Local Edification

Local Edification

A photo essay. To view all 9 images, check out the email edition.

Many of us, some even with pride, imagine New Haven must be one of the world’s great havens for Brutalism, the loved and despised architectural philosophy that seizes on raw materiality, imposing presence and, in practice if not theory, notorious amounts of concrete.

Edifying both the pride and the imagination is the traveling exhibition SOS Brutalism—Save the Concrete Monsters!. Stopping for a semester at the Yale School of Architecture to enlighten as well as advocate (for the monsters’ preservation), the show’s many vignettes, themselves Brutalist constructions in thick, naked-edged cardboard, trace the movement’s surprisingly fine and divergent contours by surveying its diaspora, which now explicitly includes New Haven. A locally oriented display has been added to the exhibition, featuring historical photos, contemporary text and a pushpin map locating our Central Station Fire Headquarters and Yale University Art Gallery, our Blessed Michael McGivney Center and Dixwell Church, our Hotel Marcel and Temple Street, Crown Street and Air Rights Garages.

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Dignity Always Dignity - Long Wharf Theatre

An economical exhibition booklet contains its own local morsels. The most delectable, I think, is a moment related from the School of Architecture building’s official unveiling in 1963, when the structure, designed by Paul Rudolph, “was sharply criticized… even by the keynote speaker, the architectural historian Nikolaus Pevsner, who said, ‘It is far too obstinate.’”

The “obstinate” building, you see, was and is Brutalist—“one of the premier examples of the… movement,” according to the booklet. It’s a movement whose critics, to whom SOS devotes a vignette, have never been terribly shy. But even they would have to admit that Rudolph’s ode to Brutalism, with its scored concrete walls that could chew you up but could also be the ice cream you eat with a fork after running out of clean spoons, is an ideal place to consider SOS’s arguments.

SOS Brutalism—Save the Concrete Monsters!
Yale School of Architecture Gallery – 180 York St 2nd Fl, New Haven (map)
Mon-Fri 9am-5pm, Sat 10am-5pm (proof of vaccination required)
(203) 436-3944

Written and photographed by Dan Mims.

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