New club appreciates neglected architecture

Kevin Adkisson’s ’12 architecture tour of Yale does not include Sterling Memorial Library, Harkness Tower or Louis I. Kahn’s Yale University Art Gallery.

Adkisson is the founder and president of one of Yale’s newest organizations, the Architecture Appreciation Club for Underappreciated Architecture. Dedicated to exploring and enjoying all that the structures of New Haven have to offer, the club makes weekly trips to places on and around Yale’s campus.

Eight students showed up to Sunday’s meeting of the Architecture Appreciation Club for Underappreciated Architecture, which was dedicated to a close look at three local parking garages.
Eight students showed up to Sunday’s meeting of the Architecture Appreciation Club for Underappreciated Architecture, which was dedicated to a close look at three local parking garages.

“We’re not necessarily looking at ugly buildings, but just some that people might pass over,” Adkisson said.

Yale was recently named one of the most beautiful college campuses by Forbes magazine, and architect Natalie Shriver said the campus has “the most showstoppers,” like Eero Saarinen’s ARC ’32 David Ingalls Rink and Paul Rudolph Hall. But few people, Adkisson said, appreciate the rest of New Haven’s lesser-acknowledged architecture.

“New Haven is the perfect city to study American architecture,” he said. “There’s some of the best of every style — Brutalist, Georgian, Gothic and so on.”

Though Adkisson, an architecture major, described Yale’s major as “underused and excellent,” he added that there aren’t a lot of ways for students to look at or talk about architecture if they are not majoring in the subject.

“Too many people go through Yale not appreciating buildings,” Adkisson said. “I just wanted to make a club that would talk and look at architecture for those who don’t want to study it intensely.”

Different people show up almost every week, he said, adding that the atmosphere is very casual.

Yet the eight students who showed up at Sunday’s meeting — which was dedicated to a close look at three local parking garages — were no newbies to the architecture scene. Phrases like “urban renewal” and “pre-pressed structure” floated in the conversation and what to call a parking lot — Parking deck? Parking garage? Parking structure? — was a serious concern.

The Air Rights Garage at the intersection of York and South Frontage streets, was affectionately dubbed by Adkisson as a “Paul Rudolph-wanna-be.” And at the top of the Temple Street Parking Garage, after a pause for reflection, Adkisson asked: “What do you all think about this odd world?”

Paul Doyle ’13, who showed up for his first meeting last Sunday, said he took a picture of the Temple Street garage when he first visited New Haven in high school, but said he didn’t recognize its architectural worth. After going out and exploring New Haven on his own and with the club, Doyle said he has a greater appreciation for the garage.

Bahij Chancey ’13, said he was “feeling cooped up” on Sunday afternoon, so he decided to spend a few hours walking around New Haven with the club. Chancey, another architecture major, said he hopes that one of the club trips will head up Science Hill, which he said is cluttered and ignored.

Another meeting took the club to Connecticut and McClellan halls on Old Campus, where Adkisson compared the architecture of the two buildings that he said appear similar but were actually built 200 years apart.

Speaking of underappreciated architecture on campus, Adkisson is a big fan of Saarinen’s Morse College.

“I love Morse,” Adkisson said. “When I first saw photographs of it in seventh grade I thought to myself, ‘How cool would it be to live in a Saarinen-designed dorm?’ ”

Seven years later, Adkisson’s wish came true.

Adkisson said he will continue leading club meetings as long as people are interested.

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