Paul Rudolph's Christian Science Building

The Concrete Facade of a Forgotten Brutalist Masterpiece

Overview

Authors

Photo of Scott Murray

Scott Murray

Associate Professor

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

scmurray@illinois.edu


Keywords


Abstract

This paper presents new historical research on the concrete facade of an important but relatively unknown and now demolished building by the American modernist architect Paul Rudolph (1918-1997). Today Rudolph is best known as a proponent of Brutalism and for designing a series of projects built of concrete in the 1960s, exemplified by the Yale Art & Architecture Building (1963). Closely related in materiality and form to the famous Yale building was Rudolph’s design for the Christian Science Building (1965) in Champaign, Illinois, a smaller and lesser known but still remarkable concrete building. However, in contrast to the Yale building, which was recently carefully restored and renamed as “Rudolph Hall” to honor its architect, the Christian Science Building was demolished in 1986 after only 20 years of use. One of the factors cited for the building’s abandonment was the poor performance of its concrete facades. Archival drawings reveal that during the design process Rudolph initially proposed using custom CMU blocks to form cavity walls with continuous insulation. However, due to cost concerns cited by the builder, the walls were instead constructed of monolithic cast-in-place concrete with no added thermal insulation. This decision had significant impacts on the subsequent energy performance of the envelope; eventually the cost of heating and maintaining the building was cited as a major reason for its abandonment and demolition. This research reveals the potentially significant impact that facade construction techniques may have on the future preservation or destruction of twentieth-century modernist architecture.

Introduction

In the 1960s, Paul Rudolph was among the most prominent and prolific of American architects. Robert A.M. Stern described Rudolph as “the greatest talent of his generation of American architects”

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Background

Built in 1965 on a corner lot on the campus of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the two-story Christian Science Building contained spaces for religious services, study, and meetings

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Method

In order to examine the role that the concrete facades of the Christian Science Building played in its ultimate destruction, two primary sources were consulted: (1) an extensive interview of

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Conclusion

It is clear that Rudolph’s original intent to use an insulated cavity wall would have provided more robust thermal insulation than the as-built cast-in-place wall. Would such a difference have

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Rights and Permissions

2015 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC). International Code Council, 2014.

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Futagawa, Yukio, ed. Paul Rudolph: Architectural Drawings. Architectural Book Publishing, 1972.

Miller, Nory. “Rudolph’s Rich Molding of Space.” Inland Architect 17:9 (1973): 18-19.

Moe, Kiel. Insulating Modernism: Isolated and Non-Isolated Thermodynamics in Architecture. Birkhauser, 2014.

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Soo, Lydia M., and Robert Ousterhout. “Has Functionalism Triumphed? The Destruction of Paul Rudolph’s Christian Science Building.” Reflections 4:1 (Fall 1986): 40-45.