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The History of Harvard's Commencement, Explained

THE CHANGING ARCHITECTURE OF YALE

By Russell B. Roberts

Eero Saarinen creates in New Haven the beginnings of what perhaps will become a revolution in the architecture of Yale University: with the construction of two new colleges, he expands the vocabulary of modern design.

THE architecture of Yale University has long been an enormous clutter of poorly integrated styles and hideous imitations, where Gothic halls are topped by Georgian towers, smoke-stacks disguised as medieval spires, and streets lined with Greek, Italian, Byzantine, and ancient Egyptian fakery. In recent years, however, Yale has begun what its enthusiasts consider a revolution in college building.

If Yale's new building program is, in fact, an architectural revolution, one of the principal insurrectionaries has been the late Eero Saarinen. The first of his contributions to Yale was the dramatic Ingalls Hockey Rink and the second, two new colleges which will be completed this summer. The colleges are among the best designed student dormitories built in this country for some time; they combine an excellent appearance with all the economy and utility required of a modern college structure.

The design challenge which Saarinen faced in the new Morse and Stiles Colleges was one common to architects not only at Yale but at the other older universities of the East as well. Harvard in particular shares many of the same architectural problems which Yale has very nearly resolved in Morse and Stiles.

The execution of the college plan in New Haven was begun shortly after the house system was instituted in Cambridge. The Yale colleges were constructed in a monolithic, pseudo-Gothic style, even less original than Harvard's neo-Georgian style. The Gothic structures were added to a sizeable collection of buildings which represented virtually every major style in the last five centuries of Western architecture. Saarinen's first and most formidable challenge was to create a design which would be compatible with the surrounding environment, an architectural landscape unimagined in even the weirdest conjectures of the most perverted student of design.

The site selected for the two colleges was a large, angular plot, bounded on one side by the huge Gothic tower of the Payne Whitney Gymnasium and on the other by the unbelievable part-medieval, part-Georgian Graduate School. The design which Saarinen eventually produced offended neither on the two and managed, in fact, to blend excellently with the Gothic gym.

The second challenge was that of economy. The university was determined to build colleges that were adequate in facilities and imposing architecturally, but stayed well within a limited construction budget. "We have to find an architecture," Saarinen said "which would prevent these college from looking like poor cousins compared to the existing colleges with at the luxuries that were possible in that other period when building costs were one-third what they are today and the budget allotment per student exactly what it is today."

The Saarinen design not only managed to equal the luxury of the older colleges but certainly surpassed then in appearance. And the final cost of Stiles and Morse will amount to three million dollars less than the expense of building Leverett Towers and Quincy House, though they will accommodate fifty-four students more.

SAARINEN'S colleges, as well as fitting into Yale's environment, if dormitory needs, and its construction budget, are excellent works of architectural design. The greatest single innovation of the colleges, and one which adds much to its physical beauty, is the technique used in constructing the exterior walls. Both the Yale administration and the architect were agree that the colleges should have the look of permanency which most of the university's other buildings possessed. The color and texture of the walls of the earlier colleges strongly resembled that of the cotswolds in England, a warm greyish, stable effect.

Masonry construction on so large scale as would be required for and Morse was economically impossible, however, and industrial wall construction remained the only feasible alternative. Saarinen developed an entirely new and perhaps revolution and technological method which would give the colleges their stone walls and relieve the budget of some pressure as well.

The actual details of the method took over two months to develop but the effect was generally as Saarinen had originally conceived it. Molds similar to that used for the construction of walls was erected and stone into it. Cement mortar was pumped into the mold, between pieces of stone, through attached After the cement had set, the were withdrawn and the walls were blasted to remove much of the mortar. The stone walls which were thus created by this process are significantly cheaper than masonry production but are quite handsome nonetheless.

The design of the colleges -- which in fact are one building in two parts -- provides for two basic, spreading joined at their spines by a common basement kitchen. The colleges are divided above ground by rambling steps which rise over the kitchen were apparently inspired by the of central Italy. Extensive made of vertical design completed by two detached towers of ten and thirteen floors, intended to give and Morse a place in the New skyline. The exterior walls bend back and forth in irregular patterns and the partitions inside create angular polygons stressing individuality in the student rooms.

Seventy-two percent of the rooms in the two colleges are singles and the remainder doubles. Each of the rooms is roughly 170 square feet with built-in desks and bookcases. The windows are all floor-to-ceiling and three feet wide; the floors are stone and the walls plaster.

One of the more endearing fixtures of the Saarinen design are the four plazas which will adjoin the building. Two courtyards to be enclosed by the new structure with the aid of already existing buildings will shield the libraries and most of the student rooms. The terrace to the rear of the two colleges will be partly enclosed by trees and other shrubbery and partly by other buildings. The front terrace will be open to the street though the student rooms themselves will be largely protected by several clusters of trees. If further expansion of the university becomes desirable this final terrace will become the site for a third college of the Saarinen design which will complete an arc created by Stiles and Morse.

THE public rooms of the two colleges will include music chambers, television rooms, student activity centers, and more original innovations which the architect has labeled "Butteries." These facilities will replace the traditional Yale common rooms which, Saarinen felt, were not as popular as they should and could be. The "Butteries" will be collegiate Rathskellers with snack bars (that can be panelled off for more formal functions) and other furnishings which are expected to inspire wider use than do the regular Yale common rooms. The libraries in both colleges are large two-level halls with capacities for 13,000 volumes each and a system of quiet study alcoves.

The dining rooms of the colleges are high-ceilinged halls featuring walls similar to those on the outside with added oak trim and floors of slate bordered in polished wood. Both have stages for theatrical purposes. The rooms will be dominated by abstract chandeliers by Oliver Andrews. The only other art fixtures embodied in the original design are several abstract plaques which will intersect corners of the building. They are the work of Constantine Nivola, the artist who produced the graffito in the Quincy House Dining Room.

Despite the bold design which Stiles12SAARINEN'S COLLEGES From "an enormous clutter of hideous imitations" to "an architecture of certain truths."

The actual details of the method took over two months to develop but the effect was generally as Saarinen had originally conceived it. Molds similar to that used for the construction of walls was erected and stone into it. Cement mortar was pumped into the mold, between pieces of stone, through attached After the cement had set, the were withdrawn and the walls were blasted to remove much of the mortar. The stone walls which were thus created by this process are significantly cheaper than masonry production but are quite handsome nonetheless.

The design of the colleges -- which in fact are one building in two parts -- provides for two basic, spreading joined at their spines by a common basement kitchen. The colleges are divided above ground by rambling steps which rise over the kitchen were apparently inspired by the of central Italy. Extensive made of vertical design completed by two detached towers of ten and thirteen floors, intended to give and Morse a place in the New skyline. The exterior walls bend back and forth in irregular patterns and the partitions inside create angular polygons stressing individuality in the student rooms.

Seventy-two percent of the rooms in the two colleges are singles and the remainder doubles. Each of the rooms is roughly 170 square feet with built-in desks and bookcases. The windows are all floor-to-ceiling and three feet wide; the floors are stone and the walls plaster.

One of the more endearing fixtures of the Saarinen design are the four plazas which will adjoin the building. Two courtyards to be enclosed by the new structure with the aid of already existing buildings will shield the libraries and most of the student rooms. The terrace to the rear of the two colleges will be partly enclosed by trees and other shrubbery and partly by other buildings. The front terrace will be open to the street though the student rooms themselves will be largely protected by several clusters of trees. If further expansion of the university becomes desirable this final terrace will become the site for a third college of the Saarinen design which will complete an arc created by Stiles and Morse.

THE public rooms of the two colleges will include music chambers, television rooms, student activity centers, and more original innovations which the architect has labeled "Butteries." These facilities will replace the traditional Yale common rooms which, Saarinen felt, were not as popular as they should and could be. The "Butteries" will be collegiate Rathskellers with snack bars (that can be panelled off for more formal functions) and other furnishings which are expected to inspire wider use than do the regular Yale common rooms. The libraries in both colleges are large two-level halls with capacities for 13,000 volumes each and a system of quiet study alcoves.

The dining rooms of the colleges are high-ceilinged halls featuring walls similar to those on the outside with added oak trim and floors of slate bordered in polished wood. Both have stages for theatrical purposes. The rooms will be dominated by abstract chandeliers by Oliver Andrews. The only other art fixtures embodied in the original design are several abstract plaques which will intersect corners of the building. They are the work of Constantine Nivola, the artist who produced the graffito in the Quincy House Dining Room.

Despite the bold design which Stiles12SAARINEN'S COLLEGES From "an enormous clutter of hideous imitations" to "an architecture of certain truths."

The design of the colleges -- which in fact are one building in two parts -- provides for two basic, spreading joined at their spines by a common basement kitchen. The colleges are divided above ground by rambling steps which rise over the kitchen were apparently inspired by the of central Italy. Extensive made of vertical design completed by two detached towers of ten and thirteen floors, intended to give and Morse a place in the New skyline. The exterior walls bend back and forth in irregular patterns and the partitions inside create angular polygons stressing individuality in the student rooms.

Seventy-two percent of the rooms in the two colleges are singles and the remainder doubles. Each of the rooms is roughly 170 square feet with built-in desks and bookcases. The windows are all floor-to-ceiling and three feet wide; the floors are stone and the walls plaster.

One of the more endearing fixtures of the Saarinen design are the four plazas which will adjoin the building. Two courtyards to be enclosed by the new structure with the aid of already existing buildings will shield the libraries and most of the student rooms. The terrace to the rear of the two colleges will be partly enclosed by trees and other shrubbery and partly by other buildings. The front terrace will be open to the street though the student rooms themselves will be largely protected by several clusters of trees. If further expansion of the university becomes desirable this final terrace will become the site for a third college of the Saarinen design which will complete an arc created by Stiles and Morse.

THE public rooms of the two colleges will include music chambers, television rooms, student activity centers, and more original innovations which the architect has labeled "Butteries." These facilities will replace the traditional Yale common rooms which, Saarinen felt, were not as popular as they should and could be. The "Butteries" will be collegiate Rathskellers with snack bars (that can be panelled off for more formal functions) and other furnishings which are expected to inspire wider use than do the regular Yale common rooms. The libraries in both colleges are large two-level halls with capacities for 13,000 volumes each and a system of quiet study alcoves.

The dining rooms of the colleges are high-ceilinged halls featuring walls similar to those on the outside with added oak trim and floors of slate bordered in polished wood. Both have stages for theatrical purposes. The rooms will be dominated by abstract chandeliers by Oliver Andrews. The only other art fixtures embodied in the original design are several abstract plaques which will intersect corners of the building. They are the work of Constantine Nivola, the artist who produced the graffito in the Quincy House Dining Room.

Despite the bold design which Stiles12SAARINEN'S COLLEGES From "an enormous clutter of hideous imitations" to "an architecture of certain truths."

Seventy-two percent of the rooms in the two colleges are singles and the remainder doubles. Each of the rooms is roughly 170 square feet with built-in desks and bookcases. The windows are all floor-to-ceiling and three feet wide; the floors are stone and the walls plaster.

One of the more endearing fixtures of the Saarinen design are the four plazas which will adjoin the building. Two courtyards to be enclosed by the new structure with the aid of already existing buildings will shield the libraries and most of the student rooms. The terrace to the rear of the two colleges will be partly enclosed by trees and other shrubbery and partly by other buildings. The front terrace will be open to the street though the student rooms themselves will be largely protected by several clusters of trees. If further expansion of the university becomes desirable this final terrace will become the site for a third college of the Saarinen design which will complete an arc created by Stiles and Morse.

THE public rooms of the two colleges will include music chambers, television rooms, student activity centers, and more original innovations which the architect has labeled "Butteries." These facilities will replace the traditional Yale common rooms which, Saarinen felt, were not as popular as they should and could be. The "Butteries" will be collegiate Rathskellers with snack bars (that can be panelled off for more formal functions) and other furnishings which are expected to inspire wider use than do the regular Yale common rooms. The libraries in both colleges are large two-level halls with capacities for 13,000 volumes each and a system of quiet study alcoves.

The dining rooms of the colleges are high-ceilinged halls featuring walls similar to those on the outside with added oak trim and floors of slate bordered in polished wood. Both have stages for theatrical purposes. The rooms will be dominated by abstract chandeliers by Oliver Andrews. The only other art fixtures embodied in the original design are several abstract plaques which will intersect corners of the building. They are the work of Constantine Nivola, the artist who produced the graffito in the Quincy House Dining Room.

Despite the bold design which Stiles12SAARINEN'S COLLEGES From "an enormous clutter of hideous imitations" to "an architecture of certain truths."

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