The old Art & Architecture building probably would have been demolished long ago if razing it were not cost-prohibitive. But that prospect was unthinkable on Saturday to the 600 people who gathered for the building’s official rechristening.
After three years of renovations, many a roll of paprika carpeting and one last cleaning of its sweeping glass panes, Yale’s iconic edifice was reborn Saturday as Paul Rudolph Hall, in honor of its original architect.
Speeches by the renovation’s architect, its three lead donors, University President Richard Levin and School of Architecture Dean Robert A.M. Stern ARC ’65 marked the renaming of Rudolph Hall and the dedication of the Jeffrey H. Loria Center and the Robert B. Haas Family Arts Library. It concluded two days of festivities — including a lecture and two panels — and honored Yale’s long-standing commitment to the arts.
Stern made the opening remarks at the ceremony, calling the $130 million restoration a miracle of imaginative reinvention.
“Rudolph Hall rose like a phoenix from its own ashes,” he said.
He then invited architect Charles Gwathmey ARC ’62, who designed the project, to share his vision. The audience burst into applause as Gwathmey took the stage.
He said designing the Loria Center had been “complex, challenging and humbling.”
The ceremony continued with a speech by Levin, who said Yale was atoning for past mistakes after having abused the Rudolph building for a long time.
“Yale is an internationally renowned center for the arts, housed in buildings by the greatest architects of the 20th century,” Levin said. “It is our mission to preserve these buildings and to build new ones representing the work of the 21st century.”
Remarks by the principal donors Robert Haas ’69, Jeffrey Loria ’62 and Sid Bass ’65 followed.
While each speaker told his own story about Rudolph and his architecture, they all voiced gratitude for one influential figure who shaped their appreciation of the arts as Yale undergraduates: history of art professor Vincent Scully.
“For Vince’s class we had to write about Picasso’s ‘First Steps,’ at the Yale University Art Gallery,” Loria said. “In a sense those were my first steps in art.”
At the end of his speech, Loria, who is also the owner of the Florida Marlins, turned to President Levin and said “Okay, Rick, what’s next?”
Levin quipped that he had lots of good ideas.
Given the historic nature of last week’s presidential election, the speakers also drew connections between the prospect of change in the political arena and change in art and architecture marked by the three-year restoration of Rudolph Hall.
Many famous names of the architecture world traveled to New Haven for the event.
Renowned architect Stanley Tigerman ARC ’61, who was a student and friend of Rudolph, said the former School of Architecture dean’s passion for architecture was both his greatest legacy and his tragic flaw.
“Rudolph was like a Zen Buddhist — he was at one with his work,” Tigerman said. “Having said that, he had no other life, the rest of life he missed.”
Before the festivities, Timothy Rohan, associate professor of art and art history at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, gave a lecture called “The Enigmatic Architecture of Paul Rudolph.” Rohan is also the curator of the exhibition “Model City: Buildings and Projects by Paul Rudolph for New Haven and Yale,” currently on display in Rudolph Hall.
Rohan said Rudolph’s architecture marked a turning point in modernism.
“Before postmodernism called it context, Rudolph focused on the relationship between the environment and the building,” he said. “He reacted against the universality of modernist architecture and introduced regionalism with a focus on locale and identity.”
At the closing reception, Stern said the enthusiasm of the guests had outstripped his expectations.
“It is very gratifying to see such appreciation of your efforts,” he said.