In 1993, Yale commissioned working groups across the University to outline a lofty vision for extensive renovations to the University’s “decaying” facilities. Since the early ’90s, many of Yale’s facilities have been renovated. But with dozens of Yale’s buildings, including the residential colleges and libraries, now modernized, the University now faces a new question: What’s next for Yale’s facilities?
Yale’s ongoing and future plans for renovations fall broadly into four categories: the sciences, the humanities, the arts and student life. The Yale Science Building, slated to open in fall 2019, will house all or part of multiple science departments, offer new science teaching facilities and include a passageway to the Peabody Museum. University President Peter Salovey said Yale also plans to build facilities for the School of Drama, including a new theater. In addition, the University will soon break ground on plans to transform the Hall of Graduate Studies at 320 York St. into a center for the humanities. And major construction of the Schwarzman Center will begin this summer.
Such projects do not always have the support of Yale’s faculty. A recent News survey showed that fewer than 20 percent of faculty members support the construction of the Schwarzman Center. And in a press briefing after Salovey’s annual Faculty of Arts and Sciences Senate address last week, chair of the FAS Senate Matthew Jacobson said that tension between the vision of faculty and that of donors was a point of discussion during the town hall.
“There is a sentiment among many faculty members that when it comes to the very big-dollar, big-ticket items that the University is working on, like the new science complex or the Schwarzman Center or the renovation of [the Hall of Graduate Studies], that a lot of the ideas are actually driven by the donors rather than driven by the faculty [members] and their mission. … Donors — huge, enormous donors like Schwarzman — want buildings with their name on it,” Jacobson said. “It puts the cart before the horse a little bit if you’re an educator.”
Asked how he grapples with differences in the visions that donors and faculty members have for Yale, Salovey said the University listens carefully to input from faculty on certain construction projects. But decisions about which projects to prioritize are largely made by Salovey, in consultation with administrators such as the provost and the vice president for campus development.
Salovey emphasized that plans for the Schwarzman Center are the result of feedback from the Yale College Council,the Graduate and Professional Student Senate and the Graduate Student Assembly.
“While not every faculty member might have listed a student center as their top priority, I think as faculty members have learned more about what can go on in a renovated Commons building, they’ve become far more supportive of it,” he said.
And Jacobson cited 320 York St. as a successful hybrid, drawn from priorities emerging from relevant faculty and supported by a donor.
Faculty feedback on the new School of Drama theater has also been positive. The new modernized facility will supplement the century-old University theater that is currently in use. The project reflects one of the final recommendations made by the Arts Area Council, which presented a long-range plan for Yale’s arts programs before Salovey became president in 2013. In an interview with the News last September, Daniel Harrison GRD ’86, chair of the theater studies program, said that the arts area plan was “one of [former University President] Rick Levin’s signature achievement’s.”
“That project is underway. It’s a major upgrade of facilities for the school,” Harrison said of the new drama facilities. “That will be a real boost for the performing arts here.”
Under Salovey’s tenure, renovations furnished the Sterling Chemistry Building with three new glass-enclosed teaching labs and 31,600 square feet of additional space. The York Street wing of the Sterling Memorial Library became a hub for faculty teaching improvement and student learning with the construction of the Center for Teaching and Learning. And the Adams Center for Musical Arts now offers an orchestra rehearsal room for the Yale Philharmonia and the Yale Symphony Orchestra, as well as an atrium for students to gather in.
“Nothing was more important when I started than the fact that we had teaching facilities on Science Hill that were antiquated and, I would say, demoralizing, whether they were the lecture halls or especially the teaching labs,” Salovey said.
But the planning for many of these projects began before Salovey’s tenure. The Adams Center project, which included the renovation of Hendrie Hall and the construction of an adjoining structure, was postponed in 2008 amid the global financial crisis. The complex’s namesake, Stephen Adams ’59, donated $100 million to the Yale School of Music in 2005 and an additional $10 million toward the project in 2013.
Similarly, the University planned to build a $500 million undergraduate science center in the mid 2000s, but the project was ultimately deemed unfeasible due to the financial crisis. Just months before Salovey assumed the presidency, Yale began planning the $130 million renovation of the Sterling Chemistry Laboratory.
Beginning in 1993, various faculty commissions identified the University’s most pressing facility needs, an effort that ultimately led to the purchase and renovation of the space currently occupied by the School of Art, as well as updates to the Sterling Memorial Library. According to former University President Richard Levin, many of Yale’s buildings had been “horribly maintained” since the University’s last building boom between World War I and World War II.
A 2000 report established a framework for campus planning and suggestions to improve signage, landscaping, lighting and traffic flow.
After the report’s recommendations, Yale incorporated renovation costs into its annual budget. The 2000 report also noted that improvement projects, with a clear visual impact on campus, could help attract donors.
“It’s hard to believe today the campus was in such terrible shape 25 years ago that virtually every area of the campus needed major renovation,” Levin said.
Of the report’s 19 recommendations, including the redevelopment of the Broadway retail area, 15 have been completed, according to Associate Vice President for Facilities John Bollier. One of the projects was deemed infeasible by the New Haven engineering department, and the 19th recommendation — the development of the Church Street South urban renewal area — is not a Yale-controlled project. But Bollier said the University believes it will occur in the future.
Two other initiatives — the redesign and renovation of Sachem’s Wood at Science Hill and the city’s project to extend Temple Street over the Route 34 corridor — are currently underway.
Bollier added that the framework established in the report is still valid and used for construction projects.
“While implementing a substantial number of projects that create and renovate program space, we have simultaneously been able to improve the campus and New Haven environment,” Bollier said.
Yale occupies a total of 340 acres in downtown New Haven.
Hailey Fuchs | firstname.lastname@example.org
Correction, Nov. 17: An earlier version of this story attributed a quote to David Harrison MUS ’86, director of undergraduate studies for the theater studies major. In fact, his correct name and title is Daniel Harrison GRD ’86, chair of the theater studies program.