A New Cultural Architecture at Yale

More than 70 people took advantage of an open house Friday, November 6th at the Conservation Laboratory within Yale’s Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage (IPCH). The gathering brought together conservators, conservation scientists and curators from across the region to talk with Sam Anderson and the architectural team whose vision inspired the development of the once large, blank space into a state-of-the-art shared Conservation Laboratory at Yale’s West Campus.

Opened in June 2015, the IPCH Conservation Lab is overseen by a steering committee chaired by Ian McClure, Susan Morse Hilles Chief Conservator at Yale University Art Gallery. The lab was designed to enable a wide range of projects and creative collaborations in a multidisciplinary setting, most notably connecting conservators, curators and students from the Yale University Art Gallery, the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History, the Yale Center for British Art, and the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, among others. 

Having led previous projects at the Guggenheim Foundation’s Conservation Studio in New York City and the design of the MoMA Conservation Department, Sam Anderson worked with Yale conservators and Yale Facilities to produce “a great shared space where everyone is happy to work”, said McClure. Working with Yale facilities’ staff and numerous others, Anderson had literally turned locker rooms, plumbing and ductwork “into a space where everyone at Yale could collaborate in a new way” he said. The successful layout of the conservation lab had taken into account the need for natural light, with the difficult feat of introducing a dozen skylights across the length of the 8000 square foot workspace.

Introducing Anderson, IPCH Director, Stefan Simon, cited the groundbreaking facilities in IPCH as “a living place for science and culture to interact with each other at Yale in a unique way”. With support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and a major gift from Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin ’78, the Conservation Laboratory had brought to life a large open-plan workspace offering free-flowing collaboration across a wide range of projects— on paper and textiles, paintings, natural history specimens up to modern electronic installations and time-based media. Many of the collections using  the laboratory have their own  accessible storage spaces within the same building, with  direct access to the new facility, which also houses rooms for formatting and framing, a  workshop for major structural treatments, and a lead-walled room equipped with a 300 kilovolt digital X-ray imaging unit. The laboratory is bordered along its length by a series of bay windows, giving it the character of an open lab so passersby can observe and learn what is going on inside.

(Photos by Jon Atherton)