Richard Kelly is arguably one of the greats of modern lighting design. Leading architectural historians and lighting designers gathered at the Yale School of Architecture in New Haven, Conn., on Oct. 1–2 to celebrate his influence during a two-day symposium that was the culmination to the exhibit “The Structure of Light: Richard Kelly and the Illumination of Modern Architecture,” curated by Dietrich Neumann, Brown University professor of history of modern architecture.
It was a homecoming of sorts for Kelly and his work. Kelly, who died in 1977, graduated from the Yale School of Architecture in 1944, and the exhibit drew on materials from his archive donated by his family to the school. The exhibit did a good job of providing a context for his work, in particular the influence of Stanley McCandless, who taught at Yale's School of Drama. However, the final section—Architectural Lighting Today— was less successful in accurately portraying the wealth of work in today's lighting design.
The symposium sought to give Kelly's work a context. The second-day discussion of Kelly's collaboration with architect Louis Kahn on the Yale Center for British Art—held at the museum — was outstanding. Jules Prown, the center's first director, recounted behind-the-scenes details from the building's construction, which was completed after Kahn's death. While it would have been preferable to have extended an invitation to a larger portion of the lighting community, the exhibit and symposium were still an excellent introduction to Kelly for those not familiar with his work.