To recognize a masterpiece in a lovely building is no great feat; the trick is to spot one in an object as insolent, as splendidly belligerent, as Paul Rudolph’s Art and Architecture Building at Yale. Few did so when it opened in 1963; it seemed willfully provocative, as if its baffling spatial sequences and corrugated concrete walls were expressly devised to repulse understanding, let alone affection. As it happened, it existed in this shocking form for only a few years before it was mauled beyond recognition. Now the A&A has been restored by Charles Gwathmey of Gwathmey and Siegel, and with great brilliance; his achievement is to reveal just how great it actually is.
Most architecture is conceived incrementally, advancing from plan to section to elevation, but the A&A seems the expression of a single massive thought, its components neatly folded into one another to make a compacted unity. It can no more be separated into structure and space than can a cavern. Such a degree of resolution, rare when it was built, seems almost inconceivable today.