Teamwork Creates Integrated Designs For Campus Clients
Buildings at Yale, Wellesley, and Harvard show how architecture transcends time, even purpose
NEW HAVEN, CONN.
THE key to building great architecture is often having the ideal client.Skip to next paragraph
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In Renaissance Italy, the Medicis commissioned great art works. In postwar America, multinational corporations crowded cityscapes with noisy, oppressive monoliths. And throughout time, governments have commissioned plenty of nondescript architecture. But consistently, colleges and universities have commissioned architecture that manages to transcend time, place, and even purpose.
Several major colleges and universities have recently dedicated new facilities that are solid architectural accomplishments.
Yale University in New Haven, Conn., dedicated the Bass Center for Molecular and Structural Biology Oct. 7. The muscular red-brick building hums with energy and activity like an updated 19th-century factory or power plant. The Bass Center already seems to be a fixture of the campus landscape.
Designed by the architectural firm of Kallmann McKinnell & Wood in Boston, the new building creates a physical bridge between existing buildings and a conceptual link between various scientific disciplines at Yale. It is connected at one end to the J.W. Gibbs Research Laboratories and at the other to the Sterling Chemistry Laboratory.
Along with Philip Johnson's Kline Biology Tower on the opposite side of Science Hill, the Bass Center creates a new quadrangle for Yale. This new ``captured open space'' is one of the supreme accomplishments of the design, says Noel Michael McKinnell, the project's principal architect. ``A quadrangle is always the ultimate physical symbol of the university in that it belongs to nobody, but is everybody's,'' he says. ``Metaphorically, the open space symbolizes the endeavor of the university in joining all these disciplines together, informing one thought pattern with another.''
To design the $20-million, 90,000-square-foot facility, the architects solicited input from three constituencies in the university community: the scientists who would occupy the building, maintenance workers, and university administrators.
``The process was interactive and involved 2-1/2 years of input,'' says Kevin MacKenzie, a Yale graduate student who works in the new building. The resulting research space creates an atmosphere that stimulates ideas ``that can only happen if people can get together,'' adds Paul Harkins, a post-doctoral researcher. Many architects' clients don't invest that kind of time and effort in the process.
``Universities are in the business of thinking, so it's no surprise that one finds university clients willing to take the time to consider all the issues,'' Mr. McKinnell says. ``They tend to be very considerate of possibilities. One sees in the arts today - and architecture is no exception - a desire, even a compulsion, to make for the moment.''
Kallmann McKinnell & Wood, considered one of the world's top architectural firms, has done about 75 percent of its work for university clients ranging from Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., Princeton University in Princeton, N.J., and Washington University in St. Louis to the Nanyang Technological Institute in Singapore.