Advanced Design Studio: Patkau

Author(s)

Project Description

The idea that museums are not simply warehouses for objects, but rather vehicles that transport visitors to exotic places and cultures is the inspiration behind this design for Yale University’s new Museum for Musical Instruments.

As objects with the capability to emit sound, instruments in particular have a transformative effect on museum visitors. Many of the instruments in Yale’s collection are still functional and played regularly.  To sound properly however, the instruments must be played in a space appropriate to the context they were created for. The size, dimensions, lighting strategy and acoustic qualities of each exhibition room of this museum were designed to fit the instruments they contain. 

The museum’s position on the southeast corner of the block completes the Yale School of Music quadrangle, creating an inner courtyard for students to meet, relax, study and play. The front façade facing the New Haven Green adds renewed identity to the Music School while restoring Yale University’s original ties to the town center. 

While its connection to the music school buildings and red brick construction distinguish the museum as a Yale building, the position of the main entrance on the busiest street in downtown New Haven provides a welcoming invitation to all visitors.

Constructed of compressed earth blocks – a form of brick made primarily from soil – the museum uses an ancient construction technique to create a building with a low-environmental impact but high-performance functionality.  The thick walls of the museum provide thermal and acoustic mass that regulates temperature, humidity and sound.  The instruments housed within are protected from the elements and unwanted background noises without added technology or energy.  The modular nature of the bricks makes construction easy while providing opportunities for texture, color and light variability.