New SOM building sparks controversy

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Photo by Alex Schmeling.

Edward P. Evans Hall, Yale’s new School of Management headquarters, while bringing together the entire SOM under one roof, has divided the New Haven community.

Although the building debuted during a three-day conference last week to much applause, some local residents and city activists remain hesitant to join in the celebration due to a combination of aesthetic, ethical and fiscal concerns. The 242,000 square-foot structure, primarily constructed of glass, steel and concrete, designed by Lord Norman Foster ARC ’62, is located on Whitney Avenue.

“I think it is a dreadful mistake for the University to move ahead and for the city to permit it,” said former Alder Nancy Ahern, who previously testified against the building in fall of 2009. “It is out of perspective, it is gross, and it belongs somewhere else.”

Neighbors have gone so far as to label the 243 million dollar building, “an aquarium,” “a prison,” and even reminiscent of “a Carnival cruise ship,” said New Haven resident Wendy Hamilton. Hamilton picketed in front of the building with a bullhorn and sign that read, “Bernie Madoff $chool of Money.”

Some residents have expressed concern over the modern design of the building in light of the more traditional architecture in the area previously. Although Foster had stated publicly that the extensive use of glass was intended to facilitate connection and encourage transparency, some locals remain unconvinced.

“[Evans Hall] got the ‘Eye Sore architecture Award’ from Trump Enterprises, and the ‘Classy Glass Building Award from Pyrex,’” Hamilton said. “Window Washers of the World salute you.”

In order to construct the new SOM building, Yale demolished two buildings, most notably the Henry Killiam Murphy Building and its rotunda. When the project was proposed, residents protested and testified in front of The City Plan Commission, but failed to halt the plans.

Since the construction was not in a historic district, Yale was not subject to local preservation laws in the building’s construction, New Haven Preservation Services Officer of the New Haven Preservation Trust John Herzan said. Yale was determined to proceed and shared a different vision than the New Haven Preservation Trust, he continued.

Some residents wanted to see Yale incorporate the old building into the final design to protect what some residents argued were parts of New Haven’s history.

“The lesson Yale could have taught is to think of preservation as a part of what management should be about,” Ahern said. “The greatest building is the one that is already built.”

Still, many city officials have strongly supported the new construction and see the building as part of New Haven’s urban development. New Haven Mayor Toni Harp ARC ’78 attended the opening ceremony for the building and received a tour of the premises with Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy.

Harp was very impressed by its design and by its features, said Laurence Grotheer, director of communications for City Hall. She recognizes that there is an adjustment period with any new feature of the New Haven’s landscape, he continued.

Ahern and Hamilton agreed that, although they are disappointed, it is too late to bring about any real change.

“There’s nothing to do,” Ahern said. “We have to live with it.”

The building was named in honor of Edward P. Evans ’64, who died in 2011 less than two weeks after the announcement of his gift to the new SOM campus.

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