Yale Art and Architecture Building
People have typically either loved or hated this elementally expressive building. The Yale president who hired Rudolph, A. Whitney Griswold, said that the building's fractured fin walls gave him a "concrete sore." The building burned in 1969 during the height of student protests at Yale, in a fire the authorities officially pronounced "accidental."
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Later alterations that boarded up windows, filled in soaring spaces, and changed lighting and finishes made the building a shadow of Rudolph's original achievement. Up until his death in 1997, the architect was reluctant to talk about it. When I interviewed him in 1988, 25 years after the building's completion, Rudolph choked back tears when describing how the building and people's reactions to it had affected him.
Reviving the Landmark
The restoration is superb. It fixes many shortcomings of the building, which has been rededicated as Paul Rudolph Hall.
As I walked around the building with Stern, he pointed out new bridges that now link levels within the studios, and carefully designed ramps. The intent throughout the restoration, he explained, was to foster a stronger sense of community within a program of 200 architecture graduate students and 50 undergraduates. (The art school moved out of the building in 2000.)
Rudolph's original design did this through views horizontally and vertically throughout his incredible structure. Later alterations disrupted these views, virtually chopping the building into pieces.
The restoration liberates Rudolph's spaces, allowing them to reconnect visually and acoustically. You can now stand within the volumes and experience students working above, below, and nearby. There is a renewed connection between the studios, which adds to the excitement of Rudolph's multilayer spaces.
Stern told me that when he came to Yale as dean of the architecture school a decade ago, the faithful restoration of Rudolph's building was high on his priority list. He is justifiably proud of the result. As we walked around the building, he would occasionally stop to scribble notes about burned-out light bulbs, or to spruce the place up by pulling weeds from a flower box. At one point he teasingly reprimanded a student for messing up a roof terrace with model shavings.
Much of Gwathmey's restoration and renovation work is either invisible or so well tuned to Rudolph's original vision that it appears to have always been this way. The exterior was cleaned and repaired, replacing patches of the original hammered rib texturing where necessary.
Throughout the architecture building's 37 levels on ten floors, accessibility issues were sensitively addressed, spaces enclosed during interim remodelings were opened, and lighting was restored to appear close to the way Rudolph had intended it, now upgraded with energy-conserving fixtures.
Undersized elevators and restrooms have been relocated and enlarged, bringing the building up to ADA requirements. Rudolph placed the elevator core at the plan's north edge, expecting an addition to someday be built to the north. Gwathmey wisely chose to insert a new elevator core within his own new building to the north, the 87,000-square-foot (8,100-square-meter) Loria Center for the History of Art.
In the A&A Building, mismatched window units from a renovation two decades ago were removed and all new insulated windows were installed. The entire HVAC system was replaced.
At the penthouse, a small space designed as an apartment for visiting professors, but later converted into a cafe, has now been returned to its original use. Most welcome by the art history department is the expanded library on the lower level, which gives the department access to its own collection, now consolidated from a number of locations around the campus.
Measuring Up the Addition
Gwathmey pursued the penetration of vistas, threading perspectives between Rudolph's building and his own. As you move through the Loria Center, you catch well-composed views into the studios, into the library, or of Rudolph's exterior. Loria also captures fantastic prospects up York Street from a faculty meeting room, faculty offices, and large windows in the hallways.
Gwathmey avoided deadly double-loaded corridors in his building, choosing instead to color the circulation spaces with daylight and views. The art history faculty I spoke with commented on how much they enjoyed working in the building and moving through it.
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