Paul Rudolph’s Walker Guest House Is Up For Auction

A nearly exact, partially furnished, demountable replica of the Walker Guest House will be sold in situ in Palm Springs, California in conjunction with Palm Springs Modernism Week in Heritage Auctions’ Online Design Auction, closing Feb. 25.

The Sarasota Architectural Foundation (SAF) commissioned this example of Paul Rudolph’s Walker Guest House (also known as “Cannonball House”) in response to the destruction of several structures designed by the architect. Originally built in 1952 in Sanibel, Florida, the present example was constructed from the original Rudolph plans, and initially installed on the grounds of The John & Mable Ringling Museum of Art where it was open for tours from 2015 to 2017. Countless visitors have toured the interior and exterior of the 576-square-foot house to learn about Rudolph and discover the principles of the Sarasota School of Architecture movement. The structure was thoughtfully constructed with the intention to be portable, and in 2018, it was reinstalled in Palm Springs, where it was a feature of “Modernism Week,” the city’s biannual festival celebrating mid-century modern architecture and design.

“The SAF, whose mission is to educate about, advocate for and celebrate Sarasota’s mid-century modern heritage, undertook this project as an educational initiative,” SAF Chairman Dr. Christopher Wilson, Ph.D., said. “Recognizing that a majority of Sarasota School structures are private residences not normally accessible to the public, the SAF wanted to expose the forward-thinking principles of the ‘Sarasota School’ to a wider audience by constructing and exhibiting this replica.”

The Walker Guest House was Rudolph’s first design executed independently and is considered among his most significant projects. Rudolph built numerous other influential residential buildings in the Sarasota, Florida region, including his so-called Umbrella House (1953) and Cocoon House (1950), designed with Ralph Twitchell. In 1997, Rudolph donated much of his archive to the Library of Congress, which helped establish the Library’s Center for Architecture, Design, and Engineering. By ensuring that his work was publicly accessible, he acted to see that his work could be preserved even if the original structures were not.”

The 24-by-24-foot structure features full-height, floor-to-ceiling glass walls and movable flaps that act as sunshades when raised and provide privacy when lowered. The flaps are controlled through the use of bright red counterweights on a rope rigging system, a process Rudolph learned during his time serving in the U.S. Navy. The cast weights resemble painted cannonballs, earning the structure the “Cannonball House” moniker. It will be offered at auction furnished with faithful reproductions of the original furniture Rudolph designed for the house, and will be on display during Palm Springs Modernism Week this February. The bidding will start at $10,000 – the same amount as the original 1950s budget.

The Walker Guest House replica will be a highlight of Heritage Auctions’ February Design auction, which will include a diverse selection of modern and contemporary furniture, ceramics, glass and objects.

Photography by Anton Grassl, Esto, courtesy Sarasota Architectural Foundation.

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