Rudolph’s Time Machine: Eeva-Liisa Pelkonen
*This piece was transcribed from a Space-Time-Form class held on the seventh floor of Rudolph Hall on November 4, 2020.
Paul Rudolph graduated in 1947 from Harvard, where he studied with Walter Gropius and became a chairman at what was then the Department of Architecture of Yale University a mere eleven years later in 1958 at the age of 39. The building that now bears his name, formerly known as the Art and Architecture building was completed five years later in 1963. Quite a career trajectory!
I’ve always thought of this building as this wonderful totality, a mini city of sorts, buzzing with activity with all this stuff happening at the same time at all these different levels, The famous section – a copy of which hangs at the Dean’s office - shows the intentionality of this so well; In it we see all these people occupying different levels, the level changes and openings forge relationships across spaces within the building and into the city beyond. It is wonderful how you get these little inklings about the surroundings from within the building. One can see the sky through the numerous openings and spy on entrants to the building from the stair landings. I love the way the building makes us look up and down, and sideways, always engaging our surroundings. There’s a wonderful moment in the library, where you can see through the corner down Chapel Street; The corner site clearly demarcates its relationship to the city, operating both from the inside out and vice versa. The point is that the building is not isolated, but a nexus in that urban life. The building makes us engage our surroundings. I love the vista from the third floor next to my office through the gallery and the library into the city beyond. That is what space can do; it can alter our perception of space and time!
Rudolph thought a lot about the passing of time.. For example, he envisioned that the building was to have a life-cycle, and that in time, new generations and new activities will occupy these spaces. His temporal imagination expanded also to the past. I hope you have taken delight – this is a word Rudolph would have been very fond of – in all the curious plaster casts scattered throughout the building, including the statue of Minerva on the 4th floor. Pretty strange stuff for a 20th modern architect to embrace! Before Rudolph inserted the casts into this building, they had been relegated to the basement of the Art Gallery in 1950 when Josef Albers took the helm of the Department of Design and deemed them obsolete for modern art education. Rudolph saw them somewhat by accident and brought history back to life, literally speaking. It’s interesting how he placed them throughout the building. Notice that they are not in any chronological order nor do they have labels. He believed that when integrated into the architecture, these relicts from the past would teach students art history somehow organically, while they went about their daily activities. As if he wanted to simulate a stroll in an ancient city! All in all, I see the building like this time machine that allows us all to engage in these different temporal modalities: past, present, and future.