Apart from composing a massive cubic honeycomb façade, one which dominates the Hewitt Quadrangle, the marble of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library looks rather uninteresting from the exterior. White segments with a greyish grid for support. Ok. Yale is definitely not lacking in white marble.
But then you walk inside. The architect, Gordon Bunshaft, undoubtedly meant for the technically “windowless” outer shell to be seen from the interior. He wrote that “the outside is cold and severe, but when you walk inside it’s very warm and rich.” As morning sun shafts over Woodbridge Hall and onto the façade, it passes through 1.25 in of translucent Danby marble and illuminates the interior space with a soft, diffuse light.
Not only is this pink-tinged glow a comforting atmosphere for abstruse contemplation of primary sources (that is what you do in the Beinecke, right?), it is also ideal for preventing damage to the rare tomes housed within. Bunshaft himself wrote of the building, “It admits soft light, but no sunlight. It’s like being in a cathedral.”
The space inspires a sense of awe. Bunshaft believed that “everybody loves to go into a great space. That’s what makes people love to see cathedrals… great spaces give an emotional experience to people.” He added, “I’ve had ladies write me about the Beinecke, saying that they just shivered when they saw it.” The best time to visit is early morning, when sunlight hits the building directly.