With designs set, new colleges waiting on funds

Yale’s two new residential colleges, located near Science Hill, will be constructed once the University has raised enough funds toward the $500 million project.
Yale’s two new residential colleges, located near Science Hill, will be constructed once the University has raised enough funds toward the $500 million project. Photo by Jacob Geiger.

Architectural plans for Yale’s two new residential colleges were completed last week, but University administrators said construction cannot start without fundraising toward the $313 million outstanding for the project.

The completed set of construction documents for Yale’s 13th and 14th residential colleges was issued by Robert A. M. Stern Architects last Friday, University Planner Laura Cruickshank said in a Thursday email. The final changes to construction documents concerned “technical work” on the structures themselves, School of Architecture Dean Robert Stern ARC ’65 said, while minor decorative elements, such as the designs for sculptures and plaques in the colleges, have yet to be determined. Though Stern said the finalized construction documents would usually be the last step before breaking ground, Levin said fundraising issues have kept the University from announcing a detailed timeline for construction.

“I would love the colleges to start in the fall of 2012, which means that they would be finished, furnished, and up and running by fall 2015,” Stern said. “It’s one of my great dreams.”

Levin said the construction of the colleges will likely take 30 months. But he noted that the University will first have to bid out the contract for construction, which will take an additional three to four months.

The colleges had originally been scheduled to open in fall 2013, but the project was postponed indefinitely after the onset of the recession in late 2008 left the University facing a $350 million budget deficit. Yale still needs to fundraise extensively for the $500 million project before construction can begin, Levin said, and there is currently no formal timeline for the colleges’ construction.

“The holdup is fundraising, it’s nothing to do with the construction documents at this point,” he said. “It’s a question of when we will have enough committed gifts to begin the process, and from that point it’s just under three years.”

Vice President for Development Inge Reichenbach said in February that $187 million has been raised for the project so far and that the new colleges are one of her office’s “top priorities,” though she added that the recession had a negative impact on the University’s ability to finance major construction projects like the colleges.

Stern said Levin’s office and the Yale Corporation have complete control over when construction begins, though he said work could start almost immediately once his firm “gets the green light” from the administration.

Last month, Levin, the Yale Corporation, the facilities department and Stern’s firm visited a life-size mock-up of the colleges in Science Park. The mock-up, which was constructed to test various design elements, helped Stern’s firm narrow down the options for features like windows, brick and grout.

“There’s a huge amount of technical work in an architecture project, and all those technical drawings are now complete,” Stern said. “There are design drawings and then there are technical drawings that translate the design drawings into their technical components.”

Cruickshank said the final technical plans look extremely similar to previously approved designs. Levin added that the modified drawings mostly involve changes to “wiring and pipes.”

With the technical plans complete, Stern’s office is now working to perfect ornamental details such as gates and sculptures. Stern said his team is also working with Levin and the Corporation on themes for smaller decorative elements like plaques, adding that he is consulting the administration on both the design and content of these embellishments. Stern said potential themes for the adornments could include the history of the new colleges’ site and past Nobel Prize winners from Yale.

The newest residential colleges at Yale, Ezra Stiles and Morse, were built in 1961.

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