The Modulightor Building

In midtown Manhattan, where the urban landscape is rapidly densifying with ever-more luxury high rises, a narrow, 20-foot-wide lot on East 58th Street houses a slice of preserved, late-modernist spatial artistry. Nestled snugly between neighbourhood retail shops and traditional brick row houses, the white-painted steel-and-glass Modulightor Building was architect Paul Rudolph’s final creation before his death in 1997. A facade of intricately interlocking squares and rectangles steps up six storeys, the detailed geometry conveying something of the complex assemblage of interior spaces found within.

The Modulightor Building

Originally designed as a seven-storey residence-slash-showroom space for Modulightor, the lighting company Rudolph founded with his longtime collaborator Ernst Wagner in 1976 and that still operates today, the project was completed as a four-level structure in 1989. Between 2007-2015, the fifth and sixth floors were added by a former Rudolph employee working from the architect’s early sketches. Today, the geometrically ornamented building houses Modulightor’s storefront and basement-level fabrication centre, along with the Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation and a series of duplexes, one of which is still occupied by Wagner. “As the building and I have grown together, I feel like it is my ‘outer skin’,” says Wagner, who has lived in the building since 2000. “At the same time, it’s like a piece of art that I see with different eyes each time I behold it.”

The Modulightor Building

For Wagner, the Modulightor Building embodies his friend and colleague’s cerebral design philosophy, which was rooted in psychology and found expression in spatial articulation. “The layered spaces are orchestrated to give an ever-changing view of the structure,” says Wagner. “In a way, it is like walking on the narrow, winding medieval streets of an old European city into an open palazzo, and suddenly seeing a soaring Gothic cathedral.”

The Modulightor Building

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Via / Cereal Magazine

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