So much has been written about the Yale Center for British Art, architect Louis I. Kahn’s last building at Yale–from Jules David Prown’s, The Architecture of the Yale Center for British, prominently displayed in the museum’s gift shop and containing photographs of the space without the art that has now filled it, to the forthcoming Louis I. Kahn and the Yale Center for British Art: A Conservation Plan that will be released in February 2012 which details how to preserve this great work of architecture, to the countless news and blog articles. As such, I will not attempt here to reproduce what has already been said.
I first became acquainted with this magnificent building through a photography class with photographer Erieta Attali. We spent a whole day there, Erieta giving us freedom to roam and take in the building at our own pace. I was new to shooting interiors and it took me half a day to understand the space from a photographic perspective. It’s visual and spatial impact however, can be felt from the minute you enter the building. Kahn tempered the use of modern concrete, steel and glass is contrasted with warm oak panels and travertine, a form of limestone.
The galleries are open and filled with light. The clean architectural lines provide an aesthetic contrast to the collection of 18th and 19th century paintings displayed within. The openings in the gallery often frame a scene, which in turn frame the works of art. It’s a peaceful space, with side areas for study and reflection. The building’s seeming simplicity belies a true complexity of spatial understanding and play with forms. Anchoring the building are two contrasting atriums, one opening into the galleries, the other contained and cathedral like and some of the most interesting spaces are the interstitial connectors such as the staircases and hallways. Even the bathroom is a work of art.
In these photos I attempted to capture the stillness, the play of light on materials and beauty of the forms.
Yale Center for British Art
1080 Chapel Street
New Haven, CT