When the Schwarzman Center opens in 2020, the space will be more than just a remodeling of the existing area around and beneath Commons Dining Hall and Woolsey Hall. Rather, donor Stephen Schwarzman ’69, along with top University administrators and the center’s architect, made a formerly undisclosed decision this spring to expand the Schwarzman Center’s physical size to accommodate more students.
The University first unveiled plans to establish the Schwarzman Center in May 2015, a feat made possible by a $150 million donation from Schwarzman, the billionaire New York financier. Now, with the augmentations, the center will include an additional 5,400 square feet on its northern side by Grove Street and 11,200 square feet at its southern side beneath the Hewitt Quadrangle, providing new areas for student programs.
The decision to add to the center’s existing space was announced on Sept. 15 by Bruce Alexander ’65, university vice president for New Haven and state affairs and campus development, to approximately 100 members of the Yale community, including faculty members and administrators involved with the center’s planning as well as student members of the Schwarzman Center Advisory Committee.
University President Peter Salovey told the News that he is thrilled that through this expansion, the center can provide even more space for student organizations. He added that the expansion will innovatively use spaces that the University “never dreamed” could be utilized for student life.
Schwarzman told the News that the renovations will further the mission of the center.
“The expansion vastly enhances the utility of the center to the full campus, and it’s heartening to see it progressing with so much buy-in from the community,” Schwarzman said. “Having a state-of-the-art facility like this is important for a university of Yale’s prominence and is critical to maintaining its competitive edge when it comes to thought leadership, cultural engagement and innovation.”
Yale College Associate Dean and Dean for the Arts Susan Cahan told the News that the physical expansion will add a second floor to the Grove Street side of Commons — replacing the existing servery with a new one — which will serve as additional space for student meeting rooms and multilevel performances. The augmentations will also include a balcony walkway along the interior of Commons, creating a passage around it on the second level. Additionally, the University will construct a basement area beneath the Hewitt Quadrangle that will bring natural light into the underground spaces and create a circular room under the Memorial Rotunda that will be similar in dimensions to the President’s’ Room currently on the second floor of the building complex.
Elizabeth Leber — partner-in-charge for Beyer Blinder Belle, the architecture firm hired by the University to design the center — said the additions will not significantly change the outer appearance of the center.
“The additions will be sensitive to the exterior appearance of the Schwarzman Center,” Leber said. “Because the south addition is below grade, there will be very little impact to the current look of the Hewitt Quad.”
Moving forward, Alexander wrote in his announcement that the University will continue to engage with community members to realize the vision for the center outlined by the Schwarzman Center Advisory Committee and University stakeholders. In fact, “three major performance events” are scheduled for this academic year to inform that vision.
“These events, which will occur prior to the renovation and expansion, will also help determine the center’s interior design concepts and requirements, as well as offer a glimpse of the center’s exciting future when it opens in 2020,” Alexander wrote.
The completion of the center’s design marks the end of Beyer Blinder Belle’s contract with the University, which will be choosing its construction architects this school year.