Dining Hall

Architect: Robert Geddes

Date of Construction: 1968-1971

Materials: glass, pour-in-place concrete, teak wood

Floors: 2, one above, one below ground

Use: meeting hall, dining hall

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The Institute for Advanced Study Dining Hall was built from 1968-1971 in a $4-million undertaking by Robert Geddes (Geddes, Brecher, Qualls, and Cunningham; at the time the dean of the Princeton School of Architecture), and sits across a birch courtyard from the West Building. The two buildings were designed together and the dining hall serves as a mirror for the West Building. In a 1966-76 “Report of the Director” written by Carl Kaysen to the Board of Trustees, Kaysen comments on new building and describes the dining hall to have “contributed a great deal towards enlarging and humanizing then non-academic life of the Institute”(1). It is clear that although the architecture differs greatly from what already existed on campus it was welcomed with open arms as architecture that provided comfort to the visiting fellows.

Walking from the main part of the campus, the dining hall is approached first and allows access to the West Building by a bridge. A semi-circular courtyard precedes the above ground floor of the dining hall. The roof-line is made of a heavy concrete slab that appears to float upon a long stretch of glass. The slab is supported by concrete columns that provide support from both the interior and exterior of the building. To the left of the entrance is the bridge that connects the West Building and further left is a separate elevator shaft that has a slight angled roof that rises above the roof-line. Like the West Building, the concrete is unfinished with beautiful expression of texture and pattern left by the wood mold that framed the pour-in-place concrete.

The beginning of the walkway to the West Building is cover and has inlaid teak wood on its low-lying ceiling. The warm red-brown of the teak is reflected in the red glazed brick that makes up the floor. Both the teak and the glazed brick continue into the entrance creating a smooth indoor-outdoor transition.

Once inside the dining room, the bottom floor is accessed by a curved staircase made of the same concrete that gives the building its structure. The wide expanse of glass bathes the interior in natural light. The south wall is protected by the same modular squares that make up the facade of the West Building. The protruding units of concrete prevent the main dining room from becoming too hot and protect it from penetrating sun rays. This thoughtful architectural element keeps the light soft and manageable for its occupants. The modular squares make up only the top story and serves as an overhang for three separate semi-private patio spaces. These outdoor spaces look out on the birch courtyard and further the impression that this building was designed to play off of the nature that it is set in.

(1) Kaysen, Carl.  “Report of the Director, 1966-1976”. The Institute for Advanced Study. 1976. Print and Web. 30 March, 2011.

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