Wednesday, December 26, 2007

A Brutalist Masterpiece

I had said I was going to make a post illustrating my love for Brutalism, and ironically, this is not the building I was thinking to discuss.  Nonetheless, I'm sort of excited about this post.

Back when I noticed people had really started talking about Paul Rudolph--namely a number of articles in the New York Times about how so many of his buildings are at risk of demolition, and they still are--I decided to Google around and collect a number of images to post on another architecture forum.  I've long admired his work, and in addition to the building here, I also had a friend for a long time from Goshen, NY, where I had the opportunity to pass by his Orange County Government Center (1967) countless times.

--Photo Daniel Case

Of course I'd been to New Haven, as well:

But I was somewhat disturbed to find practically no images--and even fewer good ones--of this building of his.  I grew up very close to it, and have always loved it.  The author of one of the first Times articles I noticed on Rudolph also praised it as being magical, which it truly is.

So Christmas Day, I decided once and for all to go out and get some photographs of it myself.  I reserve all rights to the following images (except where noted), but please do ask me if you want to use any of them; I'm a reasonable sort of guy.  I also have these and a good many more in higher-resolution: again, please do ask if you're interested.  It's a very image-heavy post, so I hope it doesn't screw up anyone's bandwidth.

Anyhow, it was originally built for Endo Pharmaceuticals and completed in 1964.  The address is in Garden City, but it actually falls closer to Uniondale than Garden City proper, by the border of Eisenhower Park.  It went on the market several years ago, and it's now corporate headquarters for Lifetime Brands, which develops kitchen products for companies like Cuisinart, KitchenAid, and Calvin Klein.

I don't have floor-plans, of course, but Google Maps is a wondrous thing.  Here's the satellite image so you can see the footprint:

Inside that stretch of curving glass is the most incredible front lobby:

Right smack on the front facade, completely visible from Stewart Avenue, is this big cluster of pipes:
Considering, for one, that Rudolph liked exposing certain mechanical/ structural elements as a stylistic maneuver, and also that they would have been so easy to conceal leads me to believe they were exposed on purpose, and I'll admit I find them oddly beautiful.

From the front, there's this wonderful landscape created by rooftop gardens connected by all these meandering, shallow staircase ramps.

Inside that structure on the right is what appears to be a sort of conference room/ entertainment space for special events opening onto a little rock garden in the foreground.  This little terrace also had a number of shiny aluminum ventilation shafts sticking up in the middle as if meant to be a decorative element.

On the level below the rock garden is a much larger terrace.  This level has been completely laid with thick Astroturf.  Not quite as nice as it might be with real grass, but I suppose that would be a maintenance nightmare.

Those are loading docks, and above them, a pair of giant, hollow concrete cylinders the only function of which would appear to be cosmetic.  Looking up through them:
My first thought was that the top of it was a small terrace, but it would be too shallow (with no bannister), and I also couldn't see that there was any doorway there, just windows.

The southeast stair tower.  I loved his use of glass block here:
Beautiful how the sun shone through the glass block.  It's a robust structural material that seems to disintegrate, such a delightful counterpoint to the massive concrete towers.

The rear facade, with a no doubt more heavily trafficked entrance from the parking lot:

The southwest tower:

There were these drain-spouts all around the building:
There was really nothing for the water to spill into except the lawn itself, probably a nightmare for the groundskeepers; a very Corbusian treatment, though.

I'm in awe of the west facade.
Brutalism in general has this quality of an ancient Scottish fortress, so powerful and imposing (what I love so much about it), but there's something very much like a classical colonnade to this, as well.

Endo Pharmaceutical Building (1964), Paul Rudolph

©2007, Ryan Witte


kelviin said...


Your photos of the Endo Labs in Garden City are amazing! Are you a member of flickr? I run a group about Paul Rudolph called the Art & Architecture of Paul Rudolph, and you can find it at We've got 130 members and currently 2,356 images of his buildings - we'd love to include your photos too! -kelviin

Ryan Witte said...

Thanks so much for saying so.

Just tell me how to load them up...


Anonymous said...

As an architect, Paul Rudolph was a one trick pony, and that trick was plagiarized from Le Corbusier.

Ryan Witte said...

Anonymous, whether you're right or wrong is beside the point. But if you're going to make such a sweeping statement, dismissing the man's entire career, you're really going to have to back it up with further explanation and some good evidence.

Ryan Witte said...

I'll also add that pretty much every architect, great or small, working after about 1930 owes at least something to Le Corbusier, as much as to Mies. That doesn't negate the value of their contributions in the slightest.