Roche Remembered for Designing the Center for the Arts Complex

Benjamin TraversMarch 18, 20193min

Pritzker Prize–winning architect Kevin Roche, who designed Wesleyan’s Center for the Arts, died on March 1 at the age of 96 at his home in Guilford, Conn.

In January, the Connecticut Architecture Foundation presented the Connecticut premiere of the feature documentary film “Kevin Roche: The Quiet Architect” (2017) at Wesleyan. The film considers many of the key architectural questions through his 70-year career, including the relationship between architects and the public they serve. His architectural philosophy was that “the responsibility of the modern architect is to create a community for a modern society,” and he emphasized the importance of bringing nature into the buildings they inhabit. “It would be impossible to write a history of 20th-century architecture without Kevin Roche,” Robert A.M. Stern said in the film.

Some of his over 200 projects included the Knights of Columbus Tower in New Haven; the New Haven Coliseum; the Oakland Museum of Art; the John Deere headquarters in Moline, Ill.; the Ford Foundation in New York City; and a nearly 50-year relationship with the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

His Connecticut-based firm, Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates, described the Center for the Arts as “intimate” and “delicately realized.”

On the occasion of the Center for the Arts’ 40th anniversary, the May 2014 exhibition “Roche and Dinkeloo’s Architecture for the CFA: A Situated Modernism,” curated by Joseph Siry, professor of art history and Kenan Professor of the Humanities, traced the process of its design and building from Wesleyan’s early discussions with architects Roche and Dinkeloo in 1965 through the Center’s completion in 1973. The exhibition included plan drawings, renderings, model and construction photographs, and a recreation of Roche’s oral and visual presentation of the original design to Wesleyan, and explored the contextual and programmatic factors to which the Center’s modernist architecture responded as a family of buildings artfully situated in the campus.

Professor Siry also presented a lecture, “The Architecture of Wesleyan’s CFA: Modernism and the Greek Revival,” that traced the development of the design of the CFA as a response to its context of Greek Revival architecture on Wesleyan’s campus, and as an integration of ideas from earlier and contemporaneous architecture of the 20th century. Roche attended and responded to Professor Siry’s lecture, before a reception in the Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery.

Read “Kevin Roche, Architect Who Melded Bold With Elegant, Dies at 96″ in The New York Times.