New Haven Architecture

Photographs and text by Enzo Figueres,
Associate, Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects

Temple Street Parking Garage

Temple and George streets

Architect: Paul Rudolph

Year completed: 1962

While a parking garage may always just be a place to store your car, this Paul Rudolph designed parking garage is more memorable. The shape of the columns, the rhythm of the façade, it makes you wonder why other garages are always so boring. If you see the building up close, you can see the texture of the wood that was used for the “cast in place” technique when it was constructed. The malleability of the concrete allows almost unlimited shape. You can see the texture that the wood “cast” left. It was original. The contrast of harsh material with texture of imprinted wood is nice. The top of the building has interesting shapes also. The staircases are interesting, the lights. He pushed the limit of the concrete, especially for those days. The shapes he achieved are amazing. For this ramp, everything is designed. Even the lights are integrated into the building design. He made it part of the same massing. It’s definitely well respected in the architecture world. In fact, a photograph I took of this ramp was chosen for the Pelli Clarke Pelli office Christmas card one year. The Yale Architecture School is supposedly Rudolph’s masterpiece. It’s very nice, I have to admit, but everyone knows that one. This one is overlooked.


Yale Center for British Art

1080 Chapel St.

Architect: Louis I. Kahn

Year completed:

I find it amazing that from the exterior it looks like a discreet, simple building, but inside, it has a very different feeling. It’s like a completely different building inside and out. The interior is filled with light, and the use of wood makes the space feel warm. It has pure, simple materials, which express their real nature; no paint, using the true colors of the materials: concrete, metal, glass, wood. In all of Kahn’s buildings, the magic happens on the inside. He’s also famous for making the focus somewhere other than you’d expect. The staircases are amazing, almost sculptural. The service areas (usually thought of as secondary) create a whole experience. In fact, the staircases are so cool that I’ve never taken the elevator. In addition to the materials, all the shapes he uses are pure (triangles, squares, circles, etc.). It’s great to have Kahn architecture in New Haven. He’s one of the icons. New Haven is a small town, but it has better architecture than Mendoza, where I’m from, which is a big city in Argentina.


Thomas Golden Jr. Center

268 Park St.

Architect: Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects

Year completed: 2005

I like it for the choice of material; red brick, wood, limestone. The color palette is nice and includes diverse textures. The design respects the context of its location, as far as height and materials. The building doesn’t excite or disrupt the environment; it’s in harmony with its surroundings. It also has a very beautiful chapel inside with a cylindrical form. Because of how light enters, it’s a little jewel inside the building. The interiors are bright, very well lit. It really has a warm feeling when you’re inside. The scale is unusual for our office. We’re best known for skyscrapers, but I like this project it because it shows we can do smaller, less “flashy” architecture tastefully, efficiently, and beautifully.


Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library

121 Wall St.

Architect: Gordon Bunshaft (of the firm of Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill)

Year completed: 1963

I like how the light and shadow play on the façade and the textures the light creates. The patterns change throughout the day on the semi-translucent veined marble. The interior is ethereal. You have to visit the inside. I like the high ceilings and quality of light – the Vermont marble transmits subtle lighting while offering protection from direct light. It was an elegant design solution (to keep the rare books safe, out of direct sun). A lot of architecture is solving design problems. Very rarely can you truly start from scratch. The client always has requirements. The light from the interior has a glow at night (seen from the outside). I like the fact that it’s a very simple, modern building surrounded by very classical Yale buildings on “Beineke Plaza.” Platonic proportions were used to design the outside dimensions (exactly twice as deep as high and three times as long). In the sunken courtyard, there are very minimal, abstract sculptures by Isamu Noguchi. They go with the building. It’s playful how they lay in the space (the sunken corridor). Some libraries are dark and depressing, but this a wonderful space.


Yale University Health Center

55 Lock St.

Architect: Mack Scogin Merrill Elam Architects

Year completed:

Recently finished, this is one of the latest additions to New Haven’s rich architectural inheritance. The building has a really interesting form, both in plan and elevation. It has a triangular footprint and sloping walls with varying angles. This, together with the glazed brick, helps to create a rich, textured, and dynamic façade. The architects (Mack Scogin Merrill Elam Architects) have cited Eero Saarinen as an inspiration for the design. It’s a modern building, with high tech materials (grey brick, metal panel screen wall and glass curtain wall.) The dark, glazed brick captures reflections of the sky, which changes the building’s appearance throughout the day. The color palette can appear cool at noon and change to warm at sunrise and sunset. I like the choice of materials and the dynamic, sculptural shapes. It feels very modern. I was eager to photograph it when it was built.


David S. Ingalls Rink

73 Sachem St.

Architect: Eero Saarinen

Year completed: 1958

Although it’s often referred to as “the whale” due to its appearance, to my eyes it looks more like a stingray, the smooth undulating shape gives me the impression of fluidity, speed and the sharpness of that animal. In any case, the building resembles nature’s organic forms. Its elliptical plan is split in two by a huge, swooping double-curved concrete beam from which a tensile structure is hung. The cables support the wooden roof and give the building its unique shape, which emerges as a singular object in the block. I like how it expresses its structure freely; you can read how the structural design works from the outside. The experience from the inside is reminiscent of watching an ice skating event at a local New England pond. In a few simple moves Eero Saarineen choreographed the entry sequence so that the visitor slowly moves to the side of and above the skating surface. The spectator finds himself always looking down at the event below, similar to sitting on the edge of the hill at the local pond as you watch your community play on the skating surface. In keeping the spectator circulation always on the periphery of the seating area, the views during an event are rarely obstructed by spectator movement. These are very subtle design moves that add tremendously to the spectator’s experience.

Enzo Figueres is a local architect and photographer. These are his opinions. To see more of his photographic work visit


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