Paul Rudolph’s Legendary Walker Guest House Is Heading to Auction Next Week
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Paul Rudolph’s Legendary Walker Guest House Is Heading to Auction Next Week

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By Duncan Nielsen
Here’s your chance to own a piece of design history—Sotheby’s will auction the Paul Rudolph–designed gem on December 12.

Sotheby’s is set to auction the Walker Guest House—alongside other design masterpieces—and it’s expected to sell for anywhere from $700,000 to $1 million. The home, commissioned by the Walker family in 1952, comes complete with original furnishings designed and selected by Rudolph.

The Guest House was up for grabs earlier this year, when it was bundled with the Walker family’s entire beachfront Florida estate. The one-and-three-quarter-acre plot with a three-bedroom main house asked $6.79 million. The Guest House is now being offered à la carte, and it will be relocated after it is purchased.

Rudolph used red cannonballs as weights to hold the home’s signature wood shutters in place.

The house’s wood shutters protect the building from wind and rain while allowing residents to control how much privacy and light they want.

"[The Walker Guest House] will almost surely leave Sanibel Island, but the trade-off will be knowing that one of the most important designs by one of the 20th century’s most important architects—one that, by its nature, is not specific to its site, and could be set down almost anywhere—will be preserved," says Pulitzer Prize–winning architecture critic Paul Goldberger.

The building’s adaptiveness is a result of Rudolph’s characteristic simplicity. The 576-square-foot wood-and-glass home is essentially an airy, lightweight box that rests gently on a raised platform in the sand.

According to the listing, the cottage was recognized by the AIA Florida chapter as one of the best residential buildings in the state.

The petite, open-plan guesthouse is divided into public and private spaces.

The dining area and the entrance get ample light, thanks to the large windows. 

The rectilinear form improves upon Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House by adding shutters to the floor-to-ceiling windows, granting residents additional privacy. A rigging system with weighted, red cannonballs sets the angle of each wooden panel, allowing for sun-flooded interiors during the daytime—but it can also become a battened-down stronghold in hurricanes or inclement weather.

"Upon visiting the house for the first time, I was immediately struck by the...overwhelming sense of efficiency," says Jodi Pollack, Sotheby’s co-worldwide head of 20th-century design. "It was as if the house was a ‘machine for living,’ entirely adaptable for all occasions." 

The shutters open and close, providing both privacy and shade.

The one bedroom.

The simple kitchen maintains a connection to the outdoors.

The Walkers call it "Cannonball" for the dangling weights that cantilever over exposed beams. More or less an exoskeleton, the framing lead Rudolph to comment that "it crouches like a spider in the sand."

Rudolph designed the home at age 34, and he would later become dean at the Yale School of Architecture. He was an essential force behind the Sarasota Modern regional style of architecture, which gained international attention. "We are honored to play a small role in the preservation of his legacy by offering this innovative structure to design and architecture patrons worldwide in our sale this December," says Pollack on behalf of Sotheby’s.

Walker Guest House floor plan

Walker Guest House drawings

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