Polshek Partnership, LLP

New Haven, Connecticut


When the Yale University Art Gallery first opened in 1953, this magazine included it in a roundup of new art museums. Calling it a “working museum,” the paragraph-long article mentioned the building’s exposed concrete construction and the presence of its unique tetrahedral ceilings. However, the piece did not anticipate that the gallery would come to be thought of as architect Louis Kahn’s first significant institutional project, widely admired not only for its engineering innovations and treatment of materials, but also for its pure geometry, flexible open plan, and handling of light.

Paradoxically, over the decades as Kahn’s reputation grew, the building was much changed by unsympathetic alterations. For example, fixed partitions multiplied to create space for offices, storage, classrooms, and other functions. But, as part of a $44-million renovation of the building, completed in December, Polshek Partnership Architects and its consultants sought to return the exhibition spaces to their original loft-like and light-filled state. The work also included upgrading the building’s infrastructure to meet current museum standards, and replacement of the elegant, but thermally problematic, west and north window walls.

As record noted 50 years ago, one of the building’s most distinctive features is its tetrahedral ceilings, which although muscular, seem to float overhead. These poured-in-place concrete elements integrate the mechanical systems with the building’s structure and make possible expansive and flexible galleries unencumbered by columns.
Replacement of the gallery lighting was a puzzle. The original, a precursor to modern day track systems, had been designed by Richard Kelly and specially fabricated for the gallery by Edison Price. Despite its pedigree, the system was worn out and no longer complied with code.

To replace the obsolete system, the architect and lighting designer specified short and flexible sections of track that could be threaded through the ceiling hollows.
The new lighting design provides more flexibility for the display of artwork and allows curators to maintain proper lighting levels without fixtures that drop below the bottom of the ceiling.

Flexibility and modularity are evident in the lobby’s new media lounge, designed by Yale professor and New York City-based architect Joel Sanders. Here mobile furniture and display cases on casters can be reconfigured to suit a variety of activities, including informal study, receptions, lectures, or films. The spare units, made of ebonized oak, are different from, but sympathetic to the architecture’s powerful forms.


Yale University

Polshek Partnership, LLP
320 West 13th Street
New York, New York 10028
Phone: 212.807.7171
Fax: 212.807.5917

Principal-in-Charge: Stephen Johnson, AIA

Project Manager (design): David Hart, AIA

Project Manager (construction): Edward Carfagno, AIA

Project Manager (construction): Steven H. Hall, AIA

Historic Architect : Stephanie Kingsnorth, AIA

Construction Architect: Lalida P Nakatani, AIA

Project Team:
Kate Bowman
Virgil Castelo
Yoon Sung Cho
Richard Hofmeister
Tom Miera
Juan Minaya
Heather Perry-Melish
Cynthia Salah
Cecilia Valino

Architect of record:
Polshek Partnership, LLP
320 West 13th Street
New York, New York 10028
Phone: 212.807.7171
Fax: 212.807.5917

Partner in Charge: Duncan R. Hazard AIA

Design Partners: James S. Polshek FAIA and Richard M. Olcott FAIA

Project Manager: Steven C. Peppas AIA

Project Architect (Construction Phase): Lloyd L. DesBrisay AIA

Project Architect: Robert S. Condon AIA

Senior Technical Detailer: Gary L. Anderson AIA

Interior Design: Charmian C. Place

Lobby Design: Joel Sanders, Architect

Lobby Media Design, and Millwork: Art Guild Inc.

Conservation Environment Consulting: Garrison/Lull Inc.

General contractor:  Barr & Barr Inc.

Elizabeth Felicella
telephone / facsimile 212.662.8039
© Elizabeth Felicella

Richard Barnes
t./f. 415.550.1023
© Richard Barnes

CAD system, project management, or other software used: Microstation



Exterior cladding:
Masonry: Glen Gery Brick

Metal/glass curtainwall: Wausau Window and Wall Systems

Interior Concrete Restoration: Jahn

Precast Concrete: Precast Specialties, Inc.

Limestone: Alabama Limestone

Built-up roofing: Firestone

Glass: Viracon, Old Castle

Entrances: Fenevations

Metal doors: Ellison

Wood doors: Algoma Hardwoods

Upswinging doors, other: Cookson

Locksets: Schlage, Best, Zero, Accurate, Adams Rite

Hinges: Rixson, Bommer

Closers: Rixson, Norton, LCN

Exit devices: Blumcraft

Pulls: Fenevations

Security devices: Rixson, Von Duprin, Locknetics, ACSI, Deltrex, Folger, Adam

Cabinet hardware: Blum, EPCO, Outwater, Doug Mockett, Best, Hafele, Knape and Vogt, Brass Works, Idea, Ives, K & E Hardware, Timberline, Rakks

 Misc: Rockwood, Zero

Interior finishes:
Acoustical ceilings: USG

Suspension grid: USG

Demountable partitions: Custom “Pogo” Panels (designed by Staples & Charles)

Cabinetwork and custom woodwork: Legere Group, Ltd.

Paints and stains: Martin Senour, Benjamin Moore, Pittsburgh

Mesh Ceilings: Expanded Aluminum Mesh

Wallcoverings: N/A

Paneling: Legere Group, Ltd.

Plastic laminate: Formica

Special surfacing: “Mini-Block” Concrete Masonry Units, by Smithtown Concrete

Floor and wall tile (cite where used): Dal-Tile, American Olean

Resilient flooring: Azrock

Carpet: Shaw

Raised flooring: Maxcess (Canada)

Office furniture: Herman Miller

Reception furniture: Sofas: Jasper Morrision, Elan Series by Cappellini

Diamond chairs and bar stools: Harry Bertoia, by Knoll

Reception stools: Kevi counter stool by Fritz Hansen

Carpet: Custom Eurotex Tretford rug

Banquettes: Chairmasters

Chairs: Gordon International

Tables: Fixtures, Herman Miller, Thomas Moser

Upholstery: Knoll, Sina Pearson

Other furniture: Gallery benches – Harry Bertoia lounge bench by Knoll

Gallery Diamond chairs: Harry Bertoia, by Knoll

Compact Storage Units: Biblio/Montel

Paint Storage Screens: Biblio/Montel and Porta-Storage

Interior ambient lighting: Bega, Lighting Services, Inc.

Downlights: Lighting Services, Inc. and Zumtobel

Task lighting: Nulux, Columbia, Lightolier

Exterior: Bega, Design Plan, Exterior Vert

Controls: Lutron, Square D

Elevators/Escalators: Hontz

Accessibility provision (lifts, ramping, etc.): Hontz



Additional building components or special equipment:

Exterior Signage: Design Communication, Ltd.

Exterior LED Signage: Daktronics

Stair Railing Mesh: Gantois (France)

Granite Setts: Cold Spring Granite

Metal Shelving: pH Product Inc.

Terrazzo Restoration: Joseph Cohn & Sons
Brick Wall Stabilization/Restoration: Masonry Solutions International

Scrims: Mermet

Blackout: Mechoshade