Rosenkranz Hall appears on Yale’s campus like a Piet Mondrian in a room full of Rembrandts: out of place.
The four-story building, located on 115 Prospect St., houses classrooms and offices for social science students and professors. Though Koetter Kim & Associates, the Boston-based architecture firm that designed Rosenkranz, claims on its Web site that the building “relates to the historic character and nature of upper Hillhouse Avenue,” this is far from the truth.
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The building’s light yellow stone facade with massive windows is impressive and successful, but it presents a stark contrast to surrounding Yale buildings. Rosenkranz is a standard modernist building, which, apart from innovative glass panels that jut out from all sides, has little to add to the architecture of Yale’s campus. Though it brings diversity to Prospect Street, it is questionable how well the building will interact with the design of the two new residential colleges — inspired by James Gamble Rogers’ 1889 Gothic style — that will be built on the block.
Visitors who step inside Rosenkranz find themselves staring at a collection of modern building materials — faux wood paneling, marble tables, leather benches, metal staircases — organized neatly into seminar rooms, study areas and offices. The architects have achieved their goal of maximizing daylight and natural ventilation through floor-to-ceiling windows, a glass roof and a large light shaft running through the center of the building; natural light even infiltrates into the basement.
But navigating Rosenkranz is particularly difficult. With a single staircase and long hallways, accessing some of the faculty offices is a challenge, especially for first-time visitors. The light shaft in the middle forces visitors to circumnavigate the entire floor to get from one side to the other. Walking down the stairs to the basement, visitors can see into seminar rooms through the windows lining the upper rim of classroom walls. Though this is not necessarily uncomfortable, Rosenkranz classrooms lack the privacy offered, for example, in Linsley-Chittenden Hall.
Connectivity is an important feature of the building. A skywalk with floor-to-ceiling windows connects it with offices in Luce Hall, which makes Rosenkranz functional and adds to its aesthetic value. And the central light shaft allows for visual connectivity between all the floors, while classrooms located near student work spaces and instructors’ offices unite political science students with faculty in common spaces.
Though Rosenkranz Hall does not fit in with the architecture of surrounding buildings, the way it relates to the landscape is aesthetically pleasing: each floor blends in naturally with the texture of the landscape. The left side of the lobby, almost completely encapsulated by glass windows, extends into a porch that runs along the left side of the building. On the right side there is an exit into a patio and garden between Luce and Rosenkranz. Both the porch and the garden effectively connect Rosenkranz with Luce and with Prospect Street. Rosenkranz also has numerous entrances, which make the building accessible to visitors.
Though Rosenkranz is stylistically different from most Yale buildings, it offers a haven for modern architecture aficionados and lovers of sunlight. And though the building is not groundbreaking, it is refreshing as a change from the typical dark, Gothic, Yale building.