On his first day as an undergraduate, Duncan Hazard ’71, stopped only briefly to unload his belongings in his new dorm. Then he went straight to the Yale University Art Gallery.
Now a partner at Polshek Partnership Architects, Hazard serves as the Partner-in-Charge of the current YUAG renovation project, and is one of many Yale alumni working to refurbish and restore his beloved gallery.
“It is simply a beautiful monument for art, for works from all different periods,” Hazard said. “And it will be even more beautiful when the renovation is complete.”
Renovations to the gallery’s main building — named for its designer, American architect Louis I. Kahn — were launched in the summer of 2003. The $44 million project is nearly complete, with the gallery scheduled to reopen in the late fall, Hazard said.
The primary stated goal of the renovation has been updating and improving the technology and preservation system within the gallery.
“Art conservation has made a lot of progress technologically and scientifically which the building has not kept up with,” Leslie Myers ARCH ’92, the gallery renovation project manager, said. “We wanted to bring the building into the 21st century.”
Hazard said it was important throughout the process to “faithfully restore” the building and preserve the art. The central hurdle was replacing the gallery’s steel walls, which transmit temperature easily, he said.
“We needed to create a wall which looked like the former wall, but didn’t have the same condensation problems,” Hazard said. “In general, we were going for a faithful restoration that also accommodated museum environments.”
The ideal museum climate is 68 degrees Fahrenheit with 50 percent relative humidity. The former steel walls often yielded unwanted condensation inside the building on cold days.
In addition to constructing a new version of Kahn’s original wall, the renovation will repair the building’s other windows and walls, including the glass window-wall that spans five floors. Other building systems, such as the security systems and climate control, will also be updated.
In general, both Myers and Hazard concurred that the construction process has been a smooth one.
“It has gone as well as could be expected,” Myers said. “The challenge was enormous and extraordinary. Renovations are always difficult when you’re trying to maintain the spirit of a building.”
Hazard and Myers are not the only Yale alumni who have played key roles in the renovation. James Polshek ARCH ’55, a founding partner at Polshek Architects, is a design partner on the Yale Art Gallery Renovation project. The Gallery’s new open exterior courtyard will also feature “Stacks,” a sculpture by Richard Serra ART ’64. The piece was originally installed inside the Gallery.
Myers said the large number of Yale alums involved with the project have contributed to a positive working environment.
“It is a great honor to be able to come back and contribute to something concrete,” Myers said. “Even alums who aren’t involved in the project are always asking for updates.”
Amy Porter, associate director of communications at the Gallery, said it is a common trend for alums who were involved in the arts as undergraduates to contribute to Gallery endeavors.
“People do tend to come back,” she said. “It is great to see [Hazard] working on this.”
Pam Franks, the curator of academic initiatives at the Gallery, said even alumni who did not take advantage of the Gallery’s offerings during their time at Yale have become active participants in the Yale art scene.
“When I speak to alums involved in the arts now who were not when they were undergraduates, they always say they wished they had spent more time here when they were students,” she said.
The Kahn Building, opened in 1953, is considered by some critics to be Kahn’s finest architectural work. The YUAG, which holds more than 185,000 objects, was founded in 1832.