Architectural Matter with Apartment House

Architectural Matter with Apartment House

Because Rudolph’s executors demanded that the buyer agree to a program of meticulous preservation, the Boyds found themselves in the position of conservators, cleaning and brightening the famous interiors while stripping away partially delaminated mirrored Formica and other latecoming modifications that had aged poorly. A strict attitude toward conservation of materials extended even to Rudolph’s white plastic-laminate kitchen shelves.

architecture: takes a brave modernist
architecture: takes a brave modernist

Having shown such restraint in returning the architecture to its original condition, the Boyds determined not to treat the building like a Rudolph time capsule. Instead, they began installing their museum-quality functionalist furniture. Note that Functionalism, as an artistic style broke into not only in architecture but also significantly in design of applied art, furniture and interior accessories. Functionalist designers would consider the interaction of the design with its user and how any of the features, such as shape, color, and size, would conform to the human posture. The collection included pieces by Gerrit Rietveld, Marcel Breuer, Richard Neutra, Donald Judd, and Frank Gehry, each in pristine condition.

museum-quality functionalist furniture - Functionalism, as an artistic style broke into not only in architecture but also significantly in design of applied art, furniture and interior accessories
museum-quality functionalist furniture – Functionalism, as an artistic style broke into not only in architecture but also significantly in design of applied art, furniture and interior accessories

In the three lower apartments, the task was most straightforward. Rudolph had habitually adjusted them to accommodate various tenants, and knowing this was liberating. The Boyds installed chairs on white pedestals in a two-story unit christened the “gallery duplex” and outfitted an apartment with particularly high ceilings as a groovy recording studio. In a playroom on the fourth level, the couple placed a molded-fiberglass Eames rocker alongside four functionalist pieces designed by Breuer for a 1938 dormitory at Bryn Mawr College. A double-height unit with floor-to-ceiling shelving became the “library duplex,” filled to the brim with the Boyds’ exceptionally large haul of books.

A double-height unit with floor-to-ceiling shelving became the "library duplex," a wide selection of circulation desks, workstations, library shelving, library tables, lounge seating, step stools, book returns and book trucks
A double-height unit with floor-to-ceiling shelving became the “library duplex,” a wide selection of circulation desks, workstations, library shelving, library tables, lounge seating, step stools, book returns and book trucks

The question of furnishings was most difficult in the penthouse apartment, the ultimate expression of Rudolph’s oeuvre. A minimalist at heart, he saw furniture as an extension of interior architecture, not as a focal point in its own right, and he might well have blanched at the sight of his bachelor pad chockablock with mid-century collectibles. Since none of his original glass or acrylic furniture remained when the Boyds arrived, however, they opted for an alternate approach. Adjacent to an acrylic footbridge, the couple placed Frank Lloyd Wright’s 1903 Larkin Building chair, a 1928 cafe chair by Josef Hoffmann and Oswald Haerdtl, and a 1950s shelving unit attributed to the team of Charlotte Perriand, Jean Prouve, and Sonia Delaunay. A 1950 sideboard from Prouve’s workshop stood near Rudolph’s built-in shelves of white gloss Formica.

Penthouse furniture interior design with massive windows with sweeping views. designers have done a fantastic job not only focusing the furniture so it can take advantage of these views, but they’ve sectioned off the living space with a L shaped couch and a low bookshelf
Penthouse furniture interior design with massive windows with sweeping views. designers have done a fantastic job not only focusing the furniture so it can take advantage of these views, but they’ve sectioned off the living space with a L shaped couch and a low bookshelf

A Nelson Marshmallow settee beyond retained its 1956 wool upholstery. In the master bedroom upstairs, De Stijl objects included a Vilmos Huszar rug, a desk by Bart van der Leck, and a pair of Rietveld’s Zigzag chairs. Overall, the effect was dizzying, but Rudolph’s architecture is strong enough to leave no doubt about his design intentions.

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