2014 Recipient | AIA Small Project Awards

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Ground at Yale University | Notes of Interest

The new 'Ground' cafe, at Yale's Marcel Breuer-designed Becton School of Engineering and Applied Sciences ('SEAS'), serves not only to create social cohesion among faculty and students of the engineering school, but also to encourage interaction between and among members of other departments in the University. In the design, the firm engaged the unadorned poured-concrete volume of this former seminar room by layering a palette of walnut planks, perforated aluminum, and cleft bluestone over the walls, floor, and ceiling of the space. The original concrete surfaces are intentionally visible through, and are highlighted by, the veils of the material intervention out of respect for Breuer's unique exploration in his design of the textural possibilities of a single material.

More broadly, the firm recognized that Ground could provide a locus for engineers, scientists, artists, and humanists from the Yale community to connect with each other in part because of its location midway between Yale's liberal arts-oriented central campus and its science-oriented 'Science Hill' campus further north on Prospect Street. The architects did not intend that the camaraderie of the varied audiences would stop at sharing coffee, pastries, and a conversation, as the design supports creative collaborations between different constituencies by virtue of a state-of-the-art LED 'digital canvas', nicknamed LuxED, which any member of the Yale community can employ for their scientific or creative work. The firm proposed that Yale incorporate the 23,000 diode screen as a feature that would attract more than Yale's SEAS community while also manifesting itself as a physical embodiment of the connection between science and art. The architects wrapped the LuxED across a wall and ceiling of the cafe so that it would be visible to passersby on the notoriously grim stretch of Prospect Street where the Becton building is located, using the LuxED's radiance to highlight the Engineering school as a new cultural center on Yale's campus.
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Additional Credits

  • Deputy Dean: Vincent Wilczynski, Yale School of Engineering and Applied Science
  • Photo Credit: © Daniel Stark

Ground, School of Engineering and Applied Science, Becton Center at Yale University

  • Firm: Bentel and Bentel Architects
  • Location: New Haven, CT

Jury Comments

Very delicate installation in an iconic historic building. An engaging space with an energy likely to stimulate creative thinking and thoughtful exchange. Astute use of new materials that enliven but respect the existing context. A convincing coming together of clear spatial strategy, strong materials and digital media that holds its own within a powerful work of modern architecture.

2014 AIA Small Project Awards Jury

  • Linda Reeder, AIA, Chair
  • Linda Reeder Architecture
  • New Haven, Connecticut
  • Deb Silber
  • Fine Homebuilding Magazine
  • Newtown, Connecticut
  • Rene Gonzalez, AIA
  • Rene Gonzalez Architect
  • Miami, Florida
  • Lisa Tilder, AIA
  • Ohio State University
  • Columbus, Ohio
  • Craig Scott, AIA
  • IwamotoScott Architecture
  • San Francisco, California

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