November 22, 2019

Sotheby’s Puts Paul Rudolph’s Walker Guest House On The Market

The interior of the Walker Guest House emits a soft glow at dusk. Photography courtesy of Sotheby’s. 

Sotheby’s announced today that Paul Rudolph’s iconic 1952 Walker Guest House, which “crouches like a spider in the sand” (to employ his words), will be featured in its biannual New York auction of Important Design December 12. The house, estimated to sell for $700,000 to $1 million, includes original furnishings, most of which were designed or selected by the renowned architect, whose legacy includes the Yale Art and Architecture Building. 

The Walker Guest House is a project of modest scale, yet sweeping innovation. The waterfront beach cottage built in Sanibel Island, Florida, and commissioned by Dr. Walter Willard Walker in 1952, marks Rudolph’s first solo project after his split from the firm of architect Ralph Twitchell. It was a pivotal debut, ushering in an era of international acclaim and an appointment as Dean of the Yale School of Architecture in 1958.

The Walker Guest House’s airy structure utilizes wood, steel, and glass to create a minimalistic, cube-like dwelling with proportioned lines and planes. The home also features floor-to-ceiling windows, flooding its interiors with natural light and expansive views. Now a landmark of 20th century design, the 576-square-foot space will be sold separately from the Sanibel Island property, and relocated upon purchase. “If the Walker Guest House could not be preserved in situ, the next best thing, [the Walker family] decided, would be to sell it to someone who would give it a new life somewhere else,” Paul Goldberger, Pulitzer Prize-winning architectural critic, notes in a statement. 

Original furnishings are included in the sale of the house. Photography © EZRA STOLLER/ESTO. 

The house, which currently resides on a 24-by-24-foot platform, is designed to meld with its surroundings, whatever those may be, making for a seamless relocation. Importantly, its most iconic feature—privacy shades controlled by a cannonball pulley system—remains well preserved as a testament to Rudolph’s creative use of adaptable design. The structure’s adjustable exterior wood panels function as shutters when closed and shady canopies when opened through use of the pulley system, anchored by 77-pound red cannonball weights. 

“It is a great privilege to present the Walker Guest House in our Important Design sale this December, which represents one of the most important surviving examples of modern American architecture, as well as one of the greatest creations of Paul Rudolph’s early career,” says Jodi Pollack, Sotheby’s Co-Worldwide Head of 20th Century Design. “This remarkable structure is entirely uniquefrom its signature red cannonball pulley system, to the delicate balance of openness and privacy.” 

Rudolph devised an innovative means of creating privacy using these iconic cannonballs, sourced from Sanibel Island. Photography © EZRA STOLLER/ESTO. 

The Walker Guest House received critical acclaim upon its completion. A few years later, in 1957, Architectural Record recognized the space as one of the most important glass houses of the century alongside Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House and Philip Johnson’s Glass House. 

Design Week at Sotheby’s kicks off December 7 in New York.

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