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.
"[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.
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 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.