Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Paul Rudolph and the Wallace House

Watching the coverage of last week's devastating tornadoes has been very difficult. To see the destruction and suffering that the storms left behind is absolutely heart-wrenching. One area that was hard hit was that around Athens, Alabama, a small city located in the northern part of the state. For a while now, I had been planning to write a post about a house located in Athens, one that was designed in the 1960s by the late architect Paul Rudolph. The house, striking in its resemblance to a modern Greek temple, seemed unusual for a region known more for its more traditional architecture.

I debated about whether I should publish this post in light of what happened in Alabama and throughout the South. Discussing architecture might seem a little callous under the circumstances. But if you think about it, a post on a Southern house is important right now. Some Southerners might prefer traditional houses while others favor contemporary, but what almost all Southerners have in common is our love of home, that cherished place where we spend time with family and friends laughing, celebrating, eating, and often reminiscing about the good old days. For many people right now, the days are not good and won't be for some time. Perhaps if we do our part- in a big or small way- these people will once again have places to call home.

Click here to see a list of charitable organizations that are providing relief for the victims of the tornadoes.

About the house:

When I first learned about the Wallace House in Athens, I thought it odd that Paul Rudolph, former chairman of Yale's School of Architecture and architect of such noted modernist houses as the legendary townhouse of Halston, would have been called upon to design a house situated amongst the Loblolly pines of Alabama. It makes sense, though, seeing that Rudolph spent his childhood years there. It was during his high-school years in Athens that he met Frances Garth Wallace who, with her husband John, later commissioned this house in the early 1960s.

The house's architecture is based on Greek Revival architecture (so prevalent throughout the South), though Rudolph later compared it to Corbusier's Villa Savoye. Noted for its double row of 32 simple columns (faced in brick, no less, and built more for decorative purposes), the U shaped house has a central courtyard that is flanked by an open porch on its fourth side. Because Rudolph was raised in the South and was familiar with the oppressive summertime heat, he chose to paint everything white so as to reflect sunlight. It's open to the outdoors, yet it also provides sheltered spaces to escape the heat.

All photos from House & Garden, April 1966.


  1. There's something so iconic and larger than life about this house. It seems like it could have been something Howard Roark envisioned!

  2. Q- I agree. It's so striking, especially when you consider the location.

  3. Maurice Williams11:25 AM

    What a jewel of a house by Rudolph! I was unaware of it.
    Has it survived unaltered? Thank you for sharing and your kind timely comments about the nature of southerners and home.

  4. What a stunning home and I thought your comments spot on as well. Yes, if it is possible, I would also like to know if the house survived intact.

    Sending my best to all of those afflicted in the South,

  5. I think it's OK to discuss architecture in tough times. That's when we need inspiration and gorgeous imagery the most!

  6. Thank you for your comments-in hard times we southerns rally! Beautiful architecture. xxpeggybraswelldesign.com

  7. wow! thanks for posting this- it is incredible! who knew? (well, obviously *you* did).

  8. Indeed it is absolutely Stunning!

  9. Love the post about Paul Rudolph. I've long been a huge fan, as my husband is from Sarasota, FL, where he got his start and really made a name for himself. Check out his Sarasota Modern work here:

    Including this super famous house:

    He was way ahead of the curve in terms of taking advantage of the natural surroundings and environment.

  10. Magnificent in all angles!

  11. These architectural photos are simply incredible.

  12. March 22, 2013 update. The Wallace House is fully intact and still in use by Mrs. Wallace. Little known fact is that there is a second Paul Rudolph house 400 feet from the Wallace House - the Martin House built in 1957. The Wallace House, commissioned in 1961, followed the Martin House. Both homes are outstanding.

    1. Carl- Many thanks for giving us an update. I am not familiar with the Martin House but plan to Google it shortly. Hopefully there are photos somewhere on the internet!