Alexandra Lange
Architecture & design critic

Review: The Architecture of Paul Rudolph

There’s one in every group. A nonbeliever, that is. Most of the people who have shown up on a recent Saturday afternoon for a tour of Paul Rudolph’s Government Service Center (1971) are already convinced there is something to see here. We take photos of the signature “corduroy” concrete at the entrance, as well as the patinated plaque with Rudolph’s name. We look sadly at the chain-link fences walling off Rudolph’s signature banquette seating (not to code). We listen as Timothy M. Rohan, author of the first complete monograph of Rudolph’s work, talks about the theatrical, even therapeutic, components of his Mental Health Building. The sinuous stair that spills, in concrete waves, down onto Staniford Street more than underlines the first point; we have to take Rohan’s word for the second, as the interior, still in use, is off limits. A middle-aged man in a plaid shirt is having none of it. He sputters, he shifts, his body language and his increasingly aggressive mutterings point to just one question: “You like this stuff?”