Touring Modern New Haven


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By Tim Hayduk and Liz Waytkus
On Saturday, July 19th, Docomomo US' young professional group, the Modern League, joined tour guides Liz Waytkus and Tim Hayduk on a guided trip through downtown New Haven in search of Eero Saarinen, Louis Kahn, Kevin Roche, Gordon Bunshaft, Paul Rudolph and others. The idea for the tour developed from a conversation between Liz and Tim about their love for this small New England city that became host to a refreshing number of post-WWII modern buildings. Modernism was the draw for both guides – Liz came to New Haven for higher education and to live amongst the modern landmarks while Tim, born in New Haven and  grew up in rural Bethany found delight, inspiration and escape on the sidewalks and parking decks of New Haven. They wanted to share this treasure trove of modern buildings with Modern League members both old and new.

Photo (above): The Modern League out on the synthetic ice at the David S. Ingalls Rink (aka the Yale Whale) designed by Eero Saarinen. Credit: Matthew Carbone.

The group met at Union Station, a Cass Gilbert designed station that faced demolition and was graciously restored by local architect Herbert S. Newman. This area of New Haven was extended from the edge of the city’s historical nine squares into the harbor through the process of landfilling. Modern buildings would later line Interstate 95 to become individual billboards for speeding traffic, including the Brutalist Armstrong Rubber building, 1968 designed by Marcel Breuer and now part of Ikea, although the building is completely unoccupied and used to hang banners advertising sales at the giant blue box store.
Photo (right): Tim Hayduk at Union Station leads the group at the start of the day.
A walk along Church Street took the group through the Hill and Oak Street sections, a large area that was once older urban fabric and demolished under Mayor Richard C. Lee’s plans for modernizing the city. The Federal Highway Act and Model Cities programs were important impetuses for development, with the latter program bringing more money to New Haven than to any other Model City in the program.  It would take more than 60 years for the city to begin to stitch itself back together, with plans to bridge portions of the Oak Street Connector to reconnect neighborhoods decimated by highway building and large scale planning. Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates  (KRJDA) Knights of Columbus Building, 1969 and Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum of 1972, became colossal beacons approaching the city by car. The Coliseum is no longer extant, a victim of deferred maintenance and competition from newer regional venues. Paul Rudolph’s Temple Street Garage of1961, also celebrated the car with its swooping ramps and immense length. If Rudolph had his way, the garage would have been much longer, acting as a gateway structure to those arriving on the new expressways.
Photo (right): The Oak Street Connector with the prominent Knights of Columbus Building. Credit: ctsenatedems via Flickr.
Stepping into the heart of downtown, the Modern League moved from the Urban Renewal city to the incrementally developed Yale Campus, largely within New Haven’s original 9 squares. Our first stop was Louis Kahn’s Yale Art Gallery (YAG) of 1953. We were greeted by Anita Buckmaster of The New Haven Preservation Trust. She welcomed the group and described their casework on important modern buildings – narrowed down from over 900 “modern” structures – with the first series of buildings now featured on their microsite New Haven Modern. Guests were let loose to wander about the YAG, experiencing Kahn’s servant/served parti, tetrahedron ceiling and the building’s deceptively simple façade along Chapel Street.
Photo (right): Touring the Yale Art Gallery. Credit: Matthew Carbone.
Our next stop was The Yale Center for British Art (YCBA), 1972-1977, directly across the street from the YAG. This is mature Kahn, his last museum which he did not see to completion due to his death in 1977. Here, guests experienced how Kahn had developed the servant/served concept brought to the handling of materials- the beautifully and honestly expressed concrete frame as the building’s exposed skeleton, marbles, woods and linens in places where patrons would intimately came in contact with the building. The book Louis I. Kahn and the Yale Center for British Art, A Conservation Plan by Peter Inskip and Stephen Gee, published by Yale University Press, in 2011,  offers  wonderful insight into the history of the building and ideas for how the Yale might move forward with respect to Kahn’s original vision. Paul Rudolph Hall, the home of Yale’s School of Architecture is worth a visit – a deeply contested building that received a poor grade by Nicholas Pevsner at the building’s dedication has been lovingly restored by Robert A.M. Stern, Dean of Architecture. An addition by Gwathmey Siegel redirects visitors through its new entrance. Check the exhibitions calendar to see what is on view for your visit.
Photo (right): One of two light filled atrium's at the Yale Center for British Art.
Beineke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, designed by Gordon Bunshaft of SOM and completed in 1963,  is a must see when visiting Yale. It is advised to check the website as the building is scheduled for major mechanical upgrades which will make the building inaccessible to the public. The austere granite and marble facades are Vierendeel trusses that rest on small pylons near the building’s corners. The inside is a sheer delight – sunlight works its way through the marble to illuminate the interior. A Miesian glass box at the building’s center displays several levels of rare books for all to see. One can get close enough to read some of the bindings. A temple to the written and illuminated volume.
Photo (right): The luminous interior of the Beinecke Library. Credit: Matthew Carbone. 
The highlight of our visit – and perhaps a wonderful destination to consider during the hockey season – was a tour of David S. Ingalls Rink, affectionately known as the Yale Whale. Designed by Eero Saarinen and completed in 1958 with the assistance of a young crew of architects including Kevin Roche and Cesar Pelli, this revolutionary building was Yale’s entry point into modernism with the blessing of then president A. Whitney Griswold. Fast forward a half a century and Saarinen’s successor firm, Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates would lead the restoration and design of perhaps the most modest and effective addition ever added to a Modern building.

We were warmly greeted by Wes Kavanagh, Principal, KRJDA, Natalia Valencia, formerly with KRJDA and now with Goldstein, Hill & West Architects, LLP and finally, Wayne Dean, Senior Associate Athletics Director for Rink Operations/Sports and introduced as the client. Our tour was literally a top-to-bottom, not page unturned look at the problems and incredible solutions to the landmark’s aging and growing pains. Kavanagh and Valencia spoke of their roles in gathering information – looking backward in order to move forward on restoration and designing an addition that would give women their first discreet locker room, an advanced training center and space for youth hockey clubs to meet, conveniently located under the footprint of the original parking lot. They also spoke of the importance of making upgrades to make the building ADA compliant, repair spalling concrete on the exterior and replicating the texture and pattern of the original formwork including reproducing the nail holes, replacing the roof membrane and adding a layer of insulation so as to not be detectable. Kavanagh underscored the Yale Community’s love for the building and its traditions. Any new intervention would be minimal at most while maintaining the character of the building with respect to use and aesthetics. Wayne Dean’s history with and affection for the building stretches back several decades and his eagerness to share with us the original building’s flaws and the solutions he was able to work through with KRJDA was incredible to witness – an seemingly near-perfect rapport between client and architect. After walking on the rink, inspecting the Zamboni, standing in the press box and visiting virtually every support space imaginable, Dean Wayne proudly showed us the 2012-2013 National Championship trophy (their first ever!) – the truest expression of what all of this building and its contents are made to support – New Haven Hockey at its best.

We finished the day off by treating our guests to another New Haven best – its pizza.  We took up two long tables at BAR on Crown Street and feasted on some terrific pizza – we recommend the mashed potato variety, local beer and a scrumptious salad. Those in the know have their favorite Wooster Square pizza place, but rest assured, most if not all pizza in New Haven is exceptional – much like its architecture. 
Liz and Tim and all of our guests would like to thank Wes Kavanagh, Natalia Valencia, Wayne Dean, Anita Buckmaster and everyone at KRJDA for helping us pull together such a memorable day and tour.

Tim Hayduk received a BArch from Pratt Institute and has worked for several cultural institutions in the city developing educational programs and tours. He is currently the Lead design Educator at the Center for Architecture Foundation and is a member of Docomomo US and other groups concerned with preserving our modern heritage.

Liz Waytkus is the Executive Director of Docomomo US and received an MS in Historic Preservation from Pratt Institute and previously worked in the non-profit cultural and educational fields for more than a decade.