New Haven, Connecticut has been referred to as an “Urban Museum of Modern Architecture.” The New Haven Preservation Trust, has gathered information about this unique collection of the legendary and lesser known Modernist works onto one platform – newhavenmodern.org.
The innovative new site is a comprehensive overview of New Haven’s rich involvement with the Modernist movement, and is designed to be an ever-changing hub of information, growing over time to more than 130 projects, involving more than 80 architects. It includes information that allows for self-guided tours, enhanced by a compelling collection of contemporary and historic photographs, as well as survey documents for each structure. Future plans include video and audio accompaniment. Designed by Blenderbox, the site was made possible with support from the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development, and by Pelli Clarke Pelli and the members of The New Haven Preservation Trust.
In 2007, the Trust began a multi-phase inventory and survey project (the first it has attempted since the 1980s) with the intention of invigorating the community’s appreciation of New Haven’s rich concentration of 20th-century Modernist architecture, while at the same time laying the groundwork for their preservation. Working from a commissioned report by historian Rachel D. Carley entitled “Tomorrow is Here: New Haven and the Modern Movement,” the volunteer survey team focused on why New Haven became (as report suggests) “the center for one of the country’s most aggressive modern building programs of the post-World War II era, attracting a roster of internationally recognized architects and firms considered to be among the greatest leaders of the modernist movement.”
The result was an inventory of 124 examples of Modernist sites in New Haven, constructed roughly between 1930-1980. The inventory revealed how the City’s sweeping urban renewal programs of the 1950s and ‘60s, coupled with the presence of numerous young architects associated with the Yale School of Architecture, created a rich and varied collection of Modern structures. Upon completion of the survey, and approval by the State Historic Preservation Office, these properties were formally added to New Haven’s Historic Resources Inventory, providing them with limited protection via city ordinance, imposing a mandatory 90-day waiting period before a permit to demolish may be granted.
The scope and range of the architects represented here is astonishing: Giants of the 20th century’s Modern Movement Louis Kahn (Yale Art Gallery), Eero Saarinen (Ingalls Rink), Philip Johnson (Kline Biology Tower), and John Johansen (Dixwell Avenue Congregational Church), Brutalist masters Paul Rudolph (Temple Street Parking Garage) and Marcel Breuer (Armstrong Rubber Company), as well as contemporary leaders Herb Newman (Dixwell Community House) and Kevin Roche (Knights of Columbus Building) – along with many others – commingle in just a few square miles.
The Trust believes that, by presenting New Haven’s recent past in an easily-accessible format, we can continue to inform discussion, educate community members of all ages and backgrounds, and encourage an involvement in the shaping and preservation of our rich Modernist surroundings.