Louis Kahn’s Yale Center for British Art to close for exterior renovations until 2024

Cleaning the Fifth Facade

Louis Kahn’s Yale Center for British Art to close for exterior renovations until 2024

Among the renovations this year at the Yale Center for British Art is a replacement of over 200 of the original skylights. (Shinya Suzuki/Flickr/CC BY-ND 2.0)

At the Yale Center for British Art (YCBA) domed Plexiglas skylights form what architect Louis Kahn dubbed as the museum’s “fifth elevation.” Now, the roof fixtures are the subject of a nearly year-long renovation project that will take place at the museum this year.

Situated near the Yale University campus in New Haven, Connecticut the art institution was Kahn’s final work and remains a crowning example of modernist architecture. The museum, which houses the largest collection of British art outside the United Kingdom, announced this week it would close to the public on February 27 for a renovation that will focus on exterior improvements, notably concentrating on the roof and skylights.

street view of yale center for british art
Yale Center for British Art (Gunnar Klack/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 4.0)

This latest renovation follows a decade of research on the landmark building, which opened in 1977. Findings from these studies were published in the 2011 book Louis Kahn and the Yale Center for British Art: A Conservation Plan by Peter Inskip, Stephen Gee, and former deputy director of the YCBA Constance Clement and will be taken into account as the restoration progresses.

“As the museum approaches its fiftieth anniversary in 2027, we have begun to consider how to address the building’s aging infrastructure and overall sustainability. These improvements serve as a symbol of our commitment to the future of our landmark building and will help safeguard our collections for generations to come,” said Courtney J. Martin, Paul Mellon Director of the Yale Center for British Art.

As mentioned, among the architectural elements undergoing restoration are the domed skylights and roof, both of which are original to the hulking matte steel building. Over 200 of the domed skylights will be replaced. According to the museum this will “fortify the building’s envelope, improve performance, and enrich the building’s signature rooftop.”

An upgraded lighting system is also part of the scope for this renovation: The existing halogen lights will be swapped out with LED lighting. The museum worked with architectural and engineering consulting firm EwingCole to identify fixtures and lighting systems that would reduce energy consumption. Funding for that research and installation came from the Frankenthaler Climate Initiative.

In a prior effort which completed in 2016, YCBA renovated its interior spaces. The improvement reconfigured the Long Gallery, added a collections seminar room, and upgraded building facilities related to accessibility, fire systems, electrical, mechanical, plumbing, and telecommunications. On past projects, including the recent interior renovation, the museum worked with local architecture firm Knight Architecture, Yale Office of Facilities, EwingCole, and Turner Construction Company and anticipates collaborating with these consultants again.

When the YCBA reopens in 2024 it will stage a “reconceived installation of its collection.” While the museum will be closed to general visitors, access to its archives, collection, reference library, and study room will be made available. A portion of the collection will be staged in the Yale University Art Gallery located directly across the street; the facility was also designed by Kahn and opened nearly 15 years before the YCBA. Programming, including lectures, book discussions, and gift shop access, will continue online.