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Lessons from Bernard Rudofsky
At the Getty Research Institute, the Getty Center, March 11-June 8, 2008

September 24, 2007

LOS ANGELES—Lessons from Bernard Rudofsky at the Getty Research Institute, the Getty Center, March 11–June 8, 2008, highlights the pioneering work of the well-known architect, artist, exhibition curator and designer, critic, and fashion designer, Bernard Rudofsky.

Drawn heavily from the Rudofsky archive of the Research Library at the Getty Research Institute (GRI), the presentation includes a diverse array of watercolors, drawings, prints, architectural models, travel notebooks, photographs, video displays, sculptures, fabrics, and footwear—all of which illustrate Rudofsky’s innovative concepts about architecture and fashion, as well as people’s habits of eating, bathing, and even sleeping.

Rudofsky’s (American, 1905–1988, born in Austria) entire oeuvre was influenced by his lifelong interest in people's concepts about the body. Following years of global travel, Rudofsky concluded that people in Western society had lost their spontaneity and innate ability to design houses, clothing, and shoes that liberated, rather than restricted, the body.  He believed this cultural inertia had profoundly negative sociological and physical consequences.  As a result, he devoted his life to exposing the West to foreign architectural paradigms, unfamiliar customs, and evolving attitudes about the body and fashion.  

“Today’s body-conscious, fashion-driven society makes this an ideal moment in which to reintroduce Rudofsky’s provocative and relevant ideas,” says Wim de Wit, the GRI’s head of special collections and curator of architectural collections.

As well known for his controversial exhibitions and publications as he is for the design of the popular Bernardo sandals in the 1950s and 1960s, Rudofsky authored nine books and more than 100 articles on these subjects. The most famous of these is Architecture Without Architects, the landmark book and exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York (1964), which toured for 11 years and was presented in more than 80 venues around the world.  Architecture Without Architects challenged conventional notions of architecture and dwelling through its study of vernacular building technologies and alternative ways of living.

As an architect, Rudofsky employed a modernist vocabulary – with its characteristic white, undecorated, cubic shapes in concrete and glass – yet at the same time he was an outspoken critic of modern architecture. He rejected the notion of universal or standardized concepts of dwelling and instead promoted the idea that an individual’s built environment should reflect the history, culture, and climate of his or her immediate surroundings. Architecture, for Rudofsky, was “not just a matter of technology and aesthetics but the frame for a way of life – and with luck, an intelligentway of life.”

Lessons from Bernard Rudofsky spans Rudofsky’s entire career, including his roots in the early years of European modernism; his world travels, which shaped his views as a designer and critic; and his influence as a curator and writer on international discourse on architecture, fashion, and design.

Co-organized by the GRI and the Architekturzentrum Wien, the exhibition premiered at the Architekturzentrum Wien in spring 2007 and traveled to the Canadian Centre for Architecture before opening at the Getty in spring 2008.

The exhibition is co-curated by Monika Platzer, Curator, Archive/Collection at the Architekturzentrum Wien, and Wim de Wit, Head of Special Collections and Visual Resources and Curator of Architectural Collections at the Getty Research Institute.


The exhibition is accompanied by a 296-page catalogue with contributions by Andrea Bocco-Guarneri, Monika Platzer, Felicity D. Scott, Wim de Wit, Maria Welzig, and includes forewords by Thomas Crow, Director of the Getty Research Institute; Architekturzentrum Wien Director Dietmar Steiner; and CCA Director Mirko Zardini. A selection of Rudofsky’s visual and text contributions to Domus are also reproduced and translated. Published by the Architekturzentrum Wien in association with the Getty Research Institute in both English and German editions, Lessons from Bernard Rudofsky is lavishly illustrated with over 200 black and white and color images including full-page reproductions of Rudofsky’s photographs.

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Beth Brett
Getty Communications

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