Teamwork Creates Integrated Designs For Campus Clients
Buildings at Yale, Wellesley, and Harvard show how architecture transcends time, even purpose
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``It's vital that any addition to the fabric of a university be seen to support its tradition and project it forward,'' McKinnell says. ``That does not say that it has to replicate what's already there. It doesn't mean that it shouldn't be a modern building. But it does mean that it has a very clear burden of responsibility in understanding that it is only one building block of many.''Skip to next paragraph
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The same sort of sensitivity to tradition has guided the design by Madrid-based architect Jose Rafael Moneo for Wellesley College's Davis Museum and Cultural Center, which opens this Thursday.
The $11.7 million building links two existing arts buildings, the Jewett Arts Center and Pendleton Hall West. According to Susan Taylor, the museum's director and co-chair of the committee that selected the architect, a principal requirement was that the design complement rather than compete with the neighboring Jewett Center, designed by American architect Paul Rudolph.
While the exterior of the building is flat red brick that defers to the striking Jewett Center (built in 1958) across the courtyard, the museum's interior has a logical and sometimes inspired layout. From the ground to the top floor, spaces get progressively brighter. Modern artworks that are less tolerant of bright light inhabit lower levels, while inert stone antiquities populate the top floor where light floods the galleries.
Wellesley's art faculty and a trustee committee participated in an eight-month process that helped shape the design. In the end, they have a superb teaching museum. ``For us Europeans,'' Moneo says, ``it is quite amazing to see how American universities have been able to bring the actual works of art to the students.''
The calm cooperation and bonhomie evident at Yale and Wellesley is not always the result of additions to campus architecture. Moshe Safdie's chapel, which opened earlier this year at the Harvard Business School, was harshly criticized from the start. Critics scoffed at the idea of finding piety in the worldly realm of a business school campus.
But the design works. The geometric volumes seen from the outside have a ``come hither'' effect, beckoning passersby. There couldn't be a more marked contrast between the burnished, slick exterior, and the totally surprising interior.
One enters through a Biblical winter garden that provides a gentle transition from the campus. Inside, in a brilliant move, rows of Shaker chairs fill the cylindrical sanctuary. Anything more modern would have made the space seem plastic. The murmur of water coming from the winter garden is unexpected, but restful and effective.
Mr. Safdie, who also created the master plan for the campus, has gone a long way toward correcting what has been an unacceptable entrance to the business school. Almost all the school's visitors arrive by car. Yet from the parking lot, the campus has looked much like an office park. The chapel, along with the recent addition next door of Shad Hall - designed by Kallmann McKinnell & Wood - finishes the edge of campus, adding an element of proportion.
Successfully adding buildings to an existing campus seems to require that an architect listen to a mix of voices and let those ideas shepherd, discipline, and inspire the work. But it is a great accomplishment when the architect can keep the competing interests from becoming a cacophony.