Sole resident prevents demolition of Paul Rudolph's brutalist housing
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Shoreline Apartments by Paul Rudolph

Sole resident prevents demolition of Paul Rudolph's brutalist housing in Upstate New York

Demolition of a housing project, designed by late American architect Paul Rudolph in the 1970s, has been blocked in its final stage because a resident has refused to move off the premises.

Long-time resident John Schmidt has refused to move from the Shoreline Apartments, designed by Rudolph as an affordable housing development in Buffalo, New York, despite a series of demolitions over the past two years.

Shoreline Apartments by Paul Rudolph
Photograph by GE Kidder Smith, courtesy Massachusetts Institute of Technology

As of earlier this month, Schmidt was the only one still living in the brutalist complex and has been taken to court after halting local firm Norstar Development's final stage of demolition.

Norstar claims that Schmidt is not safe living there by himself, and hopes to resume the project in the spring.

A little over half of Shoreline's 426 units were occupied when Norstar acquired the site in 2005, with plans to redevelop the complex – located close to the Lake Erie waterfront on Niagara Street.

Shoreline Apartments by Paul Rudolph

The Shoreline Apartments site comprises wave-like, multi-tiered buildings surrounded by sidewalks, grassy areas, and a series of small roundabouts.

Buildings are faced in ribbed, bush-hammered concrete and topped with a collection of pitched roofs, arranged at different heights.

On the upper levels are outdoor porches with half-walls that match the overall exterior. Industrial metal doors demarcate entry points with numbers overhead, leading to interior staircases and hallways.

Shoreline Apartments by Paul Rudolph

In 2006, most of the development was decrepit, and photographs of the site from 2009 show mounds of bricks removed from inside the residences to create more spacious homes.

The north end of Shoreline Apartments was torn down during 2015 and 2016, and replaced with another affordable housing complex — Niagara Square Apartments — which differs in its street-fronting orientation and colonial, red brick construction.

Shoreline Apartments by Paul Rudolph

Rudolph's Shoreline Apartments join a larger list of brutalist buildings to be fully or partially bulldozed in recent years.

In December 2017, demolition started on the Robin Hood Gardens housing by Alison and Peter Smithson in the UK, after a failed listing bid.

However, some examples from the divisive movement have been spared the bulldozer, including Sydney's Sirius building, which was saved by a court ruling last summer.

Shoreline Apartments by Paul Rudolph
Photograph by GE Kidder Smith, courtesy Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Rudolph, who died in 1997, is well-known for his grand concrete buildings, often with intricate floor plans. He has built many projects on the east coast of Florida, including private houses like the Milam Residence, completed in 1961 in Ponte Vedra Beach.

The architect's other recognisable projects include The Lippo Centre's dark glass towers in Hong Kong, and the architecture and art building at Yale University – where he later became the department chair and taught architects Norman Foster, Muzharul Islam, and Richard Rogers.

Photography is by Sean Khorsandi with The Paul Rudolph Foundation, unless noted otherwise.