In Swing Space, building a community

Swing Space is looking to increase community among its residents.
Swing Space is looking to increase community among its residents. Photo by Sarah Eckinger.

In 1998 — just in time for the first residential college renovation — Swing Space was built to serve as an annex for students displaced during their respective college constructions.

Tucked between the Yale Power Plant and Payne Whitney Gymnasium, the L-shaped dorm was conceived as a quick fix to Yale’s housing needs. With large structural components such as walls of concrete trucked in, John Meeske, associate dean for student organizations and physical resources, said that Swing Space’s prefabricated construction was intended simply to provide a temporary housing space during the renovation of each college in turn.

“There were some stories that Swing wasn’t built like colleges to last forever,” Meeske said, adding that the building turned out to be “much nicer than originally conceived” due to last-minute additions such as gabled roofs and skylights.

The building was estimated to remain in use for about 20 years. After housing students from each college for the past 12 years, 156 annexed juniors from seven colleges moved into Swing Space in September.

“It was understood from the beginning that the building had a freshness stamp,” Miller said, “that it was built for a particular purpose, and that when that purpose was no longer in effect, that it could be transformed.”

As Swing Space is no longer home to students unified by residential college allegiance, its role in creating relationships among Yalies has blurred.

A Swing Space Council recently formed in efforts to improve the living experience for students there. Currently, niches carved out by the colleges within the space remain insular , and it might just stay that way.

“I thought it would be really cool and like Old Campus, but that hasn’t played out so far,“ resident JohnMark Taylor ’13 said.

APARTMENT-STYLE LIVING

Students’ reasons for choosing Swing Space as a home vary: some appreciate its proximity to Payne Whitney and the quiet space the location affords, while others are won over by housing perks such as air conditioning.

In Swing Space, students have their own bedrooms in two-person suites. Unlike the network of vertical entryways in the residential colleges, where fire doors connect suites directly via common rooms, suites can only be entered one way — through the doors lining hallways on its four floors.

“It’s really like living in an apartment,” said David Hu ’13, who was annexed from Ezra Stiles College to Swing Space last year and chose to live there a second year. “You can go an entire day and not run into anyone.”

In addition to the gym, hallway common rooms, laundry facilities and the TV room that most Yale housing provides, Swing Space also boasts a furnished living room, kitchenette and bathroom in each suite. Devin Race ’13 described this aesthetic as “Yale’s only residential hospital,” but for some, this provides much-needed refuge from campus.

“It’s weird now to think that last year I could literally see into [William L. Harkness Hall] classrooms from my room in Calhoun — that was like living in school, which I don’t think is a recipe for relaxation,” Charlotte Parker ’13 said.

Julian Reid ’13 said that Swing Space allows for a “quasi-adult feel” that mixes qualities of life both on and off campus.

“There’s a distinct feeling of coming back to a place into which I have to swipe, as opposed to whipping keys from my pocket,” Reid said.

Though Swing Space’s quarters were close last year — packing four as opposed to two students into each suite — Hu said that one advantage he found was that he could walk down the hallway and immediately see all of his friends. This year, though, he said that quality has been lost because the floors are “splintered” due to room assignments organized by colleges.

Hu gestured down the hallway: “There’s Trumbull, over there, in that corner.”

‘JUST GETTING STARTED’

Last year’s Swing Space residents from Ezra Stiles College were not only across the street from their college, but also had a buttery of their own, threw events and enjoyed weekly catered dinners hosted by Stiles Master Stephen Pitti. This year, resident fellows hosted a barbeque at the beginning of the year, which over 70 students attended, but later in September they sent out an email request for student help planning future events.

Enter the Swing Space Council. Led by six students and Swing Space’s three resident fellows, the council — responding to an online survey and student input — is striving to maximize the Swing Space experience.

“It’s understood that creating community is part of the challenge here,” the Swing Space fellows wrote in an email to the News. “At the same time, we DO NOT want to usurp the role of the residential college in a student’s life at Yale. That’s not the intention of the goal, but we do want kids to know, to respect, and to enjoy the presence of their neighbors in Swing.”

The Swing Space Council now schedules meetings informally, every couple of weeks in person and otherwise by email. Last week, the council hosted an ice cream social, which was attended by about 15 students, but the fellows explained that they hope to promote future events more aggressively. A Halloween party is currently in the works.

Hu said that students use the extra common areas casually to host their own parties, as Swing Space has less supervision than a traditional college space, but only the Law School students who live on the fourth floor have access to the ping-pong table, billiards, piano or the buttery in the basement.

Husna Bayram ’13 added that no one has gone out of his or her way to meet someone new, but he hadn’t expected this to happen.

“I didn’t really think it would have community,” he said. “I am happy with a small community.”

With regards to the intercollege communication, Race said, “It mainly looks like a lot of people in a building together,” though Reid added, “I’m constantly running into faces that I haven’t seen since freshman year on Old Campus.”

After the two new residential colleges are built — they are scheduled to be completed by 2015 ­— Swing will be turned over to the Law School for use as a dormitory an administrative space.

Comments

  • Stiles

    Historical tidbit… Eero Saarinen architect of Ezra Stiles and Morse Colleges was also commissioned to design a “13th” college on the land Swingspace currently sits on. The University had originally hoped the state of Connecticut would follow through with its plan to build a highway through the northern part of New Haven. With this new highway Yale hoped to build over Tower Pkwy and complete the crescent shape of ES and MS.