A house divided?

Although the art history department and the School of Architecture now share a roof, they share little else.
Although the art history department and the School of Architecture now share a roof, they share little else. Photo by Amir Sharif.

When School of Architecture professor Peter Eisenman heads up to his office on the third floor of Paul Rudolph Hall, he uses the elevators in the Jeffrey H. Loria Center — the addition to Rudolph Hall that currently hosts the History of Art Department. But this is nearly the only time he ever steps foot in that half of the building.

More than a year after the opening of the Loria Center in November 2008, which finally put the art history department and the School of Architecture under the same roof after some 40 years of separation, some students and faculty members in the two disciplines said they still feel as distant as ever. Twenty students interviewed said they are looking for interdisciplinary interaction but that uncoordinated course offerings and a lack of shared social spaces have distanced the disciplines both academically and socially.

Since class offerings are not coordinated, students cannot pursue interdisciplinary work in art history and architecture.
Since class offerings are not coordinated, students cannot pursue interdisciplinary work in art history and architecture.

Eisenman, for one, said he thinks it is important for students of architecture and art history to work together because of the fundamental relationship between the creation and documentation of art forms.

“I feel like I’m on the other side of the Berlin Wall,” Eisenman said of the Loria-Rudolph divide. “I think students and Yale would be much happier if there were more cooperation.”

DIVERGENT PATHS

In 1963, the School of Architecture and the School of Art, still one entity, moved to Rudolph Hall on York Street, then known as the Art + Architecture building. The same year the History of Art Department moved to Street Hall on the corner of Chapel and High streets, a block away from Rudolph. The consequences of the separation became apparent 30 years later, in the early 1990s, when the art history department lost its focus on architecture and connections between the two disciplines became noticeably strained, History of Art Professor Emeritus Vincent Scully ’40 GRD’49 said.

“Starting around when I retired [in 1992], that emphasis had changed,” Scully said. “We’d lost a lot of architecture historians, and [the art history department] was not teaching as much architecture as it should.”

But six faculty and administrators, particularly those in the History of Art Department, said they do not perceive such a distance between the two disciplines.

“I think the interaction among the various arts disciplines is extremely good and productive,” Deputy Provost for the Arts Barbara Shailor said. “I’ve never heard any student complaints.”

History of Art Department Chair Alexander Nemerov GRD ’92 likewise said he was surprised by students concerns about a disconnect. He declined to comment further. Four other art history faculty declined to comment on inter-faculty affairs, deferring comment to Nemerov.

UNDER ONE ROOF

But 20 architecture and art history students interviewed said the separation is clear inside the halls, with the corridors between Rudolph and Loria funneling the two faculty and student bodies into their respective sides of the building.

“It’s not like there are joint public spaces,” Alfie Koetter ARC ’11 said. “Even though we’re both working with things that are design-based, we don’t really get to meet.”

Koetter was one of eight architecture students and two faculty members interviewed who expressed discontent at not having access to Loria’s facilities — such as student lounges, terraces and bathrooms — where he said history of art and architecture students could potentially meet and mingle. These lounges are exclusively for history of art students and are card-key regulated.

“I honestly resent not being able to use those spaces, especially when walking by lounges that are completely empty,” Eisenman added. “It’s a hostile act. If I could meet somebody on the terrace [of Loria] on a nice spring day, that would be the start to a natural interaction.”

QUIET IN THE LIBRARY

But School of Architecture Dean Robert A.M. Stern ARC ’65 said architecture students should not necessarily feel entitled to use amenities in Loria maintained by the History of Art Department. Rather, Stern said the Robert B. Haas Family Arts Library on the first floor of the two buildings was designed as the communal space for students from different departments to meet. At the center’s opening, its architect, the late Charles Gwathmey ARC ’62, said the library “would be a bridge” between architecture and history of art, gathering students together and allowing them to socialize between the shelves.

Stern said that when he was a graduate student at Yale in the 1960s, when the schools of Art and Architecture were still one entity, the library was a social hub.

“The library was always the place where all the students interested in the history and making of art would hang around and talk to each other,” he said.

But he added: “I don’t know whether the library still functions the same way [today].”

Indeed, on a given day, the loudest thing in the library is usually the paprika carpeting. Students sit surrounded by books, and signs advise silence, as might be expected in a study space.

Upstairs, sitting at her work desk amid a sea of paper, glue and model-building supplies last Wednesday, Katie Gillis ARC ’10 said she and many of her friends rarely spend time chatting with others in the library.

“It’s tough because people go in there just to get work done,” she said.

Down the corridor from Gillis’ desk, art history student James Rodriquez GRD ’14 and a friend were completing their readings before an afternoon seminar. Both added that they, too, do much of their reading outside of the library, which they said is not regarded as a place to joke and make friends.

“There is a small minority in this department who work actively with the architecture school,” Rodriquez said, adding that he thinks more cooperation would be better.

IN THE CLASSROOM

Beyond social interactions, another concern among some students is that interdisciplinary work in art history and architecture is nearly impossible to schedule. Class offerings are not coordinated between the School of Architecture and the History of Art Department, said Nina Liu ’00 ARC ’10, making it difficult to pursue academics on the other side of the building.

Liu, who majored in history as an undergraduate at Yale, said she took a variety of art history classes as a college student but could not continue to do so after she enrolled in the School of Architecture. Liu is one of 14 architecture students interviewed who said schedule overlaps prevent them from exploring their interests in the History of Art Department.

Another challenge, Liu added, is the conflict in shopping periods. The School of Architecture registration ends the Friday when Yale College shopping period starts, so there is hardly a chance for School of Architecture students to shop many graduate art history classes designed around the College’s calendar, Liu said.

Stern noted that scheduling regulations make it equally difficult for School of Architecture administrators to set up classes that will not conflict with those outside of the school. He added that the reason the school offers many seminars on Fridays is because Yale College generally does not offer Friday classes; this way, Stern said, interested undergraduates at least have the opportunity to dabble in the architecture school’s offerings.

“It’s not an easy situation, but we’re doing our best,” Stern said. “The architecture school has the best relationship of any professional school with Yale College. It’s more complicated.”

Correction: March 3, 2010

The article “A House Divided?” misstated the year of the History of Art Department’s move to Street Hall. The department moved in 1963, not 1972. The School of Art did not move with the art history department; it remained in Rudolph Hall until 2000.

Comments

  • southside

    this “divide” is exaggerated. architecture students say they want access to history of art lounges, but they would be quite annoyed if history of art students wandered into their pit space to socialize or write. it’s idealist to think that buildings create any ‘social interaction’ that isn’t mostly awkward. you don’t become friends with someone because you happen to be in the same study room together. when someone is working, you typically leave them alone unless you already know who they are.
    it’s also important to note the difference between history of art students and art students. both architecture students and art students create, and are familiar with the bizarre hours and quirky habits that go along with this. The building was called “Art + Architecture” for a reason. Had the art students been placed next to Rudolph hall, surely there would naturally be more interaction because there would be more familiarity between the two groups.

  • super

    “History of Art Department Chair Alexander Nemerov GRD ’92 likewise said he was surprised by students concerns about a disconnect. He declined to comment further. Four other art history faculty declined to comment on inter-faculty affairs, deferring comment to Nemerov.”

    That says it all. Hilarious.

  • R

    On one hand, it is pretty ridiculous that those pristine lounges, bathrooms, and terraces are reserved exclusively for Art History people, as if they wish to keep us architects as second-class citizens in our combined facilities. I also think it would encourage more cross-disciplinary study, interaction, and friendships.

    On the other hand, it is kind of nice to go into the architecture school to barely perceive the Art History building next door…the new Loria Center is so ugly (in contrast to the masterpiece A&A) that it feels good to pretend it is not there.

  • J

    Let us not hide behind administrative jargon. Spaces for cross-disciplinary interaction? Cooperative areas to meet and mingle? Give me a break. If either side really cared what the other was doing, there are other appropriate fora for sharing ideas. That kind of thing simply isn’t done in hallways and elevators. The aforesaid deanspeak indicates that architecture wishes to invade its neighbor’s spaces.

    Remember that good fences make good neighbors. History of Art is independent and distinct and should remain so.

    I wonder why those spaces in Loria are so pristine. Perhaps it has something to do with not having any architects.

  • Tanner

    It’s the building. Was never inviting, seperated itself from the world. The redesign after 40 years was an admission that the building was a mistake. What is that term, Fung Shwai? what ever it is this building doesn’t have it, Perhaps they can move into the space the SOM abandoning over on Hillhouse.

  • oh

    But you’ll always have Willoughby’s!

    Aren’t the architecture students paying a whole lot more money to be there than the art historians? No matter!
    I can understand the art history reluctance to have the un-brushed/washed/shaven architects sully their lounges though….

  • H

    What an obvious frame-job on Dr. Nemerov, one of the finest teachers and people in the world.

  • unwashed, unshaven

    wow, way to accept useless and untrue stereotypes about architects (unwashed, unshaven…). jerks.

  • TD04

    As an undergrad, I pretty much felt – given what I was paying for the education – that I could use whichever library I wanted, and I did.

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