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David S. Ingalls Rink

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Yale Whale
1952–1958, Eero Saarinen and Associates with Douglas Orr; 2007–2009 renovation, Kevin Roche, John Dinkeloo and Associates. 73 Sachem St.
  • (Photograph by Carol M. Highsmith)

Situated north of Yale’s historic campus core and across from Science Hill, the David S. Ingalls Rink is representative of Yale’s embrace of modernist architecture following World War II. The building also denotes a shift in architect Eero Saarinen’s career, marking a new interest and commitment to sculptural forms before his death in 1961. Related to Saarinen’s earlier designs for the Gateway Arch and Jefferson National Expansion Memorial (1947–1965) in St. Louis and Kresge Auditorium (1953–1955) at MIT, the rink set forward a new path in his work and Saarinen himself cited the design as an influence for the TWA Flight Center (1962) and Washington Dulles Airport (1962).

Initially, the Yale Hockey Association requested that Roger and Butler of New York City, architects whose styles more closely paralleled those of the historic campus buildings, design the hockey rink. The Yale Corporation ultimately rejected their suggestion in favor of Yale president Alfred Whitney Griswold’s choice of Eero Saarinen. Griswold requested that Saarinen, a 1934 Yale Architecture school graduate, design the hockey rink, helping to fulfill his goal of employing modernist architects for the expansion of Yale’s campus during his tenure. Douglass Orr of New Haven was hired as associate architect along with the firm of Severud-Elstad-Gueger Associates as structural engineers.

Saarinen’s design for the hockey rink is centered on a massive curving concrete arch. The arch form creates a structural backbone or spine for the building and has led to many interpretations of the building’s form including references to a brontosaurus and a Norse helmet, as well as its most common nickname, the Yale Whale. Saarinen developed the general arch form for the building relatively quickly, but nonetheless concerns over the project from Yale and the project’s donors arose and the lengthy development of its final sculptural form with the upward lifting ends took considerable time. In the end, the building cost $1.4 million, almost double the approved budget, in part due to the complexity of the design, which led to delays in the schedule, further disgruntling the sponsors.

The roof is a suspension-cable-hung structure, similar to a suspension bridge, with a 300-foot central reinforced concrete parabolic arch. The arch forms the characteristic humpback shape of the exterior before it dives below grade to support the structure. The fins that extend and curve upwards on either end of the arch on the exterior create a concrete canopy over the glass entrances at either end of the oval-shaped rink. Aluminum cables were hung at regular intervals from the concrete arch creating a net that supports the roofing materials. Three external bracing cables were placed on both sides of the building to help resist snow loads. The interior of the roof is composed of tongue-and-groove wood planks supported by the steel cables, while the exterior is covered in a black flexible neoprene. Beneath the roof structure, reinforced concrete walls curve outwards at a 15-degree angle to provide additional structural stability. The cable net structure that rises 76 feet above the ice at its highest point, provides a 288-foot-long and 183-foot-wide area free of support columns. This allows ample space for the sunken rink and seating for 3,500 when the building is configured for hockey (and over 5,000 when the main floor is used for seating). The oval shape that widens at the middle maximized the number of highly desirable seats near the centerline.

The building has a low profile on the exterior, as the ice is set 10 feet below grade, and was created by excavating the ground below and piling it up to make the base for the seating, the same technique that was used for the Yale Bowl (1914) and other stadium designs. Ramps descend on either end of the building to allow access to seating. The locker rooms, offices, and storage areas were strategically placed underneath the seating.

In 2009, Kevin Roche, John Dinkeloo Associates completed a $23 million restoration and addition to the D.S. Ingalls Rink. Roche and Dinkeloo had worked for Eero Saarinen Associates during the building’s initial design and construction, and completed Saarinen’s unfinished buildings after his death, ultimately taking over the practice. Turner Construction, the original construction company, was used again, and the renovation was broken up into three phases. The first phase included a renovation to the press box on the home side, a new press box on the visitor’s side, refurbished exit doors, new lighting, and replacement of the rink slab with a lower slab and new entrance to the ice. This phase also involved the construction of the 12,700-square-foot underground addition on the Mansfield Street side for new locker rooms, training areas, and offices, which is almost entirely hidden under the parking lot. The second phase completed the locker room facilities. The final phase focused on the main interior, where a “hockey heritage area” was built, and the bathroom and concession areas renovated. The new work as a whole updated the building to meet current building codes while at the same time providing modernized facilities for the Yale men’s and women’s hockey teams and other university-affiliated clubs.


Atkinson, Fello. "A Re-Appraisal of Mid-Century American Architecture." Journal of the Royal Society of Arts 116, no. 5141 (1968): 367-387.

"David S. Ingalls Hockey Rink, Yale University, New Haven, Conn." Architectural Record (1957): 187-189.

“Ingalls Rink.”  Yale University Athletics. Accessed May 2015.

McGuinness, W. J. "Rink's ventilating equipment frankly displayed; the David S. Ingalls hockey rink at Yale." Progressive Architecture 40, no. 15 (1959).

McQuade, Walter. "Yale's Viking Vessel: David S. Ingalls Hockey Rink, Eero Saarinen, Archt." Architectural Forum 109 (1958): 106-111.

Papademetriou, Peter. "Coming of Age: Eero Saarinen and Modern American Architecture." Perspecta 21 (1984): 116-143.

Pelkonen, Eeva-Liisa, and Donald Albrecht, eds. Eero Saarinen: Shaping the Future. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2011.

Sharif, Amir. "The Whale Resurfaces." Yale Daily News. October 30, 2009.

Writing Credits

Julia Stitely-Moore and Emily Chace Morash
Emily Chace Morash



  • 1952

  • 2007


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Julia Stitely-Moore and Emily Chace Morash, "David S. Ingalls Rink", [New Haven, Connecticut], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

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