Ingalls Hockey Rink, Eero Saarinen, 1958
June 1, 2020
For buildings both familiar and unfamiliar, we can gain valuable insights from period architecture publications now readily available online via the usmodernist.org PDF library. The articles offer detailed written and visual documentation, along with commentary revealing how works of the Modern movement were perceived when they were completed.
To introduce our new and occasional feature Modernism in the Magazines, we refer you to Architectural Forum’s 1958 coverage of Ingalls Hockey Rink at Yale, one of several structures in which Eero Saarinen explored structural advances to amazing sculptural effect. (The TWA airline terminal would be completed in 1962.) For the vast uninterrupted volume required here, he suspended a cable-supported roof from a single reinforced concrete arch spanning 333 feet, with 40-foot cantilevers over entrance canopies at both ends.
In Forum’s feature titled “Yale’s Viking Vessel,” author Walter McQuade details the project and sets out to answer his own questions: “Should a building curve so freely? Is this not too rash and undignified to be serious modern design?” McQuade also cites negative views by some critics, unnamed, accusing Saarinen of “having shaped a gigantic piece of whimsy,” and questioning its cost, much higher than the utilitarian enclosures of other hockey rinks. A note on the question of whimsy: when the review was written the sculpture crowning the main entrance canopy had not yet been installed. To read the full article, complete with drawings and Pedro Guerrero images, go to the usmodernist.org/library page for Architectural Forum, open the PDF for December 1958 and scroll to page 106 (trying not to get distracted as you go).
While the hockey rink is designed as a one-off creation, with no apparent effort to relate it to nearby structures, Saarinen was designing many campus buildings and in fact giving serious thought to the relationship of new architecture to neighboring buildings and open spaces. While that may seem to us an inevitable concern, the mainstream Modernist approach of the 1950s paid little attention to surrounding buildings, considered due for replacement. In the online library, you can read Saarinen’s more enlightened thoughts on campus architecture. In his essay he discusses the designs of other college buildings in the tri-state area: his own Noyes House dormitory at Vassar and proposed residential colleges at Yale, as well as Gordon Bunshaft’s design for the rare books library there. Go to usmodernist.org/library page for Architectural Record, open the PDF for November 1960 and find page 128.
—John Morris Dixon