Recession stalls college design plans

As it became obvious in recent months that Yale’s two new residential colleges would be delayed, University officials still managed to sound a hopeful note.

Even if construction could not start on time in 2011, they said at the time, designs and drawings for the project would be complete by late 2010 and workers could have shovels in the ground as soon as the economy improved. All Yale needed to do in the meantime was pay its architects. But that, it turns out, is easier said than done.

While the University has received $154.7 million in pledges for the new colleges, Vice President for Development Inge Reichenbach said not all of that money will go to the design and construction of the buildings themselves. Donors can choose to give either for the bricks and mortar or for the other parts of the expansion project, such as the new professorships and expanded financial aid that will be required to sustain a larger Yale.

So far, Reichenbach said, most donors — including one person who pledged a “very large gift” — have not decided where they want their money to go.

If designs are to be completed as soon as possible, though, Yale will need at least a few major donors to step up now and allocate funds for the planning and construction.

“We’re trying to explore ways to continue the design work,” University President Richard Levin said. “We need to raise more money to go to the next stage.”

According to Yale’s Capital Projects Handbook, there are two primary stages of design for each major building project. During the planning phase for a new building, feasibility and programming studies are conducted to decide upon the scope of the project — such as how many dorm rooms to build — and the approximate cost of construction. Levin said Robert A.M. Stern Architects, the New York-based firm that is designing the new colleges, has already completed this work.

The architects have moved onto the second phase, called preliminary design. Over the next several months, the designers will continue to refine their plans, taking into account code requirements and fleshing out the specifics of everything — from entryway locations to dorm room layouts. Yale has raised enough money, Levin said, to finish this preliminary design phase.

By summer, though, the architects will be done with this stage and ready to move on to design development. Yale, Levin and Reichenbach said, does not currently have the funds on hand to pay for this work.

During design development, final decisions will be made about the layout and size and appearance of the buildings. According to the guidelines from Yale’s Office of Facilities, design development is the “last opportunity for input regarding design issues.” (After design development comes a construction documents phase, when architects and consultants complete detailed drawings and instructions for builders.)

Given the importance of design development, Levin said he is hopeful that Yale will not have to delay any work on the project. The University still hopes to have drawings ready for construction to start when the economy improves.

Designing buildings is expensive, though, because planning requires the work of not only architects but also landscape architects and structural engineers and other consultants — all of whom must be paid.

Yale’s fundraisers may be aided in their efforts by renderings of the colleges, which are expected to be released sometime after spring break. Those drawings will give donors a better picture of what the buildings will look like when finished, and Reichenbach said she is hopeful that giving to the project will increase as a result.

The names of the colleges themselves remain off the table for donors, Levin said, but generous graduates will be recognized through the naming of courtyards and dining halls and even towers within the complex. There is reason to think, given these opportunities for recognition, that securing the funds needed to continue the design work will not be a large problem.

But nobody is certain.

When asked on Wednesday if design work for the project remained on track, School of Architecture Dean Robert A.M. Stern ARC ’65, who is in charge of the design team for the project, had only this to say: “Yes it is. I think it is.”


  • Lana , alum

    Before you go any further with this, you need to freeze tuition for those of us ordinary people who are working 24/7 to pay for school in this economy!
    It is outrageous you would think of epanding at a time like this
    Take care of the people that are there now trying to make ends meet!
    With O'bamas tax hikes on wroking parents and cancelling mortgage deduction we are now worse off.

  • Recent Alum

    Hopefully the recession will not only postpone the plans, but also cause administrators to reconsider how and where to build the two new colleges.

    The best option would be for Yale to buy the north portion of the New Haven Green and build the two colleges there. What skeptics who are against the idea need to understand is that less than a third of the Green's area would be needed, i.e., the north half of the area between College Street and Temple Street. The south side of the area between College and Temple (including the church there) would not need to be affected and could be separated from the north area by a road. And, of course, the entire area of the Green that is between Temple Street and Church Street would not change. There is no reason to have so much empty space in the middle of New Haven; a public park is great but its size is disproportionate given New Haven's population.

  • no


    Building colleges on the Green is one of the dumbest ideas I have ever heard. Luckily, it cannot happen, since no one is "selling" the Green to Yale.

  • Recent Alum

    #3: I am not sure who would have the authority to sell the New Haven Green to Yale (and if someone can shed light on this, that would be much appreciated). But if it were possible for Yale to buy the northern third of the Green (and perhaps even only the northwest area which is only one sixth of the entire area) I don't think anyone (other than maybe a few Dwight Hall types) would disagree that this would be the best location for the new colleges.

  • Silliman '79

    Much of present day Yale was built during the Great Depression, when both labor and real estate were cheap because of minimal demand. It was in that era that skilled masons, glad to get work, carved so much of the magnificent stonework on campus. So rather than delay the two new residential colleges, now is the time to act. Yale's endowment may be lessened, as it was in the 1930s, but far from crippled. This is an investment in the future, an opportunity to do what is best for Yale at reduced expense. It will only cost more with the economic recovery. Full speed ahead!

    P.S. -- the idea of appropriating the New Haven Green, one of the most historic sites in Connecticut, is insane. Take your meds.

  • alum

    The Green is a National Historic Landmark (i.e. National Park), not to mention the first planned public space in the United States, so isn't going to change… ever.

  • BobM

    Very sad. The article says that only those who have completed a course can use the shop. Did that course not include the universal shop restrictions on long hair, neck ties, long sleeves, etc.?