Following nearly 40 years of uninterrupted operation, the YCBA, designed by Louis I. Kahn, faced a series of mounting pressures which threatened to degrade its extraordinary architectural character. Ingeniously integrated infrastructure systems had reached the end of their practical life; architectural finishes had become tired and worn; the need for teaching spaces within the center had expanded dramatically; contemporary conservation standards demanded more robust environmental controls; and the growing collection required increased space for exhibition, storage, curation, and study. The YCBA met its overall goals through a process of in-depth research into the history of the design and construction of its landmark building that laid the groundwork for well-informed planning decisions.
The Conservation Plan—the first of its kind in the United States—was devised to safeguard the cultural significance of the building while promoting good public access, sustainable use, and adaptation. Flexibility in the scholarly use of the collections was a primary requirement of the program. The use of diffused natural light played a key role in shaping architectural form and the organization of galleries for the display of the collection comprised of domestic-scale pictures, sculpture, works on paper, manuscripts, and rare books. Improvements to the collections environment and stabilization of humidity levels in the building were coordinated with the refurbishment of the exterior wall to extend the life of the systems. In order to fulfill the center’s environmental and conservation objectives, existing materials were reused whenever possible, and new materials were prudently sourced to match the original in quality and appearance.
The project is notable for its restoration of Louis Kahn’s original vision for the center while addressing the demands of 21st century scholarship, art conservation, teaching, and patron amenities.
Knight Architecture LLC; also Yale University Office of Facilities: Department of Planning and Project Management; Turner Construction Company; Peter Inskip & Peter Jenkins Architects Limited; Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates, Inc.; BVH Integrated Services; Philip R. Sherman, P.E.; Hefferan Partnership Lighting Design; Staples & Charles Limited