The Yale Center for British Art hosted a daylong graduate architecture symposium Saturday called “A Beautiful Role: Architecture and the Display of Art.”
YCBA postdoctoral associate David Lewis, who organized the event, said 63 members of the Yale and Greater New Haven communities registered for the symposium. This consortium was comprised of roughly equal numbers of students from the School of Architecture, students in the History of Art Department and members of the public, Lewis said. The symposium aimed to “inspire fresh thinking about the relationship between works of art and the buildings that contain them,” according to an official YCBA press release.
“Louis Kahn understood the life of buildings and how they continuously evolved and was keenly interested in embodying that in his own architecture,” George Knight ARC ’95 said. Knight, the principal architect at the New Haven-based Knight Architecture LLC, led the YCBA conservation effort and delivered a keynote lecture at the symposium.
The afternoon consisted of four sessions during which groups of attendees discussed a more focused topic within art and architecture at Yale. Led by Yale specialists in the topics, including the YCBA’s Senior Archivist Rachel Chatalbash, the breakout sessions spanned themes including museum research and reinstallation.
Paul Mellon Professor Emeritus of History of Art Jules Prown — described by Lewis as the ultimate authority on Kahn’s architecture — led a breakout session of eight attendees on an architectural tour of the YCBA. He discussed the architectural legacy and aesthetic visions of Louis Kahn, who was appointed by Prown to design the building.
During Prown’s breakout session, he said honesty and truth are fundamental principles of the YCBA. Elements of the YCBA’s structure, including columns and beams, reflect a transparency of purpose, Prown said.
The symposium was also punctuated by three panel discussions, “The Postwar Museum and the University,” “Artists and the Museum” and “Politics and Global Issues,” which featured academics from institutions such as Parsons School of Design, the University of Oxford, Harvard University and Columbia University. These interactive conversations culminated in Knight’s keynote lecture, “Conserving Kahn,” in which Knight detailed the various stages of the YCBA’s conservation and discussed Yale’s rich architectural history beyond the center.
Knight referenced the first sentences of the conservation plan in explaining his mission to “understand what is culturally significant about the building, honor and preserve that, but make sure it is relevant and effective for its purpose.”
In an introduction preceding Knight’s keynote, YCBA Deputy Director Constance Clement described the symposium as a “full and stimulating” day.
Knight also credited YCBA director Amy Meyers GRD ’85 for spearheading conservation efforts since her appointment to the role in 2002.
“Meyers had a vision about how the building needed to comprehensively work and address all of these pressures,” Knight said.
Meyers said the central question she and her colleagues had to ask during the conservation planning phase was, “What is most important, and what can never change [about the center]?”
The graduate architecture symposium was free and open to the public, as are all YCBA programs.