-beams; inside, the staircases, half walls and stairways echo this material, form and colour. Much of the furniture was designed by Rudolph as well, including the clear plexi chairs. The street level floor of the building is occupied by Modulightor, the lighting company Rudolph founded. Photos here are by modulator.com (above), Kelvin Dickson on Flickr, GM Picket, by written permission. See the pool of photos of Rudolph works on Flickr.

Modulightor House, via Kelviin, from the Rudolph Archives

Photo above is from the Rudolph archives, via Kelviin.

Modulightor House by Gail M Picket, all rights reserved

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Modulightor House by Paul Rudolph, photo by GM Picket, all rights reserved

Modulightor House by Paul Rudolph, photo by GM Picket, all rights reserved

Photos above by GM Picket via Flickr, by permission, all rights reserved.

From Kelvin Dickson of the Paul Rudolph Foundation:

This house [not Modulightor, but the Hirsch House] is the first building Paul Rudolph designed in New York. The client was Alexander Hirsh, but the house was later bought by Halston, the fashion designer. The photos you have are from when he lived there. Paul loved neutral colors – his own house was very natural-colored with whites, greys and tans mixing with reflective chrome. 

Paul designed the coffee table of rectangular pieces of metal and mirror. Halston was very particular about the color of grey, and apparently he and Paul looked at dozens of samples before picking the “perfect one.”

The handrails are made of clear plexiglas tubes. They grey carpet on the floor was custom colored to match the fabrics. The cusioned seating is also designed by Rudolph, who added it to most of his residential projects (very low to the ground – perfect for Halston’s infamous drug parties). At one of these parties, Liza Minelli is rumored to have fallen down the stairs (not these but the ones in the hallway).

The project is a later adaptation of Paul’s design for his own home in New Haven, while he was Dean at Yale’s A&A. Paul used the same idea when he built the Modulightor building in NYC in 1989. The Halston (Hirsch) Residence was bought and rennovated and featured in NY Magazine – the carpet was replaced with wood and the grey is gone, replaced with bright white. The space looks very different now.

Modulightor is open to the public if you ever want to see a smaller adaptation of this..

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One Response to “Paul Rudolph’s Modulightor House”

  1. JillemWhite Says:

    I have a great interest in seeing the Modulighter, if it is still available to the public
    I am writing a book of the disappearance of great American Architecture

    Thank you
    Jiile White
    15 gay street
    NYC 10014

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