This article has been updated to reflect the version that ran in print on Monday, October 12.
The University has selected the architecture firm that will transform Commons into the Schwarzman Center, bringing the vision of the massive student center one step closer to reality.
On Friday, Yale announced that it had hired Beyer Blinder Belle Architects & Planners LLP to design the new center. In explaining the decision, a University press release cited the firm’s role in renovating several landmark buildings and sites, including Grand Central Terminal, as well as its recent completion of master planning for the Metropolitan Museum of Art. At Yale, the firm will be tasked with reimagining uses for the 84,000-square-foot complex currently known as Commons. University President Peter Salovey said in the release that Beyer Blinder Belle’s track record makes the firm the ideal partner for this endeavor.
“I was impressed by the firm’s ability to take distinguished buildings and renovate them for imaginative new uses while preserving their architectural heritage, and I am confident that they will help us create an exceptional university-wide student center,” Salovey said in a statement.
In their planning, architects will consider a report currently being compiled by the Schwarzman Center Advisory Committee, a group of 27 students, faculty and senior administrators that Salovey assembled last spring to solicit and synthesize community hopes for the project. The report will be completed and presented to Salovey by Thanksgiving, according to Skyler Ross ’16, a member of the committee.
University spokesman Tom Conroy said Salovey will subsequently share the report with the architects.
Ross said that Bruce Alexander, vice president for New Haven and state affairs and campus development, led the search for the architecture firm, but Salovey made the final decision. Senior Counselor to the President and Provost Linda Lorimer told the News in September that Stephen Schwarzman ’69, the donor whose $150 million gift made the transformation possible, even flew back to the United States from Europe at one point to participate in the selection process for the architect.
Salovey told the News in September that bridging the report’s recommendations with the architects’ actual design will be “maybe the most important part” of the entire planning process.
Elizabeth Leber, a partner at BBB, told the News that the goal of the project is not to erase the history of the site, but to modernize it to reflect current times.
“As we have at other historic buildings, our goal is to find a balance between preserving a building’s character and transforming it to accommodate new uses,” Leber said.
The way to achieve this balance between the historic and the modern, Leber added, is through extensive research of the building’s current condition as well as its past role as the University Commons and Memorial Hall. The firm’s vision is to bring the historic building up to date in terms of its architecture, technology and building systems.
Salovey, Alexander and other administrators did not return requests for additional explanation on the process of selecting an architect.
Leber emphasized that the caliber of her firm led to its selection.
“We pride ourselves on being excellent listeners, and [we] value the knowledge and enthusiasm that the Yale community has for this project,” Leber said. “We can’t think of a better project than the Schwarzman Center, and a better client than Yale, for us to bring these skills and passion to bear.”
The hiring of the architecture firm comes alongside administrative efforts to solicit student input in the design of the center. The Advisory Committee just concluded a series of listening tours across various University constituencies, including undergraduate organizations, residential colleges, administrators and the various graduate and professional schools.
Like Leber, Ross emphasized that collaboration — both with the Advisory Committee and with the Yale community more generally — will be a critical component of the planning efforts.
“They really are hitting the ground running on engaging with us and our community to make sure the center matches what our communal hopes for the center are,” Ross said. “The senior architect is coming to [the Advisory Committee’s] meeting next Wednesday, and I assume they will send us ideas for feedback.”
Beyer Blinder Belle was founded in 1968.
Correction, Oct. 12: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Beyer Blinder Belle renovated the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In fact, the firm engaged in master planning for the site.