Less than a month after it officially embarked upon the addition of two new residential colleges, the University is close to choosing an architect for what will be Yale’s most prized commission in decades.

The selection will be announced within a month or so, University President Richard Levin said Sunday.

The Yale Corporation, the University’s highest governing body, approved the addition of two new residential colleges at its meeting earlier this month. Few other details were released at the time, however, with University officials saying that little would develop regarding the college project until the fall.

But in a wide-ranging interview with the News over the weekend, Levin shed new light on what is being discussed behind the scenes regarding the details of what will be Yale’s largest expansion since co-education — and what has already been decided.


The question of the architecture of the new colleges is the most obvious, and the most urgent. Levin said the University has been discussing possible architects for several months with the expectation of choosing an architect in the near future and announcing it sometime this summer. Unlike the case of Yale’s last major commission, the new School of Management campus, no design competition will be held; instead, the University will enlist an architect and then ask him to come back with plans for the new colleges several months later.

Levin would not comment on individual architects or say how many candidates remained under consideration.


In February, when he first endorsed plans for expansion, Levin suggested the new colleges would allow for the Yale College enrollment to increase by about 650 to 700 students, or 12 or 13 percent of the existing student body. But Levin said the Corporation has decided to make the colleges slightly larger, allowing for an increase of about 800 students, or roughly 15 percent of the existing student body.

The larger increase will make the two new colleges roughly the size, as far as enrollment is concerned, of the largest residential colleges today, rather than being somewhere in the middle, Levin said. They will have a combined enrollment of approximately 935 students, with the existing 12 colleges decreasing in size by about 135 students overall in order to eliminate — or at least significantly reduce — overcrowding and the annexing of upperclassmen.

The move to increase the size of the new colleges comes as something of a surprise, however, because among students’ chief complaints about the proposed expansion has been that it might shatter Yale’s sense of intimacy — and further enlarging the scope of the expansion does not exactly work to pacify those concerns.


As for naming the new colleges, Levin said an announcement would likely be made in the fall semester as to how the University will solicit ideas for possible names, although he emphasized that no details had been finalized and it was not yet certain when the Corporation would seek to make a final decision on the question of naming.

Levin has promised that the community will be able to suggest names for the new colleges. In keeping with tradition, the colleges will not be named for living donors.

The ‘third building’

The much-discussed third building to be built alongside the colleges behind the Grove Street Cemetery is a continuing source of discussion — and could morph into several buildings.

Levin said the residential-college site is planned to include an undergraduate theater of some sort; classroom space; and a new building for the Sociology Department, whose current home will be razed to make way for the new colleges. Exactly how those different elements will fit into the so-called “Prospect-Sachem Triangle” — and whether they will comprise one building, two or three — is still an open question, Levin said. In addition, a new academic building may be built on the other side of Prospect Street adjacent to Rosenkranz Hall, the new Political Science Department building under construction, he said.

The Sociology Department was believed to be the last remaining department facing impending homelessness because of the residential-college expansion. With its new home secured, it appears that the University has now secured future locations for all of the department and offices that will be displaced by the new colleges — an essential task that can now be crossed off the 14-college checklist.

The timeframe

Levin said the plan is to admit students into the new colleges beginning with the freshman class that enters in the fall of 2012; those students will live in Swing Space for their freshman year. In the fall of 2013, when the new colleges open, they will house those students and a new round of freshmen. Upperclassmen will be able to enter a lottery to transfer into the new colleges, as was done when Whitman College opened at Princeton last year, Levin said.

Previous News coverage of Yale’s path to fourteen colleges: