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NPR: The Renovation of Yale’s Brutalist Paul Rudolph Art & Architecture Building

Yale's Art and Architecture Building, designed by master brutalist Paul Rudolph

Two versions of this broadcast originally aired: one, for the local news, and one for the national. It’s a challenge to describe architecture — especially complicated, unusual architecture — on the radio. What follows is both scripts.

Original air dates: August 8 and September 5, 2008.

Yale University is in the last stages of renovating one of its most important pieces of architectural history: the Rudolph Building, formerly called the Art and Architecture Building, on the corner of Chapel and York Streets. The protective sheeting has come off the exterior, to reveal, once again, its large, tall slabs of concrete, its blocky structure, its giant windows. The building is the work of Paul Rudolph, who headed up the university’s architecture department in the late 50s and early 60s, and it is considered just about the first example in America of the style of architecture known as “brutalism”. WSHU’s Erik Campano looked at the building, inside and out.

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Over a century ago, James O’Rourke made the first base hit in the National League. He played major league ball until the age of 54 — all the while a practicing lawyer with his LL.B. from Yale University. Later, as president of the Connecticut League, he hired the first minor league African-American player in baseball history.

O’Rourke is a proud son of Bridgeport, Connecticut, a once-booming city which now is among the poorest in the nation. An unfinished urban planning project had the entire neighborhood surrounding O’Rourke’s house destroyed in the 1990s — but preservationists managed to keep it up. It sat prominently, alone, among acres of weeds, and was viewable both from Bridgeport’s Harbor Yard ballpark, completed in 1998, and from I-95, the super-highway which split the city into two parts in the mid-20th century.

This 2008 radio piece for WSHU won first prize in the enterprise category from the Connecticut Associated Press Broadcaster’s Association. I created a version with still pictures so people could have a visual experience of the house and the people who fought — unsuccessfully — for its existence. It was demolished in 2009.

The script is pasted below.



Next to I-95 in Bridgeport sits a single, abandoned house surrounded by vacant lots. It’s fenced off, and it’s left legions of drivers – and Bridgeporters – wondering what it’s doing there. WSHU’s Erik Campano got a rare look inside that house – and learned how from, one day to the next, it risks disappearing into history.

[stadium atmo]