The Yale University Art Gallery is about to undergo its first major renovation since its 1953 expansion.
The renovation, slated to continue for three years, is being carried out in phases to minimize disruptions to the exhibition and office spaces. None of the print and photography collection, which comprise about half of the 90,000 objects in the museum’s collection, will be moved during the project. Exhibitions and teaching will continue throughout the reconstruction.
The goal of the restoration, overseen by New York-based Polshek Partnership Architects LLP, is to return the condition of the buildings to its original state. The sky-lit galleries in Street Hall will be restored, the Federal Gallery in the tower of the Swartwout wing will be doubled in its height configuration, and the curtain wall on the north and west sides of the Kahn wing will be refurbished. The buildings currently occupied by the History of Art Department will be converted into galleries and offices.
The Swartwout and Kahn wings are named after their designers, Egerton Swartwout and Louis Kahn.
In addition, an art study center will be added in the Kahn wing, and there are plans to build additional storage space and offices in downtown New Haven. The gallery staff plan to return to their offices in the Kahn wing in either summer or fall 2004.
Gallery officials recently devised a creative solution to house temporary office space. Two modular buildings have been built on the grounds of the Library Storage Facility to hold displaced office and storage space. When the renovations are completed, the library will use the modular buildings.
Paul Ha, associate director of the gallery, said the project is an important turning point in its evolution.
“This monumental task is a wonderful moment and an opportunity for Yale and the museum,” he said.
From 1832 to 1867, the gallery was housed on Old Campus in a neoclassical building built by Col. John Trumbull. The Trumbull Gallery had the distinction of being the first art collection in North America affiliated with a college or university. In 1867, the art collection moved into newly opened Street Hall, which also housed the first art school to be affiliated with a college in America.
In 1928, the current Gothic structure, designed by Swartwout, was built on the corner of High and Chapel streets to house the expanding collection. In 1953, a modern addition, designed by Kahn, was built behind the Swartwout gallery.
In the fall of 1998, University President Richard Levin and Provost Alison Richard recommended that a committee be formed to study Yale’s commitment to the arts and to enhance the mission and facilities of the gallery. The committee decided to increase the amount of physical exhibition space and to consolidate the collections of four off-site storage facilities.
In 1999, the committee hired the Polshek Partnership Architects firm, founded by James Polshek ARC ’55, to create a master plan for the renovation of the Swartwout and Kahn wings, as well as for Street Hall.