Page C1.2 . 02 March 2005                     
ArchitectureWeek - Culture Department
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  • Yale Center for British Art
  • Salvador Dalí — Architect

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    Yale Center for British Art


    In The Art Museums of Louis I. Kahn, Patricia Cummings Loud wrote: "The building's discreet, grey, monotone exterior of mat steel and reflective glass and its clearly read concrete frame confer a certain noble, armored mien appropriate to its purpose. If a building can be personified as possessing a powerful physicality and musculature, those are the words for the Yale Center for British Art."

    Loud continues: "Inside the building the visitor experiences the same clarity and organization seen on the exterior. Without the plan being fully revealed upon entry, the entrance court immediately establishes a sense of logical orientation, and the second-floor library court continues this interior organization so that the visitor intuitively feels familiar with the plan and can find his way around the galleries through reference to the courts."

    Travertine flooring, Belgian linen wall coverings, white oak woodwork, stainless steel panels and ducts, and exposed concrete structural elements make up the palette of materials. These are washed in daylight, which Kahn believed was essential for appreciation of art.

    Skylights provide illumination for the top-floor galleries; angled louvers and baffles in the truncated, pyramidal, concrete coffers block north light and screen ultraviolet rays, admitting larger quantities of light when the sun is low than when it is higher in the sky.

    In American Architecture: Ideas and Ideologies in the Late Twentieth Century, Paul Heyer wrote: "The exposed concrete structure with oak-paneled inserts has led to a warmer, more sedate feeling, appropriate to the art displayed. As Kahn asked himself questions about light to the interior, he made openings in planes; as he broached questions of exhibit, he devised systems to place planes in space."

    When the building received an AIA Honor Award in 1978, the jury noted, "A quiet feeling of delight grows within you with the discovery of each new space, and the manner in which the whole is subtly revealed has an ever-surprising complexity."

    Kahn's Salk Institute for Biological Studies, La Jolla, California; the Kimbell Art Museum in Ft. Worth, Texas; the Yale University Art Gallery, also in New Haven; and the Phillips Exeter Library, Exeter, New Hampshire, have all been honored by the AIA with their Twenty-five year Award.

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    ArchWeek Image

    East facade of the Yale Center for British Art by Louis I. Kahn.
    Photo: Norman McGrath

    ArchWeek Image

    Entrance court, Yale Center for British Art.
    Photo: Richard Caspole

    ArchWeek Image

    Above the library court: oak paneling and concrete coffers.
    Photo: Richard Caspole

    ArchWeek Image

    A fourth-floor gallery, indirectly daylit via an unglazed window to the atrium.
    Photo: Richard Caspole


    Click on thumbnail images
    to view full-size pictures.

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