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BUILDING A DAY: October 25, 2014

Walker Guest House
Sanibel Island, Florida

Architect: Paul Rudolph
Photos: Library of Congress and University of Florida Digital Collections, George A. Smathers Libraries

The Walker Guest House is one of those rare buildings that we perceive as an original creation in Architecture, and yet at the same time it seems an obvious functional solution to a design problem, in this case a beach house in Florida.

Indeed, Walt Walker and his wife spent twenty winters living in the guest house on Sanibel (away from Minneapolis snow) before building a main house. Walker said it worked perfectly for them.
The clarity of Rudolph’s design is based on rigorous geometry and proportion. With its triple bay system repeated on all four sides of the 24’x24’ square, the four square internal spatial organization, and the rhythm of the two flaps plus one fixed glass bay, Rudolph created a uniquely idealized form.

With his contemporaries, Rudolph was looking at ancient and Renaissance ideas of proportion and monumentality at this time. If the Walker Guest House is related to Rudolph’s analysis of Bramante’s Tempietto in Rome, then Mies’ Farnsworth house and Johnson’s Glass House similarly share an inspiration in translating temple forms to the modern world.

The thin, attenuated structure of Rudolph’s building (all executed in light wood frame) serves to emphasize space as the primary component of the building. It also makes clear the structure’s light touch on the land, and Rudolph referred to it as ?a spider crouched in the sand.?

With operable flaps and a system of pulleys, cleats and counterweights, Rudolph created a means for ongoing manipulation, or fine-tuning of space. This device is connected to Sigfried Giedion’s modern concepts of the interrelationships of space, time, and form. Depending on the client’s desires, with the simple pull of a rope the perimeter of the building could become a sheltering porch, or a bright sunny space, or the inside could become a private and enclosed room.

Note to readers: A 360° view of the model of the Walker Guest House can be viewed at: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00095122/00001

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