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Rudolph on the Market

Two of Paul Rudolph's houses are for sale, and they may be joined by his Orange County Government Center.

By Fred A. Bernstein
July 9, 2014
paul rudolph
Via michiganmodern.org
Paul Rudolph's Frank and Anne Parcells House (1970) in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, is for sale. Its projecting rooms resemble the architect's Orange County Government Center in Goshen, New York.

Two buildings by Paul Rudolph—houses in Michigan and Massachusetts—are on the market, and they may soon be joined by a third: the Orange County Government Center, the sprawling structure in Goshen, New York, that has been the cause of hand wringing by preservationists for over a decade, and has been empty since 2011.

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In May, the Orange County legislature approved a plan that would have preserved much of the 1967 building but also altered parts of it. The renovation, by designLAB Architects, the Boston firm that performed similarly invasive surgery on Rudolph’s South Dartmouth, Massachusetts, college campus, was expected to cost $74 million. But the compromise was short-lived. Last month, the county learned that federal and state funds might not be available for the renovation, since it involved substantial changes to the building, which is eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places. In response, the county decided to solicit proposals from architects interested in designing an entirely new government center. If that plan is successful (an RFP was issued on June 30, with a deadline of August 4), the county may go ahead and offer the Rudolph building to developers.

That series of events may benefit Gene Kaufman, a Manhattan architect who made an eleventh-hour offer to buy the building and turn it into artist lofts. His proposal seems feasible given the building’s hive-like organization (it is a relative of Moshe Safdie’s Habitat in Montreal, created as residences also in 1967). Kaufman has offered to design the renovation as well as a new government center for a $7.9 million fee. A representative of his firm made a site visit this morning, according to a spokesman.

If Kaufman gets the job, he might want to spend some of his profits on a Rudolph house. The McCandlish house, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, was created in the late 1950s from an abandoned garage; it is distinguished by exposed steel trusses over 3,500 square feet of living space. The house (featured in Record Houses in 1960; the author described it as a “near miracle”) is listed for $2 million. In Grosse Point, Michigan, a house that from some vantage points resembles a swath of the Orange County Government Center—a with individual rooms projecting out like cantilevered wooden blocks—is listed for $1.8 million. The 1970 house, with 4,500 square feet of living space, offers view of Lake St. Clair and freighters passing in the distance.

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