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“Rubenstein Commons” Multifunctional Building

Repose, Light, Equilibrium

Steven Holl Architects

“Rubenstein Commons” Multifunctional Building
By Yehuda Safran -
Duravit, ERCO have participated in the project

As one follows Einstein Drive up to the entrance to the Institute for Advanced Study, on the left-hand side a building unlike any other on this campus comes into view. This is Steven Holl Architects’ Rubenstein Commons. Just as the Institute itself was made possible thanks to the generosity of one individual and his sister, Louis and Caroline Bamberger, who responded to the difficulty of accommodating the flood of academic giants who escaped Europe overtaken by Nazism and war at the time, David Rubenstein, in our time, was generous enough to offer the Institute the means to construct a collective house that would accommodate the social need of its Fellows to associate with each other, have the company of each other, in other words, have a space that would accommodate the need for fellowship among scientists and researchers.

The day we visited the Institute, clouds made the light uneven. And yet, it was clear already from the outside that light – daylight entering the building – is among the chief protagonists. Not yet withered, the daylight coming from above or from the side windows was always framed emphatically. Made largely with precast concrete slabs assembled on site, the Rubenstein Commons come together to form a massive pavilion. Here, we confront contradiction in terms, as the pavilion is meant to be a papillon, the French for the lightest of beings, a butterfly. This condition encourages and permits large openings both at our height and well above, where the ceiling, tapering upward, towers the light, emphasizing the predominance of daylight in the interiors. The combination of curved exterior and interior walls ensures that residents will be able to find their place of comfort and repose, the eyes and bodies of the Fellows finding an equilibrium in the nearby space and at the other end of their immediate surroundings. The walls of both the small and large gathering spaces are continuously clad with...

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