Last night, the new DeVane lecture class brought to the Yale University Art Gallery auditorium a mix of New Haven residents and Yale students eager to learn about the University’s rich contributions to modern architecture.

“Ideals Without Ideologies: Yale’s Contribution to Modern Architecture” is the title of this semester’s DeVane lectures — a special series of lectures that are open to the general public as well as to students and members of the Yale community. Robert Stern, dean of the Yale School of Architecture, is heading this semester’s class, which will feature such guest lecturers as Vietnam Veterans Memorial designer Maya Lin ’81 ARC ’86.

Yale established the lectures in 1969 in honor of William Clyde DeVane, dean of Yale College from 1939 to 1963. Previous DeVane courses have ranged in topic from democracy in America to Yale’s role in the twentieth century.

The idea for a DeVane course on modern architecture has been three years in the making. When Yale President Richard Levin first asked Stern to teach the DeVane Lectures, Stern declined the offer. But the following year Stern accepted, and so began the two years of research that will culminate in this semester’s weekly lectures.

And people have taken interest in the new course. Last night, the seats in the spacious Art Gallery auditorium filled up a good ten minutes before the lecture began. Latecomers rested against the wall or sat in the aisle.

Stern, who gave the first lecture, began by declaring, “Yale has built beautifully.”

He then proceeded to outline the series of lectures, which focuses on increasing people’s understanding and appreciation of modern architecture in general and more specifically around the Yale campus.

Stern himself will deliver six of the 12 lectures. An impressive list of leading graduates of the Yale School of Architecture will give the rest of the talks. Lord Norman Foster and Lin are only two of the influential guests lecturers.

In addition to designing the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., Lin is known for her work on the Yale campus; she created the Woman’s Table, located in front of the Sterling Memorial Library.

And the abundance of influential works of architecture around the Yale campus is integral to the course.

“Looking is essential,” said Bimal Mendis ARC ’02, head teaching assistant for the course.

For students taking the lectures for course credit, the sections will focus on looking at the important modern buildings on Yale’s campus, including Louis Kahn’s Art Gallery and the British Art Center, Eero Saarinen’s Ingalls Rink and Morse and Ezra Stiles colleges, and Deborah Berke’s Art School.

“The most general purpose of the course is to make people more aware of the architecture around them here at Yale,” Mendis said.