The Last Day of the A+A

My buddy onepairofpants (remember him?) has just posted an eerie set of photos on flickr documenting the state of Paul Rudolph's Art + Architecture building at Yale:

The Last Day of the A+A

The building is due to be gutted this summer and renovated, the idea is to restore it to the orginal condition as documented by Ezra Stoller shortly after its completion in 1963. This will be the first complete restoration undertaken since the 'mysterious fire' of 1969 nearly destroyed it.

The A+A is also due to get a new addition by Gwathmey Siegel & Associates:

Jul 29, 07 4:32 pm
vado retro

where are the current students going to do their work?

Jul 29, 07 4:42 pm

I think they're supposed to be moving temporarily to another building that was previously used by the Sculpture department. This is the second renovation in the past decade, so the school should have some practice with the logistics.

Jul 29, 07 5:07 pm

If the A+A's been renovated any time during the past ten years it sure doesn't show.

Yeah, they're moving a block away to the just completed Kieran/Timberlake sculpture school. Not previously used, the architecture students get it before the sculpture kids move in. For ... two years, maybe? Not sure. Haven't seen it but it's supposed to be pretty nice.

Jul 29, 07 5:45 pm

Parts of the A+A were substantially renovated in the summer of 2001 I think (give or take a year). This was right after the art school moved to the building across the street. The parts of the A+A that had been occupied by the art school became part of the architecture school at that point, and a lot of work was done particularly on the 4th and 5th floors. Previously those two floors had been divided into a warren of tiny painting studios for decades. Before that year the undergrad architecture program had been in the Fence Club building, and the M.Arch programs occupied only the 6th and 7th floors of the A+A for a couple of decades.

Jul 29, 07 6:01 pm
Smokety Mc Smoke Smoke

Those pictures make me really sad. For all its obvious handicaps and problems, I loved the A+A building. I spent two very important years of my life in this building, and it saddens me that next time I have the opportunity to visit, it will be a completely different place.

When Gwathmey presented the drawings for the new addition in September of last year, he kept stressing that he wanted to maintain an identity for Yale's History of Art department. It was thus an eerie coincidence that he mentioned almost nothing about the architecture school's identity.

These photos are a document of a building that has been left writhing in its death throes. It will die soon, only to be replaced by a hybrid monstrosity that is all about maintaining the architecture school's geneological lineage intact. I hope that future manifestations of the A+A building will maintain its vibrant studio culture. I'm doubtful, but not hopeless.

Jul 29, 07 6:39 pm
vado retro

you know that's not really fair to the sculpture students. they're prolly thinkin that yale blows.

Jul 29, 07 6:55 pm

don't say it ...

Jul 29, 07 6:57 pm

I'm really interested in how they're going to handle accessibility. It's a building designed in section, with over 69 distinct levels, in an era before ADA. Steps everywhere. That alone would seem to be a dealbreaker for any kind of authentic restoration.

... and I can't decide if that's a good thing or a bad thing ...

Jul 29, 07 7:08 pm
vado retro

here's a proposal, and its semi serious i guess... every architecture school should get knocked down every forty years so that new architectural styles of the day, you know the kind of stuff that the kids who are going to the school will respond to. you know an oedipus type thing. knock em down. build a new one. yale needs a zaha or a rem or a leepsckin architecture school. not some dead guy who is dead.

Jul 29, 07 7:23 pm

that Gwathmy (sp) sucks

My dad was at Yale when they burned the thing

Jul 29, 07 9:24 pm

sevensixfive: I think it's 29 levels - or at least not quite 69. Since it is a restoration and not a new building it does not need to meet all of the same standards that a new building would. ADA access is not necessary to every single space, as long as it can be shown that comparable accessible spaces exist in reasonable proximity within the building. It probably can't be exactly as it was (for instance Rudolph's catwalk over one of the atriums with the 18" guardrails probably won't get approved today) but the number of ramps, etc. needed is probably pretty limited, especially since the Gwathmey building will meet the existing building at the levels that the existing elevators open to. The biggest ADA problem with the existing Rudolph building is with the entry - the only ways in by wheelchair are through an unused library service door or through a rear loading dock. But assuming that someone can make it to the elevator core (which will be possible with the addition of the Gwathmey building without sending people to disused back doors) it's possible to reach some classrooms, offices, studio areas, bathrooms, and crit spaces from those elevator core levels - though not possible on some floors...

Jul 29, 07 9:59 pm
Elijah Porter

I'm in the YSOA summer program for incoming MARCH I's. We're in the new KTA Sculpture building and I have to say, it may not have the character of the A&A but it's nice to work in. High ceilings, lots of natural light, and the environmental systems work (although they're still being fine tuned).

The building's still under construction though. They've been out on snorkel lifts every day lifting metal panels into place and whatnot. The floors vibrate when the compressors on the roof runs, which isn't cool in a new building. And they better track down the source of those leaks quick.

Not sure where non-studio classes will be held. There's a rabbit's warren of GWB rooms under the adjacent parking garage, but I think most of those will become faculty offices. The lecture schedule has lectures taking place in several different venues.

Jul 30, 07 12:31 am
Smokety Mc Smoke Smoke

Yupe ... ask John Blood to draw you something insanely complicated, like dinosaur vertebrae or a fighter jet. I loved watching him draw ..

Jul 30, 07 1:37 am

the worst part of the renovation is that the main vertical circulation stair (which used to be made up of a series of sectionally 'in-between' spaces housing artifact, benches, and slivers of light) will be replaced by the new building's elevators.

oh, and all the views across campus that one used to get from the studios will now be a view of gwathmey's masonry wall.

Jul 30, 07 8:02 am

i don't mind gwathmey siegel when they're doing independent buildings, responsive only to a larger urban environment. in fact, they can be pretty good at that. but why do people keep hiring them to add on to historic/iconic buildings? their additions somehow both disrespectfully compromise the originals AND have a strangely wishy-washy and deferential character.

i'm thinking, of course of their guggenheim, but also of their total disembowelment of the student center at university of cincinnati. and now this one. stern probably had to make a tough decision here: to make this addition to the a+a a positive legacy of his tenure or be nice to his buddies. looks like he made a bad choice.

Jul 30, 07 8:27 am

Not that I love the idea of the masonry wall, but the views from the studios across campus in that direction were just temporary. Until around the time of the previous renovation (around 2001?) there was an old brick 7-story walk-up apartment building on much of the lot where the Gwathmey building will go (there were always architecture students living there who could see into their studio from their bedroom and vice versa), so there wasn't much in the way of a view in that direction for most of the A+A's life.

Jul 30, 07 9:13 am

ice9 - Are they really blowing out the stairwell for the new elevator core? Saw the plans somewhere a while ago and don't remember noticing that ...

Are they making new spaces for the MEDs?

Jul 30, 07 3:56 pm

I'm a Yale graduate who loved the Rudolph building. It was such a complex and brutally beautiful space, even in it's run down state.

This is the first time I've seen the Gwathmey addition. It's a monstrosity—how is that firm allowed to practice architecture?

There should be a rule that if you produce one building as bad as that crap, your license is automatically revoked. And they make you the manager of a sewage treatment plant. Or something.

Jul 30, 07 4:52 pm

ice9 - just dug in my old hard drive and found an old copy of the plan that was floating around the school last year, it looks like the stairwell's staying.

farwest - when did you graduate?

Aug 1, 07 2:38 pm

I'm a Yale graduate, and I hated the A and A. I mean, I bet it is a better studio building than the stadium that Harvard has, but I think it's a poorly designed building. Rudolph bungled the entrance, buried the library, made an auditorium which is really just an even larger tomb. The so-called pit where crits take place make anyone other than a shouting dean mostly inaudible to anyone other than the row of jurors 6 feet away. Admittedly, that sectional drawing of the A and A is quite nice, I think it's a section / perspective with nice hanging plants on the facade, etc? It's in that Conversations with Architects book... anyway. The possession of a developed sectional idea does not have to mean its a hell to enter, move through and interact within. Why is there a wall blocking the windows of the library from the street? I know the design students don't use it much, but for the rest of us, you feel the famous "formal bloody-mindedness" when you sit there for more than a few minutes. And those classrooms on the second floor are so amazingly cold in the winter, is there a literal gap somewhere? How much tuition did I pay to sit in class in my winter coat? The best thing about the building is how open the 3rd floor is to the gallery, which I think I heard was closed over 'til 2001? Or is that just gossip? Ok, the other best thing about the building is the one narrow slot of a window in the library which does look out at the intersection of chapel and york, where the hot dog vender used to be. Imho the place is basically a testament to the fact that Rudolph was a virtuoso of the parking garage - and also a testament to the consequences of designing a building that is awesome as a drawing but crap as a building. Give me Rand Hall any day.

Aug 1, 07 6:13 pm

Maybe Brad Pitt will take a leap of faith like Jodie Foster....and study in the new improved Yale School of Architecture Building instood of running off to Germany.

Aug 4, 07 2:12 pm

Actually I'm not sure the A+A bldg "is a better studio building than the stadium that Harvard has" -- even though it is clearly a better piece of architecture. After seeing many architecture schools around the world, the GSD's tiers don't seem so bad.

The saddest thing with this renovation at Yale is the Gwathmey design -- come on! this is the 21st century!, couldn't they get someone more relevant, more adventurous, to offer some kind of object lesson in the architecture of the place within which the students are "learning" architecture? Gwathmey's work of late is so banal and derivative its not even funny.

I mean with Mack and Merril's OSU, RoTo's UT, Mayne's Cooper U., OMA's Cornell, (even Eisenman's Cincinnatti, though far too heavy on the paint/drywall/dryvit 'materiality') this just comes across as a pathetic loss of nerve and vision on someone's part (Stern and the powers that be I presume)...

Aug 4, 07 3:39 pm

I should point out that the Gwathmey Siegal building isn't strictly an expansion of the A+A, programmatically. It will be the History of Art Building, a seperate department, and will also house the Arts Library.

More info here:


Aug 4, 07 4:14 pm

The Gwathmety Siegal addition looks like a new developer built apartment building in Madrid. "Did we tell you that the tile in the bathroom is marble?" ;) It's a very sad day when the Yale Campus, which has some stunning architecture, stoops to this level of mediocrity.

Aug 4, 07 5:39 pm

765- the stairwell will stay, but to my memory (and i could be wrong) the major vertical circulation will be relocated to the new building. i like the idea that, when the A&A used to house different disciplines, you were forced to move up and down, to and from your studio, and bump into painters, sculptors, etc. not sure if it ever worked that way, but thats what i read from the building.

didn't know those views from the studios weren't original. they seem so designed.

Aug 4, 07 5:55 pm

If you used the stairs you would pass painters and undergrads who would use the library or take occasional electives in the building. The painters were on the 4th and 5th floors for most of the building's life. Occasionally over the years there were courses and a few experimental mixed studios that blended architects with artists. I think Gehry taught one at one point that paired one architect with each painter on some team projects. But primarily the schools were pretty autonomous and the place where they mixed the most was on the administrative floor (3rd).
There were also some mystery spaces in the sub-basements - like a small number of MFA photography dark rooms and some sort of small tv studio. The architects had their own darkroom, woodshop, materials lab, welding room, and computer lab down there, so there was some potential for interaction with those other subteranean dwellers.
The sculptors hadn't been in the A+A since the early days of the building's life. Rudolph designed the sculpture spaces with ceilings that were much too low for large-scale sculpture and the school realized early on that they were losing good prospective students because of it. Sculpture had been way across campus in a warehouse-type building back behind the physical plant for some years.
The architecture M.Archs were on the 6th and 7th floors until just recently, and undergrad architecture was in a different building (with studio crit space in an old ballroom with a stage and chandelier.)

That stair has some nice odd leftover spaces. But it also has 3" risers, which makes for an odd gait and a long trip to the 7th floor- which is probably why most people use the elevators. There are a few spaces that can only be reached by the stair - like the rooftop cafe, a couple of offices, and the visiting critic apartment (which was used as overflow MED office space in some years). I hope they will keep it so that those weird little spaces must still be reached by that stair.

Aug 5, 07 11:29 am

Block this user

Are you sure you want to block this user and hide all related comments throughout the site?

  • ×Search in: