The New York Times front section on Dec. 27, 2014 covered Helpern Architects’ renovation of the Nave of Sterling Memorial Library at Yale University. David Dunlap, one of the Times’ long-standing reporters, wrote about his visit to the Library. The half-page piece includes a video interview with University Librarian Susan Gibbons and pictures by a Times photographer who came with Mr. Dunlap for the afternoon’s tour.
Obviously impressed, Mr. Dunlap, a Yale graduate, reported: “The work … revealed just how spectacular Sterling must have looked when it opened. Stained-glass and ceiling vaults, colors and contrasts, coffers and carvings and gilding that had all but disappeared under 80 years or pollutants and grime have jumped back to life.”
Making clear that restoring but also updating the building wasn’t simple, he questioned David Helpern about “the biggest challenge.” He answered that it was the air conditioning. “The walls are pure masonry – stone on stone – with few hollow spaces through which to thread new ductwork and equipment,” he explained.
The Times article also answered questions that Mr. Dunlap must have long wondered: Was the Rogers choice of the Collegiate Gothic style valid [rather than Modernist]? Why did Rogers create what at first sight is a liturgical space that turns out to be a “cathedral of knowledge”? Susan Gibbons answered that there is no confusion: “That metaphor seems to resonate quite well with [the students].”
For Helpern Architects, bringing Yale’s most iconic building back to life was an important project. As part of the project mission, the firm recaptured both the essence of the original James Gamble Rogers design  as a space to study and do research, and also, as Ms. Gibbons enthused, turned the Nave into “a destination rather than a passageway.”
To read the online version of the article, click here . There are several places where readers can tap a photograph and see more views, including the Gibbons video mentioned earlier.