A scattering of buildings just north of the Grove Street Cemetery now have signs posted to their doors that say, in bold capital letters, “This Building Proposed To Be Demolished.”
Those signs — and the accompanying ire of some local preservationists over the proposed demolitions — are just the latest indication that Yale is inching closer to adding two residential colleges. While the economy has slowed the project, and the question of when the two new colleges will open remains unanswered, it became much easier to imagine Yale’s 13th and 14th residential colleges this summer.
First, on May 12, the News posted to its Web site a series of illustrations commissioned by the architecture firm of Robert A.M. Stern ARC ’65 that showed the firm’s proposed design. In short, as Stern put it, the colleges he designed “look like Yale colleges.”
The pencil drawings made clear that the two colleges will be built of brick with stone embellishments, will feature towers in various locations and, like all of Yale’s existing colleges, will be defined by their courtyards.
In time for alumni reunions on May 28, Stern formally unveiled models of the new colleges in Sterling Memorial Library. He defended the decision to build the colleges largely of brick, saying that while “people think Yale is so much stone” the truth is “not so.” And he promised that “there’ll be more quirkiness as we work out the design,” so no one need worry about vast walls of brick appearing on campus.
Soon after Stern made the models available, Yale officials let slip a few more details about the project: All bedrooms will be singles, though suites will range from doubles to sextets. Each of the colleges will get a large courtyard big enough to seat 1,200 people for Commencement as well as several smaller, more intimate courtyards.
It will take a lot of work to make room for those spacious courtyards and 425-bed colleges, though, and Yale also revealed once and for all this summer that it plans to demolish all of the existing buildings on the triangular block just north of the Grove Street Cemetery.
That means the Seeley G. Mudd Library, built in 1982, and Hammond Hall, completed in 1904 and known primarily for its decorative, Beaux-Arts front, will both be torn down along with other buildings, including Brewster Hall.
As news of these plans came out over the summer, some preservationists and architects in New Haven loudly voiced their disapproval.
“It may be that none of these are major landmarks, but many have architectural or historical significance,” wrote C. Michael Tucker, a past president of the New Haven Preservation Trust, in the New Haven Register. “They are worth preserving as part of New Haven’s rich urban environment.”
Yale, of course, sees the buildings differently. University President Richard Levin said in a telephone interview that while Yale has reached out to the preservation community and tried to make its case for the new colleges, the protests will not stall the project.
“There are many people within the preservation community who recognize what splendid work we’ve done restoring many, many buildings and are quite sympathetic to our proposal for building the new colleges, and there are some who are concerned about it,” Levin said. “We evidently can’t please everyone.”
One group of people Yale does need to please, though, is would-be donors for the project. Fundraising continues to be difficult, Levin said, though enough money has been raised to allow Stern to finish work on the plans for the colleges.
At this point, however, it is doubtful that the University will raise enough money for the project to be completed by even 2014, a year after it was originally supposed to be finished. Levin said it is now probable that the colleges will open in either 2015 or 2016.