The Drawing Center announces the October 1–November 14, 2010 presentation of Paul Rudolph: Lower Manhattan Expressway, organized in collaboration with The Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture of The Cooper Union. The Lower Manhattan Expressway (LME) was first conceived by “master builder” Robert Moses in the late 1930s as an expressway running across Lower Manhattan. The idea was revisited by architect Paul Rudolph in 1967 when the Ford Foundation commissioned a study of the project. Had it been constructed, this major urban design plan would have transformed New York City’s topography and infrastructure. Approximately 30 full-scale reproductions of drawings, prints, and photographs dated from 1967–1972 will be on public view for the first time in the Houghton Gallery at The Cooper Union. These works from the Paul Rudolph Archive at the Library of Congress will be shown together with a reconstruction of Rudolph’s model of the LME project created by architecture students at The Cooper Union in conjunction with Rawlings Architects PC. Presenting the only records of Rudolph’s visionary proposal, this exhibition will illuminate Rudolph’s unique approach to architectural drawing and highlight the fundamental importance of drawing in his overall practice.
Rudolph’s proposal for the LME consisted of a Y-shaped highway running from the Holland Tunnel to the Williamsburg and Manhattan Bridges, using Broome, Delancey, and Chrystie Streets and the Bowery as the main corridors. The LME was one of the last large-scale urban planning initiatives in New York, building on the concept of the “megastructure,” which gained prominence throughout the 1950s and 60s. Rudolph envisioned an approach to city planning that would conceive of movement throughout a city as the most common shared experience; multi-use transportation networks would be integrated into one design that would replace plazas as the prevailing urban design element. Plans for the LME therefore included not only an underground highway but also elevators and escalators connecting to the subway system, living spaces, a moving walkway, parking lots, and shared public spaces.
Rudolph’s remarkably detailed sketches use single-point perspective, cross-sectional diagramming, and collage to illustrate every detail of the plans, from physical elements such as material and finish to more dynamic variables such as furniture, landscaping, and human activity. Using a trademark large-scale presentation technique, he brought hand-rendered two-dimensional sketches to life with a level of accuracy that has been compared to that of Victorian etchings. The exhibition design will integrate Rudolph’s innovative interior design sensibilities with his conceptualization of space; a selection of work will be presented in a freestanding modular display system that recalls the framework of his famed Lucite chair, designed in 1968. This exhibition is co-curated by Jim Walrod and Ed Rawlings, Principal, Rawlings Architects PC.