Only two blocks long, Beekman Place is a street easily missed, but the view of the vistas of the East River high from its bluff overlooking the FDR Drive below is alone worth the visit. Originally the site of the Mount Pleasant, the Beekman family mansion, it was the home to the British army during the Revolutionary War and also where the hero Nathan Hale spent his last night in captivity before he was hanged for espionage.

The mansion is long gone, torn down in 1874, but located in the middle of its length sits another architectural curiosity of significance, Paul Rudolph’s penthouse at 23 Beekman Place.

Rudolph, Dean of the Yale School of Architecture from 1958 to 1964, bought the penthouse apartment in the late '70s for use as both a home and laboratory where he could experiment with materials and form. Often associated with the heavier Brutalist style (see the Yale School of Art and Architecture or the Tracey Towers off the Mosholu Parkway in the Bronx), Rudolph’s design for his own penthouse apartment is a lighter exploration of nested open cubes made of steel, glass, mirror, Mylar and Formica.

Through the years he would continue to rework the interiors, moving walls, changing materials, adjusting the paths of circulation and light through the space. What remained constant was the flux, as movement was the chief principle Rudolph explored. Following his death the architecture firm of Della Valle Bernheimer took another pass at a contemporary, if not controversial, extrapolation of these explorations with contemporary materials.

But now all that change is fixed in time: on November 16, 2010, thirteen years after his death, New York’s Landmarks Preservation Commission added this three story penthouse to its list of city landmarks.
Tags: look-up, new-york, architecture, beekman-place
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