Robertson Hall

Architect: Minoru Yamasaki

Date of Construction: 1963-1965

Materials: travertine, concrete

Floors: 3

Uses: library, classrooms, offices, lecture hall, seminar rooms, conference room

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Robertson Hall was designed by Minoru Yamasaki in 1966. The building was commissioned for the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. The building is an attempt at a new form of classicism: a classical entablature, pedestal and 58 reinforced concrete pillars cast in all white travertine.(1) The elegant composition is unique on the Princeton campus; most buildings are stone or brick clad and follow either collegiate Gothic Revival or in an American masonry vernacular. Instead, Yamasaki refers to the Parthenon and the Ducal Palace in Venice as a way of bringing another architectural tradition to Princeton.(2) Robertson Hall is pulled away from imitation by its use of simple, paired down modern forms, modern materials, and modern construction techniques.(3) The highly repetitive structure features vertical, oblong windows on the clerestory level. According to Dale Cotton who authored Princeton Modern, the windows “are common in Yamasaki’s work, and allude very loosely to Gothic windows, as do the tapered columns end in a subtly arch”(4).

The most striking feature of the building is the stark white veneer. juxtaposed with the stone of Princeton, Robertson Hall stands out as defiantly modern. The travertine upon close inspection, however, is not as smooth and white as it appears from a distance. Yamasaki had the material gouged so it is extremely irregular.(5) Through various processes of water, decomposition and chemical processes the travertine succumbed to create a pockmarked, cavernous surface that is textually interesting.(6)

The building is coupled with a grassy knoll to the right and a shallow but expansive rectangular fountain to the left. The fountain of Scudder Plaza draws many students, residents, and visitors of Princeton particularly in the summer, where it becomes a place for people to cool down and go knee-deep in the fountain. This makes Robertson Hall one of the most recognized buildings on campus, although it strays very far from the famous Gothic Revival Princeton architecture is known for.

Robertson Hall was dedicated in 1966 by university president Robert F. Goheen and President Lyndon B. Johnson. The building is located on Washington Road, in between Prospect Avenue and William Street.

(1) Mengo, Marilyn. Princeton History and Architecture. Atglen, PA: Schiffer Publishing LTD., 2007. Print. 121.

(2) Greiff, Constance M., Mary W. Gibbons, Elizabeth G. G. Menzies. Princeton Architecture. “A Pictoral History of the Town and Campus”. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1967. Print. 180.

(3) Grieff, Constance M.. 180.

(4) Cotton, Dale. Princeton Modern, Highlights of Campus Architecture from the 1960s to the Present. Princeton, NJ: Office of Communications, The Trustees of Princeton University, 2010. Print, 36-37.

(5). Cotton, Dale.

(6) Cotton, Dale.

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