Since it was built in 1963, Paul Rudolph’s Art & Architecture Building has survived a fire, undergone dramatic renovations and been derided by critics for embodying everything that was wrong with modernism.
But the building, which was officially renamed Paul Rudolph Hall today, has been restored to its original design and expanded to create a comprehensive new arts complex that includes the Jeffrey H. Loria Center for the History of Art and the Robert B. Haas Family Library. Now that the restorations of the building are complete, today marks the beginning of two days of celebratory events — including building tours, two new art exhibitions, and lectures and panels on Rudolph’s career — culminating in a ribbon-cutting dedication ceremony.
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Three years ago, Yale commissioned Rudolph’s former student and lifelong friend Charles Gwathmey ARC ’62 of Gwathmey Siegel & Associates Architects to design the restoration and expansion with a budget of $130 million.
Acclaimed as one of the greatest monuments of modernist architecture, Rudolph Hall was built in the brutalist style, a term coined in the 1950s after the material used — “béton brut,” or raw concrete. It comprises 37 levels on eight floors. The newly built Loria Center is attached to the north wall of Rudolph Hall, while the Haas Library straddles the two buildings.
Rudolph, a former dean of the School of Architecture, was acutely sensitive to the dialogue between his building and the Yale Campus, said Robert A.M. Stern ARC ’65, the school’s current dean.
“Rudolph was an urbanist concerned with the fabric of cities,” he said. “His building adjusts its position to the way Chapel Street veers off the grid. The façade embraces the blunt west wall of Louis Kahn’s art gallery. The varied skyline suggests the towers of Yale.”
He added that the location of the building — envisioned as an intersection between town and gown and where the city opens out into the countryside — was strategic.
When Stern persuaded University President Richard Levin to undertake the restoration project, the building had no air conditioning, bad heating and no infrastructure for accommodating the disabled. It also looked haggard and aggressive, Stern said, because of previous renovations that compromised its appearance.
Now, after Gwathmey’s three-year restoration funded by gifts from Jeffrey Loria ’62 and Sid Bass ’65, these functional and aesthetic problems have been addressed. Environmental efficiency — one of Levin’s priorities — has also been incorporated.
Incandescent light bulbs that gave off a lot of heat, for example, were replaced by halogen bulbs that last 1,000 hours without emitting any heat. All lights are placed in the perimeter as Rudolph intended so that the flat white ceiling is unencumbered.
The restoration also brought back the huge glass panes that were part of Rudolph’s original design. The panes used in the restoration are the largest insulated glass panes in America; a new glass press was made specially for this purpose, Gwathmey said. The new panes, though, unlike those Rudolph used, are composed of high-performance energy-efficient glass that does not reflect the light, making the inside of the building clearly viewable from the outside.
“Rudolph wanted the building to be both like a goldfish bowl and a cave,” said Stern, explaining how Rudolph reduced the distinction between the interior and the exterior through the use of glass while retaining private space through castle-like architecture.
While the restoration proved successful, constructing an addition to Rudolph’s building — the Loria Center — was a difficult task, architecture critic Paul Goldberger ’72 said.
“Rudolph’s building is a powerful work of art that stands on its own,” he said. “It is difficult to use and aesthetically challenging to add to.”
It was Gwathmey whom the University selected to undertake the challenge.
“My goal was to make the Loria Center recessive but articulate — not imitative,” Gwathmey said in an interview.
But History of Art professor Vincent Scully said the exterior of the Loria Center was unsuccessful.
“It should have been simpler — maybe all glass,” Scully said. “Gwathmey tried very hard to dance with Rudolph’s building, but there are too many small things in and out, up and down, too many changes of material.”
Both Stern and Gwathmey responded that critics have been unfairly hasty in their dismissal of the Loria Center. Maintaining dialogue with Rudolph’s building as well as with other surrounding buildings, Gwathmey said, was the priority in his design.
He said he used zinc to make the Loria Center a deferential extension of Rudolph Hall, and a compliment to Rudolph’s stair tower leading to the ceremonial entrance. The color and texture of the Loria Center reflect the Kahn-designed Yale Center for British Art, while the use of limestone is a tribute to the History of Art department and to the rest of Yale’s campus, Gwathmey said.
The History of Art department moved from Street Hall to the Loria Center at the beginning of the academic year, and department chair David Joselit said faculty members in the department are pleased with their new space.
“Before, we were spread out on several floors; [in the Loria Center] we have more interaction, more diverse public spaces to get together,” Joselit said.
He added that being in the same building as the art library, for a change, enables them to consult books more easily.
The Haas Library acquired more space after the renovations, as well as paprika carpeting — “which would be orange if this were Princeton,” Stern pointed out — and a spacious inner courtyard. Both shelving space and space for reading rooms has greatly increased, said Allen Townsend, the library’s director.
Besides the History of Art department and part of the Haas Library, the Loria Center houses lecture halls, classrooms, seminar rooms and service elements. The view from the seventh floor terrace extends from East Rock and West Rock to the harbor and affords a wide view of the Yale campus.
Architecture student Yasemin Tarhan ’09 said Rudolph Hall has finally returned to its original glory.
“The building was a diamond covered in mud,” she said. “Gwathmey scraped it clean.”