Preserving Brutalism

At Yale, a modernist landmark is preserved and revitalized. Ada Louise Huxtable looks at the challenges in updating the harshness of brutalist architecture.

"Rudolph's building was never trouble free. Too small from the start, it was a terrible fit for the painting and sculpture departments crammed into it. There were no climate controls. Unsympathetic remodeling sabotaged the architect's vision. According to Robert A.M. Stern, the dean of the architecture school, who initiated and championed the restoration, the building was in such a terminal state of dysfunction and disrepair that only the high cost and extreme difficulty of demolishing solid concrete saved it."

"Many of the preservation problems were due to Rudolph's "modernism." Boldly unconventional in concept, plan, materials and execution, the building's untested and experimental components had not only disintegrated beyond repair, but were inferior to subsequent advances in basic building technology. It made no sense, nor was it possible, to seek matching replacements. The structure was essentially stripped to its frame and rebuilt.

Because this degree of reconstruction skews our ideas about authenticity, it undermines a defining principle of preservation. For traditional restoration, old quarries can be reopened and old techniques revived to stay true to history. It is the retention or reuse of the original fabric that separates the genuine artifact from the Disney replica. For modernist buildings, the challenge and the process are disturbingly different. Replacement and reconstruction are increasingly necessary for obsolete materials and technologies. This requires unprecedented judgment calls, tailored to each individual structure."

Full Story: The Beauty in Brutalism, Restored and Updated

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