100 YEARS OF ARCHITECTURE AT YALE
by Kristin Nord
New Haven, Connecticut – Later this spring, after almost 20 years, Robert A.M. Stern will be passing the torch as the dean of Yale’s School of Architecture to Deborah Berke, architect and founder of the New York-based Deborah Berke Partners. The exhibition on view through May 7 in the school’s Rudolph Hall gallery was developed in large part from a renowned spring seminar taught by Stern that looked at various studies of architecture — and the at-times tempestuous relationship with the building in which that education has taken place.
The exhibition draws upon a large body of work, including video with cameos of the school’s legendary teachers and examples of student projects, fanning out to trace the chronological development and spaces of more than 30 other major schools of architecture throughout the world. Stern’s accompanying book, “Pedagogy and Place: 100 years of Architecture Education at Yale” (Yale University Press), will be on the shelves in time for a major symposium organized by Yale that will run from April 14 through 16.
For the non-architect visiting the exhibit, this show also trains its lens on the Rudolph building, named posthumously after Paul Rudolph in 2008. It had been dedicated in 1963 amid great controversy due to its perceived, to some, lack of function- alism, and over the next 30 years it suffered a succession of psychic as well as physical assaults (a fire, a number of poorly conceived renovations and years of deferred maintenance).
Rudolph designed a building that he hoped would promote interdisciplinary exchange and common understanding; yet ironi- cally it fostered the kind of sibling rivalry usually reserved for families. Painting and sculpture students were unhappy with the cramped spaces they were allocated, Stern explained in opening remarks for the “Pedagogy and Place” exhibi- tion, while the architecture students enjoyed the monumental double- height space at the building’s center.
At the same time, Yale’s program was weathering its own challenges. Dr. Eeva-Liisa Pelkonen, an associate professor who has organized the upcoming seminar, said recently that photographs of the period hint broadly at the revolution that was underway. In just six years, students went “from shirts and ties at drafting tables, to men, like her husband, who looked like bona fide hippies,” she said; they denounced the building as arrogant and excessively ornamented. For a time it became an unruly repository for experimen- tation with new materials. Then, in 1972, the art and architecture schools became separate entities; it would not be until Stern’s tenure that a $126 million renovation of the A&A building began.
The firm now known as Gwathmey Siegel Kaufman & Associates Archi- tects LLC, led by a former student of Rudolph’s, took on the task of restoring Rudolph’s original vision. Levels that had been added to the building in its post-fire reconstruc- tion were removed, and concrete surfaces reglazed and restored to historical accuracy. Rudolph’s striking orange and grey color scheme was reintroduced, and an adjoining addition was constructed to house art libraries, additional classrooms, two lecture theaters and a café.
Today the school offers pre-profes- sional courses leading to under- graduate and professional degrees, as well as Master of Environmental Design (M.E.D.) and Ph.D. programs for advanced research. Under Stern’s tutelage, the school’s fortunes have improved greatly, with healthy endowments underwriting visiting professorships and exten- sive overseas study programs. The student body, once predominantly male, is now 51 percent female. Professors (and deans) not only teach and mentor but also maintain working practices.
Architectural education must “take in everything – historical sources, technological change, social change, and increasingly global geopolitical forces,” observes Dr. Pelkonen, who directs the M.E.D. program and teaches the history of architecture course to first-year students. “This is a field that is constantly in flux — as a teacher or a student, it’s daunting to keep up with