Yale University's Intelligent Design


Yale University's Intelligent Design

A sensitive restoration by Gwathmey Siegel & Associates transforms Paul Rudolph’s Brutalist Yale masterpiece into an icon of sustainable design.

By Carol Tisch

  • The Great Hall

    The Great Hall


    In the Great Hall, Viracon skylights spotlight Saarinen Womb chairs by Knoll. View larger

    The Great Hall
  • Les Femmes au Perroquet - Women with Parrot

    Les Femmes au Perroquet - Women with Parrot


    The single panel painted relief—“Les Femmes au Perroquet” (“Women with Parrot”) by Fernand Léger—which dominates the entry lobby of the new Jeffrey H. Loria Center, was gifted by Loria. View larger

    Les Femmes au Perroquet - Women with Parrot
  • Rudolph Hall and the Loria Center

    Rudolph Hall and the Loria Center


    Rudolph Hall and the Loria Center, seen here from York Street (east), are bridged at ground level by the Haas Library. View larger

    Rudolph Hall and the Loria Center
  • The skylights are also visible from floors above the third-floor roof

    The skylights are also visible from floors above the third-floor roof


    The skylights are also visible from floors above the Hall’s third-floor roof. View larger

    The skylights are also visible from floors above the third-floor roof
  • The restored Paul Rudolph Reading Room

    The restored Paul Rudolph Reading Room


    Rudolph’s notorious orange carpet, reproduced by the Mohawk Group, is now sustainable, as are the historic reproductions of his incandescent fixtures. The restored Paul Rudolph Reading Room features ICF’s Bauhaus lounge chairs, Mg5 chairs by Matteograssi and Breuer Laccio tables by Knoll. PHOTO BY RICHARD BARNES View larger

    The restored Paul Rudolph Reading Room
  • Rudolph Hall exhibition gallery

    Rudolph Hall exhibition gallery


    Rudolph Hall’s renovated exhibition gallery boasts a new Armstrong ceiling with an attached Barcol-Air water-based radiant cooling and heating system. PHOTO BY PETER AARON/ESTO View larger

    Rudolph Hall exhibition gallery
  • east façade of the new Loria Center

    east façade of the new Loria Center


    Natural limestone and zinc cladding are among the details revealed on the east façade of the new Loria Center. PHOTO BY RICHARD BARNES View larger

    east façade of the new Loria Center
  • The view from the renovated exhibition gallery

    The view from the renovated exhibition gallery


    The view from the renovated exhibition gallery reveals Haas Library and exterior views. PHOTO BY PETER AARON/ESTO View larger

    The view from the renovated exhibition gallery
  • Minerva, goddess of wisdom, presides over the fourth-floor jury space

    Minerva, goddess of wisdom, presides over the fourth-floor jury space


    Minerva, goddess of wisdom, presides over the fourth-floor jury space; the Roman statue is starkly contrasted by bash-hammered “corduroy” concrete walls. PHOTO BY PETER AARON/ESTO View larger

    Minerva, goddess of wisdom, presides over the fourth-floor jury space
  • The green roof on the fourth-floor terrace earned LEED credits

    The green roof on the fourth-floor terrace earned LEED credits


    The green roof on the fourth-floor terrace earned LEED credits; note the view of limestone-clad Rudolph Hall’s north façade. View larger

    The green roof on the fourth-floor terrace earned LEED credits
  • Loria Center faculty office

    Loria Center faculty office


    Knoll’s Morrison workstation, Herman Miller’s Aeron desk chair and Arne Jacobsen’s Series 7 chair by Fritz Hansen can be found in this Loria Center faculty office. PHOTO BY PETER AARON/ESTO View larger

    Loria Center faculty office


H.L. Mencken, the notoriously acerbic Baltimore Sun scribe who never attended college, once wrote, “Those who can—do. Those who can’t—teach.” His famous witticism falls flat on its face when one considers the remarkable “doers” associated with the Yale School of Architecture.

Paul Rudolph was chairman when he built his most famous and controversial work: Yale’s Art and Architecture Building. Some 40 years later, Dean Robert A.M. Stern, one of Rudolph’s former students, commissioned the corduroy concrete landmark’s renovation. And the late Charles Gwathmey (who worked on Rudolph’s original design as a student draftsman) led Gwathmey Siegel & Associates Architects (GSAA) in restoring the Brutalist-era icon to its original glory.

Three celebrated architects. Three storied Yale educators. And a continuum of studying, teaching and advancing architecture that is now personified in the LEED Gold-certified Yale Arts Center. The $126 million project included: the restoration and expansion of the 113,000-square-foot Art and Architecture building (renamed Paul Rudolph Hall); design and construction of a new companion facility (the 87,000-square-foot Jeffrey H. Loria Center for the History of Art); and expansion of the Robert B. Haas Arts Library, which now bridges both buildings on the ground floor.

Yale's LEED Scorecard:

“The fundamentals of sustainable design call upon the core principles of the architect’s craft,” says Robert Siegel of Gwathmey Siegel and Associates Architects (GSAA). The firm integrated sustainable design principles within its overall solution for the Yale Arts Center, scoring 5 out of 5 possible LEED points for Innovation and Design Process. Focusing on the following six major categories, the project ultimately earned LEED Gold certification with 39 points:

  • Building Envelope: The new building was designed with the best possible R value and interwoven with Rudolph’s existing concrete building.  Insulated glass units and Low E glass windows were added to bring up the R value of Rudolph Hall. LEED points were also scored with window shades by MechoShade Systems, for a green roof added to the new building, and complete restoration of and existing structure.
  • MEP (mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems): Ceiling -mounted radiant heating and cooling system by Barcol-Air, used extensively in Europe for restorations, allowed for the addition of air-conditioning to the Rudolph building for the first time in its history. An aircuity system monitors the quality of the air in both buildings for temperature, humidity, carbon dioxide, and VOC.
  • Site Development:  Points were scored for reusing an existing site and for converting ground fill for the new building. The team earned 5 out of 5 possible points for Water Efficiency including Water Efficient Landscaping, Innovative Wastewater Technologies and Water Use Reduction. Drainage was added to separate storm water from sewers water. A dry well was added on site to reuse gray water that collects storm water and reuses it in toilets. The green roof prevents storm runoff. A garbage sorting room was added for use by building occupants. Bicycle racks both inside and outside, and a shower room were added on to the building.
  • Type and Use of Materials—Sustainable Materials: Fifty percent of all new wood products are FSC Certified. Regional materials (sourced within a 500-mile radius) and recycled content were specified as much as possible. GSAA earned points for Low-Emitting materials including paint, coatings, adhesives & sealants, carpet systems, composite wood & agrifiber.  

    The two main materials cladding the new building (zinc and the limestone) are natural materials.

    Pavers used on terraces are LEED-compliant in terms of color (white and reflective).  Mohawk and Karastan carpet used throughout are sustainable.
  • Lighting: Lighting fixtures fitted with LEED-compliant energy efficient metal halide bulbs mimic the exposed incandescent ones used in the suspended lighting system Rudolph conceived for the building. All private offices use occupancy sensors.  Linear fluorescent lights in the corridors use dimming based on daylight levels for energy savings. And all exterior lighting uses cutoff lamps.

    Skylights were restored throughout, and light monitors designed by Rudolph to allow light into the lower basement and sub-basement were restored. GSAA discovered in Rudolph’s original drawings that he had designed (but never built or installed) mercury lamps to shine from outside the building through two open skylights that come through the buildings seventh through fourth floors.  LEED-compliant versions were built and installed to restore the true intended character of the building.
  • Construction phase and process:  Contractor Turner Construction diverted 75 percent of construction waste from landfill with offsite sorting, recycling and salvaging processes.  During excavation, even the New Haven red sand was sold to a local contractor rather than sending to landfill.
“Educational institutions like Yale are leading the sustainable design movement: Many are committed to radically reducing their carbon footprints—some to zero footprints by 2030. And most aspire to as high a LEED rating as they can achieve,” explains Robert Siegel, FAIA, principal and founding partner of Gwathmey Siegel. “What’s really fascinating is that green design is driving architecture right now and universities are at the forefront,” adds Elizabeth Skowronek, AIA, senior associate at GSAA.

To meet Yale’s mandate that all new buildings achieve a minimum LEED Silver rating, Gwathmey Siegel focused on six categories: building envelope, MEP (mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems), site development, type and use of materials, lighting, and construction phase and process. “Considering we were working with a mid-century concrete building, we thought earning Silver would be a bit of a tough assignment. But we exceeded what we were asked to do and earned Gold,” says Skowronek, noting that for LEED purposes, Rudolph’s landmark facility and GSAA’s new building were considered one structure.

Indeed, the buildings are interwoven inside and out. “The interior spaces intertwine—the circulation systems intertwine, [and] the primary elevator system for both buildings is in the new building,” explains Siegel. That intentional symbiosis helped GSAA overcome obstacles which would have precluded LEED certification of Rudolph Hall.

“Reusing an existing building envelope was a big plus [for LEED] and a huge minus at the same time, because the envelope of the Rudolph building had a very low R-value,” notes Skowronek. The idea was to restore the older building to the extent where contemporary environmental standards could be met, and to design the best possible R-values into the new building.

“There were a lot of remedial repairs,” recalls Siegel. “We had to rebuild the main stair, redo all of the roofs, and literally remake every single window. The original Rudolph building was designed in a certain way in terms of fenestration, but window systems added later weren’t sympathetic to the original design.” GSAA removed everything that was contradictory to Rudolph’s design and re-glazed the building with low-E glass Kawneer windows and large insulated Viracon glass units.

Repairing the building’s signature cast-in-place concrete shell involved a combination of research and craftsmanship. “We were able to find one of Rudolph’s original concrete forms, and the people who originally did the bush-hammered concrete,” says Skowronek. Further research revealed that the ballast on the roof was the stone used in the original concrete. These discoveries enabled GSAA to restore the surface of the building precisely as it was originally constructed.

“That was Elizabeth’s primary role—returning the Rudolph building back to exactly the way it was intended to be,” says Siegel. He points to the building’s new radiant heating and cooling system and custom lighting fixtures as particularly inventive solutions—both architecturally and from a LEED point of view.

“The building had very specific lighting that defined its character, architecturally, and also defined the spaces,” he explains. “Rudolph installed hundreds of these incandescent fixtures on different mounting systems throughout the most monumental spaces, and we had to almost invent a fixture that could simulate them but also be infinitely more energy efficient.” GSAA’s lighting designer, Robert Leiter of HDLC, recreated the historic Rudolph lamps, exactly, with metal halide lamps from Winona Lighting.

Skowronek specified a dropped ceiling system by Armstrong with an attached water-based radiant cooling and heating system by Barcol-Air that utilizes existing hot and cold water from the main campus plant. Because of Rudolph’s original ceilings of sprayed-on asbestos (subsequently removed), there was little space for duct work. “It would have been so intrusive in terms of ceiling heights, and visually very objectionable,” notes Siegel. “These were a real discovery—they are so thin and so beautifully made you actually think that they were always there in place.”

That’s also true for Rudolph’s iconic orange carpeting—which was destroyed in a 1969 fire, and recreated from a salvaged 1-inch swatch by the Mohawk Group in sustainable iteration. In addition to specifying a myriad of mid-century pieces from Knoll, Herman Miller, ICF and more, GSAA also recreated several of Rudolph’s original furniture designs. Some pieces were duplicated exactly; others, like his library tables, were modernized with amenities like cable management and computer hookups.

Looking back, Skowronek says the pedagogical aspects of the project were as rewarding as its LEED Gold certification. “Educating students of architecture on how to reuse a building was a rather interesting and exciting thing to do—what better way to show them how to convert an old building into a 21st century building,” she concludes. Those who can “do” green architecture are indeed its best teachers.

Carol Tisch is a freelance writer, editor and marketing consultant based in Sarasota, FL. She was formerly editor-in-chief of Shelter Interiors magazine and Home Furnishings News (HFN), and has developed communications programs for commercial and residential design industry clients. She can be reached at tischcomm@aol.com.


back to top



Office Furniture
Knoll | 8
(800) 343-5665

ICF | 2
(800) 237-1625

Matteo Grassi

Herman Miller | 3
(616) 654-3000

(423) 586-7000


(212) 685-4200

Westminster Teak
(888) 592-8325

Irwin Seating Co. | 4
(866) 464-7946

(631) 423-4560

Fritz Hansen| 1
(212) 219-3226



Edelman Leather
(800) 866-8339

(800) 482-7777




Armstrong World Industries

(800) 233-8990

Gwathmey Siegel & Assocs. Monarch Industries
(800) 669-9663

Karastan Contract | 5
(800) 234-1120

The Mohawk Group | 2

(214) 398-1411

Benjamin Moore | 6

Tate Access Floors
(800) 231-7788

(800) 842-7839

Cambridge Architectural
(866) 806-2385

Wall Coverings
(800) 387-3809


Gammalux Systems
(800) 356-3275

Winona Lighting | 7
(800) 328-5291

Winona Lighting

(631) 694-9292

(800) 222-5896

(888) 588-7661

back to top


200 York St.
New Haven, CT 06520


Gwathmey Siegel & Associates Architects, LLC
475 10th Ave.
New York, NY 10018
(212) 947-1240

Charles Gwathmey, FAIA, partner-in-charge/design partner
Robert Siegel, FAIA, design partner
Thomas Levering, AIA, project manager
Steven Forman, AIA, project senior associate
Elizabeth Skowronek, AIA, project senior associate

Severud Associates

Altieri Sebor Wieber

BVH Integrated Services

Turner Construction Co.

Harvey Marshall Berling Associates

Gwathmey Siegel & Associates Architects; Hoffman Architects

Atelier Ten


Peter Aaron/Esto and Richard Barnes


comments powered by Disqus

You may also enjoy...

Newsletter Subscriptions

comments powered by Disqus
©Copyright 2014 Stamats Communications, Inc. All rights reserved. / interiors+sources