On December 10, 2006, the Yale University Art Gallery, designed by Louis Kahn, will reopen after a $44 million restoration/ renovation. Completed in 1953, the building is considered Kahn's first major work of architecture. Just across the street, to the south, it faces his last building, the Yale British Art Center, which he did not live to see completed.
The renovation/ restoration of the Yale University Art Gallery brings the building back to Kahn's original vision, which over the past 50 years had suffered from numerous alterations to accommodate changes in exhibiting art. Partitions had been installed that compromised the open space that Kahn created under an elegant concrete tetrahedron waffle slab — said to have been inspired by Kahn's exposure to the work of R. Buckminster Fuller.
The architect for the renovation, Polshek Partnership Architects, stripped away years of various additions and alterations that clouded the interior's great expanse of space. When it opens next month, the Yale University Art Gallery will be closer to Kahn's original vision than at any time since its completion.
The most dramatic change on the exterior is the design and installation of a new curtain wall on the west elevation. The steel and glass facade was for a long time a source of problems, as the seals on the glass cracked and the units became cloudy with condensation. As designed by Kahn's office, the steel curtain wall had no thermal insulation — steel sections allowed below-freezing temperatures to move from outside to inside, where moist air on the inside condensed, causing the metal to rust. A new curtain wall has been designed that replicates the profile of Kahn's original but insulates the steel. The curtain wall's new insulating glass gives the museum a fresh, clean, transparent appearance, as Kahn had wanted.
On the road in New Haven, Connecticut
Michael J. Crosbie