Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT
The Yale Center for British Art is a museum at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, and the last building designed by famous American architect Louis Kahn.
The center was founded in 1966 after a donation by Paul Mellon, one of the richest people in the United States and Yale’s 1929 graduate, who gifted his large collection of British art to the university and funded the realization of a new building in which to display it.
Mellon developed a passion for British art, history, and culture when studying at the University of Cambridge in the 1930s, and remained deeply attracted to Britain throughout his life. In Cambridge, he also began collecting British art, especially 18th-century painting, prints, and rare books.
Cover image: Louis Kahn, Yale Center for British Art, view of the upper floor, and the main interior courtyard. Photo by Ani Od Chai.
Louis Kahn’s building
Louis Kahn, who had previously designed the Yale University Art Gallery, was chosen by Mellon as the architect to design the new British Art Center. Designed in the late-1960s, the building was inaugurated in 1977, three years after Kahn’s death in 1974.
The Yale Center for British Art is a four-story construction clad externally in matte steel and glass. Internally, the gallery spaces flow around two covered courtyards; the larger of the two, the Library Court, contains one of the most iconic architectural features of the museum, an imposing cylindrical stairwell made in bare concrete whose curvilinear volume enhances, and contrasts with, the center’s geometric plan.
Travertine stone, white oak, bare concrete, and Belgian linen are the materials used for the interiors and, together with the natural light pouring into the building through a sequence of skylights, give the museum a relaxing and intimate appearance.
After an eight-year renovation, the Yale Center for British Art reopened in May 2016.
Yale Center for British Art, exterior view from Chapel St. Photo by Ani Od Chai.
Yale Center for British Art, second-floor and third-floor plans, southeast elevation, and longitudinal section. Image source: Archweb.it.
Yale Center for British Art, interior view of the upper floor gallery. Photo by Pushypenguin.
The collection of the Yale Center for British Art is the largest collection of British Art outside the UK and comprises about 100,000 works of art – 2,000 paintings, 250 sculptures, 20,000 drawings, 35,000 prints, 35,000 books and manuscripts, and 3,000 photographs – created from the 15th century to the present day.
Notable artists whose works are in the collection include Joshua Reynolds, George Stubbs, James Ward, John Constable, J. M. W. Turner, and Henry Moore.
Apart from a few modern artworks, the collection mostly comprises British art of the 18th century and 19th century, with a strong focus on portrait and landscape painting.
Along with exhibition spaces, the center also houses a reference library, a study room, a photograph archive, an auditorium, and a bookshop.
View of the upper floor exhibition space. Photo Bycjreddaway.
Joseph Mallord William Turner, Dort or Dordrecht: The Dort packet-boat from Rotterdam becalmed, 1818; photo by Karen.
John Constable, Coastal Scene with Cliffs and a View of Hadleigh Castle, ca. 1814; photo by Karen.
Canaletto (Giovanni Antonio Canal), The City from Near the Terrace of Somerset House,
ca. 1750. Along with works by British artists, the collection also features pieces by foreign artists who lived and/or were active in Britain. Photo by Karen.
The cylindrical staircase in the main interior courtyard, also known as “Library Court”; photo by Gunnar Klack.
Kahn used matte steel and reflective glass for the facade cladding, and matte steel, oak, travertine, and concrete for the interior finishes. Photos by Karen and Thomas Nemeskeri.
The top floor of the museum and the two interior courtyards are naturally lit by many truncated-pyramid skylights. Photos by Shinya Suzuki and Timothy Brown.
The exhibition space can be reconfigured through movable walls Kahn called “pogos”. Photo by Shinya Suzuki.
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copyright Inexhibit 2021 - ISSN: 2283-5474