21 May 2012

Marble Vessel

I spent two days last week in back-to-back meetings in the basement of a library. Not just any old library, though. The Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Yale University not only houses nearly two million significant books and manuscripts, it's also an architectural masterpiece.

The building, built in 1963, was designed by Skidmore, Owings, & Merill. The exterior is a monolithic marble box sitting atop a recessed column of glass. Inside, however, sits a glass structure floating in the center of the enormous shell of glowing marble that is illuminated by the sunlight flowing softly through the stone "windows." The architect was allegedly inspired by an alabaster vessel from his own home. I have no doubt that the project was received with an enormous amount of trepidation by the client at the time. It's bold, to say the least.

In the end, the building sits as one of the crown jewels on the campus, in stark contrast to the many traditional buildings surrounding its plaza. The plaza has a sunken sculpture garden surrounded by glass walls, which allow a remarkable amount of light into the lower level of the building, including the heavily secured reading room and meetings rooms where my meetings were held. An original map, hand drawn by Lewis and Clark during their expedition across America, graces one of the walls of these rooms. It was remarkable and inspirational to spend time amongst such history, beauty, precision, and thoughtful detail. I look forward to returning.


  1. Do you have any photos of the light from the inside? Sounds fantastic.

  2. Great description of an incredible building.

  3. Here's a snapshot I tool inside with my phone on instagra.am. I didn't take a tripod on this trip, and I definitely don't have the right equipment to photograph the interior.



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