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Yale A & A Building

New Haven, United States of America
1 of 33

The Yale Art and Architecture Building (the "A&A Building") is one of the earliest and best known examples of Brutalist architecture in the United States. The building still houses Yale University's School of Architecture (it once also housed the School of Art) and is located in New Haven, Connecticut.


Designed by architect Paul Rudolph and completed in 1963, the complex building contains over thirty floor levels in its seven stories. The building is made of ribbed, bush-hammered, 'corduroy' concrete. The design was influenced by Frank Lloyd Wright's Larkin Administration Building, in Buffalo, NY and the later buildings of Le Corbusier.

Monumental in its interlocking concrete forms, the building was designed to anchor a key corner site, culminating an architectural procession that includes Yale University Art Gallery, just across the street. With the centripetal force of a pinwheel, the A&A's massing spins off of four complex concrete towers, with a fifth vertical shaft set to one side to house the elevators and main interior stair. Up a run of front steps that pool metaphorically at the base of the building and nearly disappear into the shadows between two towers, the interior unfolded with a panoply of interlocking spaces and planes-37 different levels terracing through seven stories, a penthouse, and two below-grade levels.

The building houses a great central, communal work space, surrounded by overlooks spanning four colossal piers. Rudolph expressed the focal center as stacked double-height spaces: an exhibition area, rising from the piano nobile and ringed by an administrative mezzanine, and directly above it, a soaring architectural drafting room, surveyed by a cast of a Classical statue of Minerva.

Opposing Opinions

When the building first opened, it was praised widely by critics and academics, and received several prestigious awards, including the Award of Honor by the American Institute of Architects. New York Times architecture critic, Ada Louise Huxtable, called it "a spectacular tour de force." As time went by, however, the critical reaction to the building became more negative. Architecture historian Nikolaus Pevsner bemoaned the structure's oppressive monumentality.

A large fire on the night of June 14, 1969 caused extensive damage and during the repairs, many changes were made to Rudolph's original design. Some have claimed that the fire was the result of arson committed by a disgruntled student, but this charge has remained unproven.

Charles Moore, who openly disliked the building and succeeded Rudolph as Yale's architecture chair, reconfigured the fire-gutted interior, obscuring and hacking up key spaces. Most egregiously, the double-height drafting room was split into two separate floors, each a warren of painting studios.

Recent Years

Appreciation of the structure has increased in recent years, with Yale investing $126 million for the building's renovation. The School of Art moved out to its own building in 2000 and the edifice has undergone a renovation with the intent of restoring it to the design originally envisioned by Rudolph. These recent renovations were undertaken by Charles Gwathmey, a Yale graduate who studied under Rudolph.

Some of the restorations included washing and patching the windows which have brought out the exterior interplay of light and shadow, and massive volumes and voids. The exterior concrete shell has been cleaned, ridding the fortress-like impressions associated with the building with over 40 years of grime. Inside, Rudolph's vibrant "paprika" carpeting, a warm counterpoint to the A&A's rough and ubiquitous concrete (inside and out), has been re-created, supplanting decades of mud-brown floor cover. The notorious lack of climate control, or even airflow, has been tackled with modern mechanical systems, largely housed in the addition, and thermally efficient windows. The building is on track for LEED Silver certification.


Despite all the controversy surrounding the building over the years, the renovated existing building has been rechristened Paul Rudolph Hall, at the request of Sid Bass, the renovation's lead donor.

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  1. Wikipedia
  2. Architect Magazine
  3. Arch Record
ludmilla, December 11th, 2013
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