A section of the dark blue plywood walls shielding construction on Cross Campus is getting a makeover — courtesy of architecture major Alexander Newman-Wise ’08, with Yale footing the approximately $1,000 bill.
In the next two to three weeks, the construction paneling across from the main entrance of Sterling Memorial Library will be replaced by a 60 foot by 8 foot wall designed and constructed by Newman-Wise. The new panels will feature wave-like patterns of protruding wooden “fins” and narrow windows covered by Plexiglas. Newman-Wise said he proposed his idea for the art project in May as a way to transform the construction on Cross Campus from an eyesore to a blank canvas.
“It created an opportunity to make something new and to change [the fencing], which has become very static,” Newman-Wise said. “It was a palette — it was something that looked like it could be worked with.”
Nina Glickson, an assistant to Yale President Richard Levin, said the University’s decision to fund Newman-Wise came after administrators consulted with facilities personnel to ensure that the project complied with building codes and safety criteria, since the plan would create an unorthodox construction barrier.
“The project is playful, and it will make some of the plywood panels more interesting and perhaps a topic of conversation,” Glickson said.
Late last week, Newman-Wise received the go-ahead from the President’s Office, which will provide Newman-Wise with about $1,000 for building materials, Glickson said.
Glickson said she was not sure where the money would come from, but she said it would cover all of Newman-Wise’s expenses.
Newman-Wise, who has made at least two miniature models of the fencing so far, said he has begun building the life-size version in the wood shop of the Yale School of Architecture. He is using nails, construction adhesive and half-inch-thick boards — of lengths varying from 1 foot to 5 feet — to construct the fins, which will be interspersed with window slits to create textured waves along the panels.
“It should make people forget for a second, hopefully, that it’s a construction wall,” Newman-Wise said.
Newman-Wise said that in the morning, the light will strike the wall from the construction side of the fence, creating a pattern of shadows on the sidewalk. The construction site is lit up at night, which he said might generate a slightly different set of shadows.
The new wall will be put in place once Newman-Wise finishes working on it, which he said should be in a few weeks.
“I’m working on it constantly,” he said.
The wall will be a temporary feature on Cross Campus. After construction — which is slated for completion in May 2007 — has finished, the paneling will be taken down, he said.
But Newman-Wise said he hopes to see creative approaches to concealing construction sites both on and off of Yale’s campus in the future.
“I wanted to create something new that could be used at Yale, and that would have broader implications in construction sites in general,” Newman-Wise said. “I wanted it to challenge architects to think about a site while it was being constructed.”
Newman-Wise said he had originally envisioned having a team composed of students and faculty design and create a new construction fence from scratch that would then be placed around the entire perimeter of Cross Campus. But after meetings with members of the administration in May, he was told that the University would not be able to fund the project, which Newman-Wise estimated would cost $40,000.
Undeterred, Newman-Wise pursued the idea on a smaller scale when he returned to New Haven in August. He met with architects working on the Cross Campus construction and administration members to refine his proposal.
Architecture professor Kent Bloomer, who advised Newman-Wise in the beginning stages of the project, said he thought the wall would alleviate some of the difficulties faced by students as a result of the construction.
“I think that anything that would make [the construction walls] more spirited for the students would be a good thing,” Bloomer said.