You don't have to be an architecture geek to admire the work of Paul Rudolph, and, thanks to this exhibit at the Sheldon Art Galleries, you don't have to time-travel back to mid-century Florida, either. Scale models (meticulously crafted by Washington University architecture students), schematic drawings and extensive written descriptions trace the design process, giving the show the air of an art-history lecture, but without the subsequent snores. This is wholly due to the subject: Built from the late 1940s through the '50s along the Gulf Coast, Rudoloph's Florida houses are complex structural pilings of modular motifs whose ultimate effect is cool, idyllic simplicity. This contradictory impression seems to be part of their magic; contemporaneous photographs by Ezra Stoller emphasize how the spaces were designed to deflect and diffuse the region's intense sunlight, making use of crosshatched and mildly undulating "skins" hung over pool areas and patios and preserving the shade-providing capacity furnished by old-growth trees. (When given the opportunity, Rudolph would build around a tree, bringing the natural element right into the house.) Large, unobstructed stretches of window convey a minimalist sensibility without becoming antiseptic or too futuristic for habitability. Peering through the minuscule windows of the models lays bare the structures' uncluttered intricacy and, as a bonus, throws in the ageless pleasure of marveling at a really cool Lego project. Through September 1 at the Sheldon Art Galleries, 3648 Washington Boulevard; 314-533-9900 or www .sheldonconcerthall.org. Hours: noon-8 p.m. Tue., noon-5 p.m. Wed.-Fri., 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Sat.
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