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Beneficent House

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1963–1969, Paul Rudolph. 1 Chestnut St.
  • (Photograph by Andrew Hope)

As dean of the School of Architecture at Yale University, Paul Rudolph was influential in the design of large, multiple-unit housing projects during the 1960s. He and others rebelled against the monotony, inflexibility, and impersonality of the elemental building shapes preferred by earlier modernists for apartments and mass housing. Influenced especially by Le Corbusier's emphasis, in his late Unité apartment houses, on defining the unit within the whole, and by current theories on the design of megastructures from discrete increments, Rudolph had pioneered in this approach to housing for married students at Yale and for the elderly in New Haven. Hence the push and pull of form in this commission from the Beneficent Church for a housing project for senior citizens. Horizontal banding in concrete across the brick walls, in a manner sometimes used by Le Corbusier, marks off floor levels and serves, like a musical staff, as a means to organize the architectural elements. This banding also indicates a tentative return to favor of polychromatic walls in the manner of such Victorian examples as the Wilcox Building ( PR20). Disagreements over the cost and convenience of Rudolph's original, more complex scheme led to its simplification. Even as compromised, however, the result is an innovative example of an important late modernist point of view toward housing design—as well as an attractive and comfortable apartment building, with a surprising reticence which encourages one to overlook what deserves notice.

Writing Credits

William H. Jordy et al.


What's Nearby


William H. Jordy et al., "Beneficent House", [Providence, Rhode Island], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Buildings of Rhode Island, William H. Jordy, with Ronald J. Onorato and William McKenzie Woodward. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004, 44-45.

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