The Golden Center at Yale

Project Description

The central courtyard, open to the street, is an odd typology for New Haven, but its introduction here is a pleasant addition to the Yale architectural lexicon. It conveys a sense of welcome and openness that contrasts favorably with the generally forbidding, closed-court model of Yale’s residential colleges. Though the small plaza remains underused due to traffic noise, in this case it is enough that it succeeds symbolically.
The material palette of the Golden Center is rich, and contributes immensely to the building’s architectural success, tempering its severity in elevation. Flemish bond brickwork is inherited from Orr’s chapel, with its overtones of Nordic Classicism; periodic vertical shadow lines punctuate the façade. The fenestration expresses a staccato rhythm that nicely undercuts the monolithic bulk of the adjacent walls, and the stained-wood window casing exudes an inviting warmth. Given this, the limestone trim seems somewhat de trop, especially in its jarring relation to the much cooler marble trim of the original chapel. A particularly delightful detail is the cobbled strip of hardscape between the wall face and sidewalk; here, an ordinarily dead, trash-catching space is animated by alternating pavers extruded in a checkerboard pattern.
The interior spaces are well-designed and functional, if unexceptional. An airy dining hall nods to Aalto with its slatted-wood ceiling, and a cylindrical auxiliary worship space seems to take its inspiration from Saarinen’s chapel at M.I.T., with elongated candelabra in place of the original's suspended sculpture. A second-story terrace with wood trellis picks up on the Mediterranean theme suggested by the courtyard and squat belltower, wishful thinking though these features may be in the New Haven climate.