A Beautiful Role: Architecture and the Display of Art

Yale Center for British Art, exterior view (spring), photograph by Richard Caspole

Graduate Student Symposium

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Painting and sculpture play a beautiful role in the realm of architecture, as architecture plays a beautiful role in the realms of painting and sculpture.¹ —Louis I. Kahn (1960)

The reopening of the Yale Center for British Art, Louis Kahn’s final building, marks the completion of three phases of an ongoing conservation program. To signal this occasion, and the complete reinstallation of the collection, the Center hosted a symposium to investigate the role that buildings play in the display of art. This one-day graduate student symposium focuses on museum architecture and seeks to inspire fresh thinking about the relationship between works of art and the buildings that contain them by addressing the ways in which architecture can enhance, limit, and transform our encounters with art. The symposium concludes with a keynote lecture by George Knight, founder of Knight Architecture and principal-in-charge of the Center’s conservation projects.

Conserving Kahn

Keynote Lecture
George Knight, Principal of Knight Architecture, LLC

Described by Director Amy Meyers as “the largest and most complex work of art in the collection,” the Yale Center for British Art, designed by Louis I. Kahn to house Paul Mellon’s extraordinary gift to Yale University, stands as a masterwork of architectural design. Construction of the Center was completed by 1975, and the building opened to the public in 1977. By 2002, when Amy Meyers was appointed director, the Center faced a host of infrastructural and programmatic pressures that threatened to irrevocably alter the character of the building. For example, the ever-expanding collection had outgrown the original provisions for its storage, conservation, curation, and administration; scholars, professors, and lecturers required augmented and technologically robust spaces to teach from the collection; and the ingenious building systems, exterior envelope, and interior finishes were fast approaching the end of their serviceable life or were in need of significant renewal.

Knight’s lecture describes the measures taken to ensure that these demands could be addressed while protecting the architecture of the Center for the edification and delight of future generations. This lecture was live streamed.


For more information about the symposium and for a full listing of events, please download the following schedule or contact Research (ycba.research@yale.edu | +1 203 432 2824).

A Beautiful Role: Architecture and the Display of Art (pdf; 224 kb)

[1] Quoted in Alexandra Tyng, Beginnings: Louis I. Kahn’s Philosophy of Architecture (New York: Wiley, 1984), 71.