Important Design

Important Design

View full screen - View 1 of Lot 343. PAUL RUDOLPH | THE WALKER GUEST HOUSE.

Property from the Descendants of Dr. Walter Willard Walker


Auction Closed

December 12, 09:10 PM GMT


700,000 - 1,000,000 USD

Lot Details


Property from the Descendants of Dr. Walter Willard Walker




designed for Dr. Walter Willard Walker, Sanibel, Florida

the interior square plan divided into four quadrants: a living room, a dining room, a bedroom, and a quadrant shared by a kitchen and bathroom

offered together with a set of 5 architectural plans by Paul Rudolph, the original interior furniture designed or selected by Paul Rudolph, and the original kitchen and bathroom fixtures and appliances

painted wood and plywood, glass, mesh metal screens, steel rods, painted cast-iron counterweights, cast metal boat cleats, sailing rope, linoleum flooring, grass cloth ceiling

interior dimensions: 24 feet 6 inches x 24 feet 6 inches (7.5 x 7.5 meters) approximately

outermost exterior dimensions, including outer beams: 40 feet 6 inches x 40 feet 6 inches (12.3 x 12.3 meters) approximately

Additional Information

To request additional information on this lot, please contact the department at

Commissioned directly from the architect by Dr. Walter Willard Walker, Sanibel, Florida, 1952

Thence by descent to the present owners

“Design/Techniques 1953,” Progressive Architecture, January 1953, p. 72

Mary Davis Gillies, “Open to the Outdoors,” McCall’s, July 1954, pp. 36-37

Paul Rudolph, “The Changing Philosophy of Architecture,” Architectural Forum, vol. 101, July 1954, p. 121

Paul Rudolph, “Regionalism and the South” Journal of the AIA, April 1955, p. 179

Paul Rudolph, “Regionalism in Architecture,” Perspecta, vol. 4, 1957, pp. 17-18

John Knox Shear, “Walker Guest House Sanibel Island, Florida," in "Hundred Years of Significant Buildings,” Architectural Record, February 1957, p. 204

Miguel Asencio, Paul Rudolph, Buenos Aires, 1960, pp. 8-10

Paul Rudolph and Sibyl Moholy-Nagy, The Architecture of Paul Rudolph, 1970, pp. 42-43

“Chronological List of Works by Paul Rudolph, 1946-1974,” Architecture & Urbanism, January 1975, p. 150

William Saunders, Modern Architecture—Photographs by Ezra Stoller, New York, 1990, p. 181

Edward Barrnett, ed., Sociomedia: Multimedia, Hypermedia, and the Social Construction of Knowledge, Cambridge, MA, 1992, pp. 4 and 65

John Howey, The Sarasota School of Architecture 1944-1966, Cambridge, MA, 1997, p. 65

Christopher Domin and Joseph King, Paul Rudolph: The Florida Houses, 1st ed., New York, 2002, cover and pp. 131-134, 141, 143, 156-157, 173 and 201

Alexa Griffith, “The Lonely Little Cannonball,” Dwell, March 2004, p. 82

Jan Hochstim and Steven Brooke, Florida Modern: Residential Architecture 1945-1970, New York, 2004, p. 156 

Timothy M. Rohan, “Challenging the Curtain Wall: Paul Rudolph’s Blue Cross and Blue Shield Building,” Journal of Architectural Historians, vol 6. no. 1, March 2007, p. 89

Robert A. M. Stern and Cynthia C. Davidson, Architecture on the Edge of Postmodernism: Collected Essays, 1964-1988, New Haven, 2009, pp. 11-12

Timothy M. Rohan, The Architecture of Paul Rudolph, New Haven, 2014, pp. 28-32 and 202

Miles D. Samson, Hut Pavilion Shrine: Architectural Archetypes in Mid-Century Modernism, Burlington, VT, 2015, p. 200

Terry Teachout, “A ‘Tiny House’ That Predates the Current Craze,” Wall Street Journal, Friday, March 31, 2017

Timothy M. Rohan, ed., Reassessing Rudolph, New Haven, 2017, pp. 170-174

Dominic Bradbury, Atlas of Mid-Century Modern Houses, New York, 2019, p. 172

Additional essays and photographs pertaining to this offering are presented in the dedicated catalogue, Paul Rudolph: The Walker Guest House: An Architectural Icon, available on Please contact Sotheby’s 20th Century Design Department for further information. 

The Walker Guest House is being offered for sale in situ, and the purchaser shall be responsible for relocating it from its current location. Please contact the department for additional conditions of sale applicable to this lot.   

Sotheby’s is honoured to present The Walker Guest House for sale in our Important Design auction on December 12. Designed by acclaimed architect Paul Rudolph, the Guest House was commissioned in 1952 by Dr. Walter W. Walker. Grandson of the Minnesota lumber baron, T.B. Walker, who established the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis for his vast art collections, Walt Walker was a young, Harvard-trained doctor turned investment manager who inherited his grandfather’s enthusiasm for art and connoisseurship. Rudolph, a rising-star in the field of architecture, was in his thirties when Walker commissioned him for the Guest House, which was the architect’s first independent project following his split with the firm of architect Ralph Twitchell. The building is recognized nationally as a treasure of the American mid-century modernist architectural aesthetic, and one of the most significant works within Rudolph’s decades-long career.

Walker’s newly acquired property on Sanibel Island on Florida’s gulf coast offered the setting for the Walker Guest House. In the 1950s, Sanibel was largely undeveloped and accessible only by ferry, yet patron and architect had a shared, modernist vision for location, and Walker fully embraced the radical simplicity of Rudolph’s design concept. The plan of the house is a groundbreaking study in the relationship between interior and exterior space, which defined Rudolph’s body of work. Wood, steel, and glass were employed to create thoughtfully proportioned lines, planes, and volume that shape the inhabitant’s experience of both the indoors and outdoors. Rudolph drew on the island’s architecture of the Caribbean to create the house’s most iconic feature: its adjustable, multi-functional exterior wood panels. Operated through the ingenious use of 77-pound, red-painted cannonball weights sourced locally from Sanibel Island, the panels serve as shutters when closed and form shady canopies when opened, giving the house a changeable and moveable quality. The Walker family and the residents of Sanibel warmly referred to the house as the “Cannonball.” The effect of the panels fulfilled an important requirement for Rudolph who believed people need both “caves” and “goldfish bowls” to live in.

The language that Rudolph used to describe his creations reflected the lush Florida flora and fauna. “It crouches like a spider in the sand” Rudolph stated of his creation, and he called his earliest drawings of the house his “sketches in the sand.” Unlike many other icons of the International style, the Walker Guest House gave the Walker family the ability for both openness and privacy. Famous soon after it was built, the Walker Guest House was voted one of the most important houses of the century, along with Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House and Philip Johnson’s Glass House, by the readers of Architecture Record in 1957. An icon of American modernism, the house is a perfect melding of functionalism and architecture.

A fastidious preservationist, Walt Walker kept the Guest House in pristine original condition while it was enjoyed for decades by the family and their guests. Sotheby’s offering of the house is presented together with the original interior furnishings and architectural plans, and it is available for viewing on location in Sanibel. Beyond its service as a home, the Walker Guest House is a representation of the incredibly important legacy of the Walker family, defined by generations of art patronage, philanthropy, and civic duty. It is Sotheby’s great honour to offer this icon of American modernist architecture at auction.