Iconic Beekman Place building designated

Paul Rudolph House

Five-story apartment building served as a podium for four-story cantilevered addition designed by owner and architect Paul Rudolph. On November 16, 2010, Landmarks designated as an individual City landmark the Paul Rudolph Penthouse and Apartments at 23 Beekman Place in the Turtle Bay section of Manhattan. The original five-story building was built in 1860, but the property became noteworthy after the Modernist architect Paul Rudolph purchased the building and designed and constructed a four-story penthouse addition that cantilevered over the sidewalk. Rudolph, who served as chair of the School of Architecture and Design at Yale University, rented an apartment at 23 Beekman Place in 1961 and then purchased the entire building in 1976, where he remained until his death in 1997. Landmarks calendared the building in October 2009.

Rudolph studied under Bauhaus founder Walter Gropius at Harvard University. A second-generation Modernist, Rudolph rejected the purely functional aesthetic of the International Style, but continued to experiment with space and layering to build formally complex structures using industrial materials. He built his penthouse addition using stucco-clad concrete panels, exposed steel I-beams, and floor-to-ceiling glass panels. The penthouse features four interconnected levels with five open terraces on its rear facade that overlook the East River. While subsequent owners extensively modified the building’s interior, the exterior remains largely unchanged.

At the meeting, Commissioner Fred Bland credited Paul Rudolph with inspiring him to attend Yale and become an architect, and he noted that designating 23 Beekman was an “extraordinary opportunity” for Landmarks. Commissioner Margery Perlmutter also shared memories of studying under Rudolph and remarked on the “theoretical analytical processes” that went into every aspect of the Rudolph’s complex designs. Vice Chair Pablo Vengoechea praised the architecture as the “fun, playful, and exuberant expression of an era” and wondered whether Landmarks would have approved the addition had it been required to come before them. Newly appointed Commissioner Michael Goldblum said that it was important to protect the building because the technology involved in making it was “fragile” and will require effort and commitment to preserve.

LPC: Paul Rudolph Penthouse & Apartments, 233 Beekman Pl., Manhattan (LP-2390) (Nov. 16, 2010).

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