Own a Paul Rudolph – Sort of

John Hill
30. January 2020
Photo: Anton Grassl, Esto, courtesy Sarasota Architectural Foundation

A full-scale replica of the Walker Guest House, originally built in 1952 on Sanibel Island, Florida, is on display in Palm Springs, California, where it will be sold in situ in an online auction coinciding with Palm Springs Modernism Week in mid-February.

The replica was commissioned by the Sarasota Architecture Foundation (SAF) and was previously open for tours from 2015 to 2017 when it was installed on the grounds of the Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota. SAF used the original plans and built it to call attention to the destruction of numerous buildings (including Riverview High School) designed by Paul Rudolph, who worked in Sarasota in the 1950s before moving his practice to New York City. 

The Walker Guest House was one of a few experimental projects Rudolph designed in Florida in that time, also including the Healy House, the Hook House, and the Umbrella House. The guesthouse for Dr. Walter Walker from Minneapolis (he was part of the family that founded the Walker Art Center) was designed as a glass pavilion framed in wood and wrapped in a grid supporting operable hurricane shutters (Rudolph called them "flaps").

The red weights resembling cannonballs earned the house the nickname "Cannonball House." The house was appreciated so much in its time that a 1957 survey of readers of Architectural Record listed it alongside Mies van der Rohe's Farnsworth House and Philip Johnson's Glass House as one of the most important houses of the 20th century.

Photo: Anton Grassl, Esto, courtesy Sarasota Architectural Foundation

SAF's replica of the 576-square-foot house was built to be portable and therefore was easily moved to Palm Springs in 2018. Therefore, whoever bids highest for the building shouldn't have a hard time moving it. Most likely the cost of doing so will far exceed the opening bid of $10,000 -- what happens to be the budget of the 1952 original.

Heritage Auctions is holding the online auction that closes February 25. Visitors to Palm Springs Modernism Week will be able to tour the house, where it will be outfitted with furnishings contemporary to the original.

Photo: Anton Grassl, Esto, courtesy Sarasota Architectural Foundation

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