The most popular architectural form for expressing twentieth-century modernist principles was the house. Its relatively small scale and standard program allowed and even inspired architects to experiment with architectural components such as material and spatial articulation, even while retaining the original function as shelter.
Paul Rudolph's exploration of the house began when he was a student at Harvard University's Graduate School of Design. Following the teaching of Walter Gropius, Rudolph followed the formal and structural principles of the International Style, which included clarity, a strict adherence to function, and an unambiguous expression of individual parts. These guiding principles are instrumental in his design of the Finney Guest House, an unbuilt project in South Florida. He began studies for the house in 1947, while he was still a student, then continuued to work on it until around 1949. In this impeccably rendered drawing, Rudolph clearly communicates not only his design ideas for the guest house but also the reason for the drawing itself, which is "always to inform the act of building". Choosing wood and glass as his primary material palette, Rudolph carefully arranges rectangular roof and floor planes into a spatial composition suspended above the water and surrounding landscape. The glazed walls, penetrated by indirect and filtered light, would almost allow one to feel that one was in the landscape rather than indoors, a quality in which they recall other glass houses designed several years earlier by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Philip Johnson.
Rudolph later came to find International Style dicta wanting, feeling that they did not fully consider the psychological aspect of space—how individuals use and inhabit it. The function of a space, he would argue, varies with each person, so that his buildings became "perpetual statements on the nature of architecture"—for him, “a continuing, ever-integrating, altering, deepening enigma.”
Publication excerpt from Matilda McQuaid, ed., Envisioning Architecture: Drawings from The Museum of Modern Art, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2002, p. 100.