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Decade of research underpins groundbreaking conservation plan at US university’s centre for British art
The greatest work of art at New Haven’s Yale Center for British Art is arguably the landmark building itself—and Louis Kahn’s last structure is due to reopen this month after a 16-month renovation of its public galleries and lecture hall, and an upgrade of its accessibility, security, mechanical and electrical systems. This is the third phase of a $33m conservation project that began in 2008.
George Knight of Knight Architecture, who led the conservation work, says: “The thing that kept me up at night was [thinking] how can we preserve the building, which is so architecturally rich, and do all this surgery so as not to disfigure the patient in any way?
“We’ve all been in Modernist buildings that have undergone a renovation that might meet the immediate needs of the users but does significant damage to the building itself.”
The building opened in 1977, three years after Kahn’s sudden death, to house the US collector and philanthropist Paul Mellon’s gift to Yale University of the most important collection of British art outside the UK.
The renovation was guided by a decade of research, compiled in a 2011 publication by Peter Inskip and Stephen Gee, which established a hierarchy of elements to be preserved and those that could be adapted. […]