Restoration and Expansion of Eero Saarinens’s David S. Ingalls Rink at Yale University.


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Welcome to our third installment of in-depth articles featuring Modernism in America award winning projects. The Modernism in America Awards program, now accepting applications for a third year, seeks to acknowledge the substantial economic and cultural impact such projects had and continue to have on our local communities and to set a standard for how preserving modern architecture can be accomplished. The program seeks to bring attention to the many successful local, regional and national projects and thereby elevate an appreciation for the value of modern architecture to our cultural and architectural history.

Exterior of Ingalls Hockey Rink. Courtesy of Keven Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates, LLC.

Design Award of Excellence | Civic/Institutional
New Haven, Connecticut

Original Architect: Eero Saarinen and Associates
Restoration Team: Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates (Architect)
Client: Yale University
Construction: 1958 / 60.000 SF
Restoration/Expansion: 2010 / 60,000 SF Renovation, 12,700 SF Addition
By Jason Hickey, 


The Ingalls Rink at Yale University in New Haven Connecticut was completed in 1958 by Eero Saarinen. Saarinen’s design for the rink relied the on architect’s characteristic blend of tectonic innovation and sculptural space-making, used with such success on his iconic St. Louis Arch (1965) and TWA Terminal (1962) projects.

A convergence of the innovative and the sculptural is seen in the structural system, which allowed the interior volume of the rink to be entirely open and free of columns. An inverted catenary concrete spine runs longitudinally along the north-south axis of the building, rising to a maximum height of 75 feet. A network of tensioned cables run perpendicular to this spine on both the interior and exterior of the roof plane, with a light timber roof structure suspended between. The dramatic double-curvature of the metal-clad roof plane and sweep of the catenary spine led to the rink’s affectionate nickname: the ‘Yale Whale’.

A simple palette of exposed board-formed concrete, white plaster, white oak, and patinated metal cladding wraps from the exterior to the interior of the rink. The ice rink itself is recessed below the level of entry, its surface raked by light from glazed openings at the north and south ends of the building, which in turn washes a diffuse light over the sweep of the underside of the soaring roof plane, lending an almost shimmering quality to the exposed wood battens. The overall impression is of a volume expanding in motion and seeming to define a space much larger than suggested by the building’s exterior profile.

Rink Arena interior. Credit: KRJDA

Entrance Ramp materials respect original Saarinen building. Credit: KRJDA

Goal of the Restoration

In advance of the 50th anniversary of the rink, a program of conservation and expansion was begun by Yale University. The University commissioned Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates (KRJDA) to direct necessary refurbishment and updates to building systems as well as an expansion to meet the building's programmatic requirements as the home of the Yale University men’s and women's hockey teams. Kevin Roche had worked with Saarinen from 1950 to 1961, and was a part of the original design team of the rink, and Mr. Roche formed KRJDA as the successor to Eero Saarinen’s firm following Saarinen’s untimely death in 1961. Therefore, in planning the restoration and expansion of the Ingall’s rink, KRJDA was able to draw both on Mr. Roche’s knowledge, and Saarinen’s original sketches for the project.


The goal of the restoration was to conserve existing materials where possible, and to replace those finishes added after initial completion of the building to match the original. Much of the conservation effort focused on the original board-formed concrete, which in many places had spalled and was stained with rust from exposed reinforcing rebar. All affected concrete was cut away, the underlying rebar treated, and the concrete replaced. Formwork boards were selected individually for grain and finish. Formwork construction and application methods replicated the original methods, down to the patterning of the exposed nail heads used in assembly. The color and of the concrete, and the density and composition of the aggregate were carefully calibrated to match.

To increase the energy performance of the building, new insulation and waterproofing membranes were retrofitted into the existing roof. Custom metal battens were milled to accommodate the new insulation while maintaining the original roof profile. Existing millwork was refinished, and replaced where necessary. New concessions booths, wheelchair access lifts, and broadcasting facilities were provided. Existing light fixtures and troughs were also retrofitted with high efficiency lighting systems.

Glass enclosed players entrance ramp along west property line provides access and light to the below grade facilities with no impact on the west facade of the original building or loss of parking spaces. Credit: KRJDA

View of the Hockey clubroom: Renovated clubroom retains the spirit of the original while providing appropriate comfort, acoustics, and media technology. Credit: KRJDA


As collegiate level sports had expanded and evolved, the rink’s facilities needed a major renovation to remain competitive both on the ice and in recruitment efforts. KRJDA proposed a renovation that would respect the unique form of the original. The bulk of the new 12,700 s.f. space was located below grade, beneath the existing parking lot. A glass and concrete enclosed ramp, the only visible portion of new work, curves around the west side of the rink, and provides team and staff access to the new wing. The ramp descends in an arc around the existing building, making contact only once it if fully below grade. A landscaped berm on either side of the ramp provides a further buffer between old and new. At the entry to the new ramp, a Stainless steel gate with stylized hockey sticks as pickets, celebrates the vernacular of the ornamental metalwork gates common to Yale’s campus. The expanded facilities house new state of the art lockers and training rooms for the men’s and women’s hockey teams, as well as changing rooms for expanded youth and community programs. Construction of the expansion was planned to proceed without interruption to the hockey season schedule.


Saarinen’s design for the rink was seen as challenging at the time of its construction--challenging to familiar classicism of Yale’s campus, and challenging the restrained modernism of the time. The rink’s soaring catenary curves were, and remain, a daring departure from the expected in both engineering and construction. The resulting interior spaces, spare in material, dynamic in form and light, evoke an almost spiritual sense of dislocation from the familiar and common. KRJDA’s approach was to augment and expand the function of the rink by engaging it with a ‘quiet’ architecture, which sought to compliment Saarinen’s original composition, rather than add to it.

The Men's Hockey team went on to win a national championship in 2013 in the newly restored arena. Credit: KRJDA