Paul Rudolph threatened with demolition: when I see #&*! like this I just want to give up.


Wouldn't a sound historical preservation practice be to preserve historical practices?

It seems to me, prior to the 20th-century, when a building falls down, catches fire or is torn down, a variation of a building is put into place— e.g., how barns have progressed through the centuries.

There's obviously stylistic exceptions to this, the Forbidden City set ablaze in 1644, Paris partially demolished in 1665-1708 for the Grands Boulevards and again in 1853-1870 under Haussmann and London's Great Fire of 1666— but whether intentional or accidental destruction of large portions of these cities, they were rebuilt.

The development of architectural archtypes relies on this sort of practice— that's how churches, barns, houses and hospitals get their familiar shapes.

So, why can't the building be fully or partially demolished with a variation put in place?


Mar 13, 12 1:51 pm

the general fabric of the city gets built up, torn down, modified, burned, collapses, gets built again, etc.   sure. 

but parallel to that, we've always kept and protected those things we value. it's why the stonehenge and the hagia sofia sites haven't been redeveloped and why dresden's frauenkirche was rebuilt.

which always, of course, triggers arguments about who *we* are and which are the things we value.

Mar 14, 12 7:22 am

Actually the Hagia Sofia has been rebuilt 3 times and renovated at least four— it started out as the Great Church in the 4th-century, was burned down in the beginning of the 5th-century, was rebuilt in the 5th-century and burned down again in the 6th-century and the church as we see it now was started in the 6th-century.

However, by the end of the 6th-century, much of the original third structure had collapsed from earthquake damage and the design was changed. It burned down and then partially collapsed again in the 9th-century.

Between the 6th- and 9th-century, however, most of the original artwork was stripped down during that whole iconoclast period of the Byzantine empire.

I'm sure I don't need to get into the half dozen or more times the Hagia Sophia has been rebuilt, remodeled, renovated or altered because of war, cultural drift, rioting or earthquakes.

The point I was making is that many of these historic architectural masterpieces we're now preserving indefinitely, as if they were stuck in some sort of time machine, were not historically preserved this way.

Mar 14, 12 9:57 am

Part of the problem that I think JJR is getting at is that we (as a society) have started to treat buildings (and neighborhoods for that matter) as museum pieces; objects meant to be looked at behind a velvet rope, instead of an organic thing that evolves over time.

My office currently has a Rudolph building renovation under construction (Claire T. Carney Library at UMASS Dartmouth) and I can say that taking one of his designs and updating it is a challenge but totally possible and worth it.

Mar 14, 12 11:42 am

"we've always kept and protected those things we value. it's why the stonehenge and the hagia sofia sites haven't been redeveloped ."

No offence but I'm guessing stonehenge hasn't been redeveloped because it's kind of in the middle of nowhere.  And it's kind of difficult to move stones that large unless you are really committed to moving stones that large.

Which, oddly, leads me to wonder why the Rudolph OC needs to be demolished.  Smashing up so much concrete really seems unnecessary.  If they need a new building then fine...but why not build somewhere else or adaptively re-use something more suited to their needs and leave the Rudolph be until someone repurposes it in the future.

Shit, if Bofill can turn an old cement factory into a sexy office space then surely someone can do something with the Rudolph OC, yo!

(image via

Mar 14, 12 11:43 am

wow. thank you for that sweet bofill rehab. holy f*ck!

Mar 14, 12 12:05 pm

What a shame. I am not a fan of brutalism, or of Paul Rudolph, but this building should be saved from the monstrosity that might replace it.

Oh the other hand, aren't these bozos from the same Orange County?

Mar 14, 12 4:09 pm

sameold - that replacement is awful. i'm seriously flummoxed an abortion of that magnitude would be so expensive.


btw, who are these obese has been- and wanna be-wrestlers? is this some WWF dynasty redux?

Mar 14, 12 4:53 pm

Yeah, I had no idea that Bofill had that kind of awesome in him.  Holy f*ck indeed, yo!

Mar 14, 12 5:33 pm

Holz, these are the idiots from "Orange County Choppers"

They have had a select few moments of greatness, but are mostly a loud, brash family of buffoons that create overpriced decorative motorcycles. Much like the replacement to the Rudolph building.

Quite frankly, it is not like there is a lack of space in the area and why they could not build the new building elsewhere. The Rudolph building could be adaptively re-used. The cost of demolition itself would validate building the new structure elsewhere.

Mar 14, 12 5:39 pm

Yeah, that Bofill office is so good I thought I had hallucinated it after I saw it the first time.

holz, like you I also can't believe that hunk of post-Colonialish dreck costs, what was it, several hundred million?  Must be some super-duper special materials in there purchased from companies owned by the politician's biggest donors.

Mar 14, 12 9:02 pm

the cost of the new building is probably due to the demolition of the Rudolph and all the remediation required…

It doesn't make sense to spend more money for a new building when renovating the existing would be cheaper (according to the article at least).

This whole thing is odd and clearly the people in charge dislike the building and want to get rid of it, no matter the cost.

Mar 15, 12 11:46 am

If anybody feels compelled to write to the Orange County government they can do it here:

Also, a petition (apparently for Orange County taxpayers) is available here:

A vote is upcoming on April 5th, make yourself heard, yo!

Mar 15, 12 12:58 pm

what a shame.  the new building that is proposed is what people like unfortunatly.  bland and meaningless.  just like most pop music, and most big box office movies, it makes people feel good that they can easily understand it. 

architecture is soooo difficult because we need to create something that can be both important and popular.  we need to accomplish popular art like the beatles or nirvana did to make everyone happy, and thats a difficult balance.  I would say the rudolph building is more like badbrains, while its great, only a minority of hardcore listeners and fellow musicians will appreciate it. 

Mar 15, 12 1:17 pm
Erik Evens (EKE)

"the new building that is proposed is what people like unfortunatly.  bland and meaningless."

What meaning do you think that the Rudolph building conveys?

" makes people feel good that they can easily understand it."

Do you think that architecture should be intentionally designed so that it is not understandable by people?


I'm really very interested in questions like these.




Mar 16, 12 5:00 pm

Also, I'm not sure that it is a good idea to disparage the OC Choppers guys.  Aside from the obvious fact that they could probably pummel any architect, they are success local entrepreneurs in Orange County.

Just speaking hypothetically, but what if one of them did happen to have a interest in architecture;  had always admired the large, structurally muscular Rudolph building from afar;  heard of its demise;  was thinking that maybe the building could be adapted into a chopper showroom/atelier or gallery or museum of some kind; but then wandered into this thread and decided "ah, fuck it...architects are a bunch pricks"

Imagine if the facade with all of those boxy windows each had a fancy custom-designed motorcycle sitting in it.  Not really my taste but that has the potential to be pretty cool, yo!

Mar 17, 12 10:28 am

i always assumed they were OC, CA, not OC, NY...

Mar 17, 12 11:27 am

EKE, I'll take that question on, briefly.  I think the Rudolph *might* have been trying to convey the idea that we humans can do big, experimental things (dams, space flight) and that by experimenting with our material technologies we can discover new forms of beauty.

The problem is new things are often scary/confusing at first.  That doesn't mean we as architects should *try* to make buildings that are confusing to people, and anyone who thinks we DO do that is being close-minded.  We need to make things that look interesting enough that people will want to know more.  I can't imagine looking at the Rudolph and *not* wondering what those interior spaces are like.  On the pother hand, a big brick-clad box with small repetitive windows doesn't make me curious at all, and that is why people find it comforting - they don't *have* to ask themselves "Why does it look like that?"

Mar 17, 12 2:13 pm

Do you think that architecture should be intentionally designed so that it is not understandable by people?

No that's why I made the analogy to the beatles.  Their music, on the surface is easily understood, however it can be as complex as one wants it to be depending on how far into it someone is willing to look.  It reads on multiple layers.  If it is understood in totality by everyone, then it is shallow and meaningless.  Even a rock has layers of complexity.  A geologist sees it different than the common person.  On the other hand, if it can only be understood by architects and those who are open minded enough to take the time to think about it, it will likely not be appreciated by the masses even though it may be great.  

Mar 17, 12 3:54 pm

also EKE, this goes for everything not only architecture.  Look at art.  The masses tend to appreciate realism over abstract art because it is easy for them to understand.  Also, I think the word understand is a little off.  It probably has more to do with being open minded than having knowledge or being "cultured" (what ever that means).  Fro instance, kids are probably less equipted to "understand" art on an intellectual level, but they appreciate it because they are open minded and not mentally lazy like most adults.  Most adults probably need to be de-conditioned to appreciate it rather than conditioned to understand it.  After all, babies  like classical music, it's the adults who have developed an anti-intellectual bias that usually have a problem.  I would love to see a study done that surveys what kids think about this building.  I would bet they will mostly like it, because it is interesting and out of the ordinary.  So..... Should we design for the masses?  I would say no.  Just because the public is ignorant, does not mean that we should dumb down our work.  This question opens up a  huge debate.  Who do we design for?  How do we justify a public building if it is not accepted by the public?  Do we give them what we think they need, or what they want?  Or, Do we just do what we think is important in progressing the art and science of architecture?   

Interesting subject...I would love to hear other opinions!

Mar 17, 12 8:00 pm

Yes the Orange County Choppers guys are from NY. They are currently in Newburgh near the border of Montgomery with their showroom. 

I do think that the Government center by Rudolph would look great with a custom bike in each window/cube. Not sure they would agree. But that would be an awesome use for it. 

People never really got past the facades of this building. people either loved or hated it.  The  story was that montage of cubes cut the facade down so it was less foreign to the small buildings in the surrounding village. smaller volumes would relate to smaller volumes and 'hide' the larger volume of the building.While true, I think that was the handy excuse given for what Rudolph wanted to do anyway.  The outside pictures dont do the building justice. The experience of the way it's sited, they way you approach it and the wonderful manipulation of volume inside are what makes it stand out. 

There are some political plays in action there, along with some closed mindedness, apathy, and greed. They won't react well to outsiders telling them what ought to be.If I were a betting person, I wouldn't give  the building good odds.   Minds seem to have been made up.  Unless some group swooped in and wanted to buy it...  

The County college there has an Architectural technology program, might find some open minds there.  

JLarch I agree with you that it is the Artists/Architects responsibility to create things that people can relate to in which ever layer they are capable of. This build could do that, really. Not sure why it never did. It is exceptional enough to. I do not know wether it is the narrow vision of some or the fact that people didn't go there to experience anything but to accomplish a function and get out.  I am just not sure.

I found that whenever there was a discussion about that building people never saw past the Brutalist facade (which in itself is brilliant but, perhaps an acquired taste)  to the wonders that you could see/feel/experience inside. I never could figure out if  people were walking with blinders on or really busy or what. How did they miss all that? How did they miss the way walking from a low, narrow, dim hallway into an open, light, atrium made you notice both spaces more? How did the miss the play of sunlight across the atrium?  I have never understood the hate for the building. So many people just never seem to have noticed any of it's finer points. It is like I saw a different building than other people did.

Mar 19, 12 2:12 pm

How did they miss all that?

Same way they miss the trees and bees.  Pre occupied with life maybe?    I asked my son the other day if he noticed the smell in the air lately.  He was like "yeah it smells like oranges, all the orange trees have little white flowers, that's prabably what it is. did you see that the saguaros are growing flowers, there are 5 of them on the way to school.  and those long  things growing out of the spikey spaghetti looking cactus are all yellow too."  sure enough I counted the next day and there were 5.  I asked my brother and he was like "what,  oh yeah that annoying smell, it smells like old ladies and makes me sneeze." haha some people are just not in tune I guess.

Mar 19, 12 4:02 pm

Nice post, DAS99.  I think a lot of people don't realize that interior space *is* architecture - and let's be honest, the glossy mags and general media have contributed to people thinking architecture is only about the object in a field, not the more subtle effect it has on the inhabitants.

Mar 19, 12 7:25 pm

FYI- the World Monument Fund now has a petition up and is trying to collect 20,000 signatures.  You can sign here:

Do it, yo!

Mar 28, 12 3:55 pm

Handsum, I saw your post yesterday and signed the petition. I think I was 290th or something, checked it again today and it's up to 640. It's a far cry from 20K, but still doubled it in a day. Maybe this bump will get a few more signatures. Well done, yo!

Mar 29, 12 12:21 pm

I reposted the link a few places.  The more the merrier. I contacted the few people I still know who live there and the debate locally centers around costs not saving Architecture. The the cost of demolition plus new is double what repair and rennovate is.  I'll take what I can get. 

Mar 30, 12 7:33 am

Personally, I think 20,000 signatures is a little weak.  Let's raise the bar to a million, yo!

Mar 30, 12 2:21 pm

bump - to point out the discussion over this very building is a cover story in the nytimes today:



Apr 7, 12 8:17 am

Only 18,734 signatures to go!  Gettin close, yo!

Apr 7, 12 9:55 am

But Mr. Dalrymple said the notion that the public needs to be educated to appreciate Brutalism is like saying that people “need to be intimidated out of their taste...No expertise is needed to decide that a building is ugly," he said, adding, “It’s an aesthetic judgment.”

And aesthetics aren't learned?  We're just born as humans with all the aesthetic knowledge we need?  Does this guy still have Disney characters and racecars on the walls of his bedroom?  What a crock.

Apr 7, 12 11:27 am
i r giv up

from today's NYTimes:


I wonder how a residential conversion of that building would go....

that exterior could lend itself to some pretty great views/light.

while i generally abhor all things preservation-related (totally scarred by NYC's LPC's practice of landmarking full blocks without even looking at what's contained in them-shitty chelsea warehouses to be specific), but what's scary about this is that it's more than likely that the replacement will be crappy traditionalist trash. i mean, the new budget is relatively low (at least compared to what i'm used to seeing around here), they aren't going to get a more interesting building for that money at this point in time.

Apr 7, 12 1:27 pm

flux, have you gone to the link I posted when I started this thread?  Go there and behold the glorious edifice proposed to replace the Rudolph.

Apr 7, 12 2:16 pm

I read that article in the coffee shop this morning and became dangerously agitated.  That was one of the worst-written articles about the built environment that I have read in a long, long time.  Every person quoted in there basically says "well I JUST DON'T LIKE IT, so IT SHOULD BE DEMOLISHED."  There is one lone voice of reason quoted - an architect from the town who explains that just because you personally don't like something doesn't mean it isn't valuable - and then the author follows that up with about 3 more quotes about how snotty architects just want to force their opinions on everyone and if people don't like something, they just don't like it and shouldn't have to see it.  

There were at least 2 separate quotes in that article that specifically state something to the effect of "we're the county seat, this kind of architecture doesn't fit here" whatever that's supposed to mean.  The author gives no context, doesn't make any effort to counter the ignorance being spewed, and to make matters worse, she hides the fact that there is already a proposed building to replace this one (and it will cost more $$ than the rehabilitation would) and it IS going to be a traditionalist piece of crap.  Oh it  makes me SO ANGRY!  Even if I didn't like this building, I still would not see the point in demolishing something that's already built and sitting there and could be rehabilitated!

Apr 7, 12 7:58 pm

No expertise is needed to decide that a building is ugly, he said, adding, “It’s an aesthetic judgment.” 

Fuck you! Your mother is ugly! 

This pretty much sums up the anti intellectual fever sweeping over this dumb fat country. 

Apr 8, 12 3:50 am

See, that is the attitude of the people who live there, always has been.  Grrr.  Closed minded fools. 

The interior picture in the article fro that link barely does it justice, it is just gorgeous. That atrium is really a fine space.  Really have they all been in that building with their eyes closed? Do they all  only look at the one side with few windows? 

Come on those interiors are beautiful and there is no way the interior of that proposed crap can even come close. That building is an adventure, they just need to open their eyes. 

Sad :(

Apr 8, 12 11:14 am
Erik Evens (EKE)

Did you need to take a class in aesthetic appreciation to know that a flower, or a sunset, or a mountain peak is beautiful?

Apr 8, 12 12:31 pm

No, but you might need it to appreciate these flowers, sunsets, and mountains for what they're worth, and not for how much or little they might resemble other flowers, sunsets, and mountains, which you may feel are more familiar, or appropriate....

Apr 8, 12 4:27 pm

EKE, how often in the life of a child does s/he hear "Look at the pretty flower/sunset/mountain!" or see that mom and dad are happy when they look at those things?  My son finds hotrods beautiful and complex and intriguing because he's been going to car shows since he was born.  He could not tell you if a football was thrown well or not because he's never watched a football game.  There is no natural law of beauty that says what is good or bad.  But there *are* both enculturated and learned metrics that tell us whether something is significant or not.  Many significant things are not pretty.

Apr 9, 12 12:19 am
Erik Evens (EKE)

We disagree on a significant point, Donna. I absolutely believe that there are things that humans find beautiful, and that it's hard wired into us. Humans have a nature, and that nature is just that...nature, not nurture. I find women beautiful. Most men do. No one taught me that. I didn't learn that from my parents, or from the tv. I would find them beautiful if I had been the only man on earth, and I had no parents. I just know that I like them. Why am i attracted to women and not sardines? It's my nature. I think that humans are hard wired to find aspects of the natural world beautiful. I think that art can emulate aspects of the natural world and thus tap into this natural capacity for humans to appreciate beauty. That being said, I think that it is true that one can learn to appreciate certain things, even if one does not innately find them beautiful. And one can learn to appreciate beautiful things for other, intellectual reasons, not related to beauty. In fact, nature embeds wisdom within beauty as a strategy to perpetuate lineages. The DNA code is a perfect example.

Apr 9, 12 12:40 am

jlarch wins the internet.

Apr 9, 12 1:41 am

OMG. EKE, come on.  Sexual identity and aesthetic preference are not the same.  You say you find women beautiful but I'll bet you it's not women with bodies that look like the Venus of Willendorf that you find beautiful, it's Miss America types because *that* is what you've been enculturated to view as "beautiful"!  

Apr 9, 12 8:36 am
25 characters in length


...and yes I only had twelve Picassos for breakfast. The dog ate the rest."


Apr 9, 12 9:40 am

If we're hardwired for certain architectural choices, EKE, will we tend toward Greek, Egyptian, Modern, or Gothic from birth - assuming no cultural influences, of course?

Apr 9, 12 9:47 am
Erik Evens (EKE)

It's complicated, of course. There is no doubt that both nature and nurture play a role in what humans find to be beautiful. But I do absolutely believe that there are basic aesthetics that are encoded into the DNA of humans, and this is the root source of the awe that we feel when we se something magnificently beautiful. What about the Palladio church you saw on your trip to Venice, Donna? Did you react the way you did because you had been "encultured" to feel that way? Or when you walk under the canopy of towering trees in an ancient forrest? You are really going to tell me that a tribesman from Africa, who had never even heard of such things, would not feel awe at the beauty of them? THIS is an interesting discussion. BTW, my conception of what I find beautiful in women is actually quite broad, and certainly tends more toward Venus of Willendorf than Kate Moss. :)

Apr 9, 12 9:48 am
Erik Evens (EKE)

Steven- I think that certain types of architecture tap into what humans naturally find to be beautiful. I think that has to do with those types of architecture employing morphologies, geometries, symmetries that relate to aspects of the natural world.

Apr 9, 12 9:53 am

My question comes from the recognition that - at different points in history - each of those I mentioned has been considered ugly and foreign. Each had to find its place in the cultural flow as people became familiar with it. I'd only be ae to guess but Palladio, as formal as his work was, probably was not universally appreciated at the time. Would Palladio have recognized the beauty in a mosque or a temple in Japan?

Apr 9, 12 10:19 am

Regular non-architecturally-educated folks were tearing down rat-trap 'ugly' and over-wrought Victorians by the thousands only 50 or so years ago. Now they're prized. Who knew?

Apr 9, 12 10:22 am
Erik Evens (EKE)

I'm not certain about your premise, Steven.  Do you have any evidence that any of those architectures you mentioned were considered ugly and foreign?


Let's just consider one for a moment.  I think that the Gothic churches were designed primarily to inspire awe in the faithful.  To capture a bit of the magnificent beauty that the Church believed existed with God in Heaven.  So an architectural language was devised to appeal to an innate sense of what divine beauty would be like.


Drawing conclusions from history is very difficult indeed, but I know that it has been documented that Palladio was a well respected and popular architect in the Veneto in his day.  What he would have thought of mosques or Japanese architecture I cannot say.  But I do believe that great architecture in Islamic and Asian history tapped into that same human sense of the beautiful that European architecture did.

Apr 9, 12 1:04 pm

Yes, my response to Palladio's church was entirely based on having seen it for decades in architecture school and history books then finally in its presence seeing what all the buzz was about.  Every other non-architect person with me looked right past "just another historic church" to go see the Anish Kapoor sculpture within.  Which was also sublime, in a totally different way.

EKE, you speak intelligently about your preferences, and you've obviously studied and thought about *why* you like what you like.  As jlarch pointed out above, the loudest voices in the discussion of the Rudolph building are people who are proudly uninformed, who are happy to say "I don't know art but I know what I like."  In our culture those voices tend to win, for poor reasons.


Apr 9, 12 9:37 pm


Apr 9, 12 10:36 pm

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