The choice of Lord Norman Foster ARC ’62 to design the School of Management’s new campus drew praise this week, as professors said Foster will continue the University’s tradition of cutting-edge architecture.
Foster won the Pritzker Prize — considered to be architecture’s equivalent of the Nobel Prize — in 1999, and is famous for designing the Millennium Bridge in London. His plans for the management school’s new campus on Whitney Avenue will be designed specifically with the needs of the SOM’s new core curriculum in mind, officials said.
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The curriculum — introduced last year — takes an interdisciplinary approach that involves more team-teaching, hands-on learning, and use of technology than was previously used. To that end, SOM Dean Joel Podolny said the new campus will include more breakout rooms, meeting spaces and opportunities to integrate new technology into the classroom.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity to build a campus at this time that allows us to create classroom space conducive to the way we teach our new curriculum,” Podolny said. “His design both informs and contributes to what we’re trying to do.”
While Foster’s firm, Foster + Partners, has no definite building plans yet, SOM spokeswoman Elizabeth Stauderman said Foster has presented “beautiful imaginings” of what the new campus might look like, in the form of artistic renderings and a model.
Those familiar with the plans for the SOM said Foster’s design is mindful of the residents on Lincoln Place, which is adjacent to the new campus, and of the fact that the school hopes to expand in the future. School of Architecture Dean Robert A. M. Stern ARC ’65 — who was on the committee that selected Foster — said his former classmate was chosen because his firm grasped the complexity of the site on Whitney Avenue.
“He’s a brilliant talent at the top of his game,” Stern said. “He creates a very real sense of place, which is important because [the] SOM is currently all over the place and lacks a sense of cohesion that I think you find at some other business schools.”
The SOM’s new campus will meet established criteria for sustainability. The University’s commitment to sustainable construction began with the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, and architecture school Assistant Dean Keith Krumwiede said Foster has much in common with Michael Hopkins, who designed the environment school’s new building.
“Hopkins and Foster came out of the same British high-tech style,” Krumwiede said. “When they were younger, they were more aggressively machine-like in their designs, but as they’ve grown they’ve both developed into technologically rigorous and environmentally responsive architects.”
Krumwiede praised Yale for its daring in seeking out competitive and innovative architecture. Foster will be adding to what is already a landmark collection of buildings on Yale’s campus, including the Beinecke Rare Books Library, Ingalls Rink and Yale University Art Gallery, Krumwiede said.
“Other schools — I won’t name names — want to do buildings that fit in with the preexisting architecture,” he said. “Even though their other disciplines are at the cutting edge of their fields, there’s still a fear of embracing change and new thinking in the physical environment.”
Still, Yale is unlikely to escape all criticism for its choice of Foster, especially in light of the architect’s nontraditional style and his new building’s novel location on the east side of Whitney Avenue.
“It’s the first time Yale is building on the other side of Whitney Avenue,” Stern said. “People will be scrutinizing it, no doubt about it.”