New building does not fit in

The facade of the new building which houses the Political Science Department.
The facade of the new building which houses the Political Science Department. Photo by Erica Blonde.

Rosenkranz Hall appears on Yale’s campus like a Piet Mondrian in a room full of Rembrandts: out of place.

The four-story building, located on 115 Prospect St., houses classrooms and offices for social science students and professors. Though Koetter Kim & Associates, the Boston-based architecture firm that designed Rosenkranz, claims on its Web site that the building “relates to the historic character and nature of upper Hillhouse Avenue,” this is far from the truth.

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The building’s light yellow stone facade with massive windows is impressive and successful, but it presents a stark contrast to surrounding Yale buildings. Rosenkranz is a standard modernist building, which, apart from innovative glass panels that jut out from all sides, has little to add to the architecture of Yale’s campus. Though it brings diversity to Prospect Street, it is questionable how well the building will interact with the design of the two new residential colleges — inspired by James Gamble Rogers’ 1889 Gothic style ­— that will be built on the block.

Visitors who step inside Rosenkranz find themselves staring at a collection of modern building materials — faux wood paneling, marble tables, leather benches, metal staircases — organized neatly into seminar rooms, study areas and offices. The architects have achieved their goal of maximizing daylight and natural ventilation through floor-to-ceiling windows, a glass roof and a large light shaft running through the center of the building; natural light even infiltrates into the basement.

But navigating Rosenkranz is particularly difficult. With a single staircase and long hallways, accessing some of the faculty offices is a challenge, especially for first-time visitors. The light shaft in the middle forces visitors to circumnavigate the entire floor to get from one side to the other. Walking down the stairs to the basement, visitors can see into seminar rooms through the windows lining the upper rim of classroom walls. Though this is not necessarily uncomfortable, Rosenkranz classrooms lack the privacy offered, for example, in Linsley-Chittenden Hall.

Connectivity is an important feature of the building. A skywalk with floor-to-ceiling windows connects it with offices in Luce Hall, which makes Rosenkranz functional and adds to its aesthetic value. And the central light shaft allows for visual connectivity between all the floors, while classrooms located near student work spaces and instructors’ offices unite political science students with faculty in common spaces.

Though Rosenkranz Hall does not fit in with the architecture of surrounding buildings, the way it relates to the landscape is aesthetically pleasing: each floor blends in naturally with the texture of the landscape. The left side of the lobby, almost completely encapsulated by glass windows, extends into a porch that runs along the left side of the building. On the right side there is an exit into a patio and garden between Luce and Rosenkranz. Both the porch and the garden effectively connect Rosenkranz with Luce and with Prospect Street. Rosenkranz also has numerous entrances, which make the building accessible to visitors.

Though Rosenkranz is stylistically different from most Yale buildings, it offers a haven for modern architecture aficionados and lovers of sunlight. And though the building is not groundbreaking, it is refreshing as a change from the typical dark, Gothic, Yale building.


  • student

    this building is horrific in multiple respects. particularly the lack of any recognizable entrance along prospect.

    why couldn’t they hire Cesar Pelli, who works right down the street, for the project?

    also, its stupid there is no crosswalk installed across from the entrance. there is going to be a high pedestrian flow coming from all directions, and no way to cross prospect. does the university even HAVE a transportation planner? bike lanes are also needed.

  • ilikeericablonde

    very nice article. hope to see more of your writing.

  • New Haven Architect

    Exactly what surrounding buildings are in stylistic “stark contrast” to Rosenkranz? This area of prospect street is filled with modern architecture: From Marcel Breuer’s 1970 Becton Hall, to Cesear Pelli’s 2007 Malone Center, to Eero Saarinen’s 1958 Ingall’s rink, to Hopkin’s 2009 Kroon Hall, not to mention SOM, and things slightly further afield like Phillip Johnson’s Kline Towers, BCJ’s Chemestry Research Building, Scogin Elam’s Yale Health Plan. This area of campus has a rather high concentration of “Mondrians” to your “Rembrandts.” I understand the impulse to equate Yale with the gothic, but let’s not mince words: Gothic does not rule on Prospect Street. What would be incongruous with this district would be the introduction of two massively scaled, underdetailed, neo-gothic residential colleges.

  • anonymous

    There is clearly a problem with reasoning in this article. The building is criticized for not being able to fit in with the planned new colleges. How is the building supposed to fit in with structures that were not even designed when Rosenkranz was planned?

  • Tanner

    That area has always been an odd mix of designs since the schools post war expansion,

  • pdh

    Rosenkrantz has all the attractiveness of an airport terminal. It is a mediocre building.

  • ’12

    Now, granted, I’m not an art student here. But it seems to me like the YDN hasn’t had a positive architecture review in the past two years — Rosenkranz, Smilow, the new conference building on hillhouse, the architecture school expansion, etc have all been criticized.

  • ’12

    while the building is very handicap accessible, it has the slowest elevator on campus. this is a big problem for handicap students trying to get to class on time!

  • James T. Madison

    “Rosenkranz, Smilow, the new conference building on hillhouse, the architecture school expansion, etc have all been criticized”

    Well, yes. And, of course, the designs of proposed new colleges “have been critized” by those who don’t like gothic.

    And that’s the nub of it: If Yale chooses a modern design, the design “does not fit in.” If Yale opts for some form of “traditional,” the design is “pastiche” or “not about the world of today” or “turns its back” on something or other.

    In the public arts, the only thing worse than being criticized is not being criticized. Richard Strauss wrote to Paul Wittgenstein upon his “disastrous” premier of a Strauss composition for orchestra and left-hand piano something like this: “Congratulations, Paul! I knew the piece was good. But I never dared to hope that it was so good as to warrant unnanimous critical condemnation!” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe famously observed that architecture is “frozen music.” Certainly the similarities hold when it comes to the tenor of criticism.

  • @ James T. Madison

    OMG that was the best comment i’ve ever read.

  • Stairmaster

    The author needed to do more research. There are two full staircases in the building, plus a floating staircase from the first floor lobby to the basement.

  • okay okay

    i can’t help but comment.

    @7 agreed. how does this girl have the credentials to call an entirely new building designed by a high-end architecture firm “standard modern”…

    @11, love that you only commented about stairs, and call yourself “Stairmaster”