The Yale Law School pulls into the last leg of its five-year renovations this month with the final additions to its dining hall.
“We’re just about finished,” Yale Law School Deputy Dean Kate Stith said. “We’re just waiting for the cafeteria to be completed.”
The dining hall is receiving a thorough revamping of both the food preparation and seating areas. Renovations of the hall, which began in May, include new lighting and air conditioning systems, the construction of special needs accommodations and the substantive expansion of a floor below the kitchen.
Changes in the dining hall come after years of work on other parts of the Sterling Law Buildings. Since 1997 the Law School has witnessed the total alteration of Ruttenberg Hall, the addition of seminar rooms on its High Street wing and the renovation of many faculty offices. The result is a building with all of the amenities of the 21st century that has, nonetheless, retained its Gothic splendor.
In contrast to the residential college renovations sweeping through Yale College, the YLS overhaul has proceeded without the need to shut down its major student services facilities. Most significantly, the dining hall has remained open throughout the process.
“This is one feather to be put in the cap of the law school,” YLS dining hall manager David Lacroix said. “Most other residential colleges have shut down and students have had to eat at Commons, but the law school never stopped operations.”
The bulk of the renovations were enacted this past summer, when construction workers refurbished as much of the dining hall as possible while students were away for the summer. When students returned, kitchen renovations still had not been completed, but work on enough of the seating area had been finished so that students could still eat in the law school.
Lacroix said he received some complaints about inconveniences. But most faculty and students were at least thankful of the opportunity to eat at a law school setting, even though at times the hall only served cold food.
“If you take 700 law students and 200 staff and faculty, there’s always someone unhappy with the situation,” Lacroix said. “You get tired of eating sandwiches every day.”
But if the work in the end looks commendable, students and faculty will likely forgive any temporary inconveniences incurred this past year. And Lacroix said he is impressed with the construction efforts so far.
“It’s really quite difficult making it look like [the dining hall] has hardly been touched so as to preserve the look and architecture of an old Yale building,” Lacroix said.