Professors from the Mathematics, Astronomy and Statistics and Data Science departments will move into the Kline Biology Tower, which is now largely vacant after members of the Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology relocated to the new Yale Science Building.
School of Engineering & Applied Science Dean Jeffrey Brock and Faculty of Arts and Sciences Dean of the Social Sciences Alan Gerber announced department relocation plans in an email to faculty members on Monday. Brock added that the tower will receive extensive internal renovations beginning this December. FAS Dean Tamar Gendler added that the departments will officially move into the space in the summer of 2022.
“In this new form, Kline Tower will represent a re-envisioning of how we work on Science Hill, as well as an invitation for the broader campus to engage with faculty in the development of new computational, mathematical and statistical methods and tools,” Brock and Gerber wrote in the email.
Brock and Gerber said state-of-the-art common areas in the renovated tower will help facilitate collaboration between various disciplines. The penultimate floor will be the home to a future institute for data science, and the top floor will host a meeting and event space.
In an email to the News, Gendler said that the tower will provide a “magnificent new space” for research, teaching and collaboration under a single roof. She added that the design for the building was created in consultation with faculty representing each of the departments awaiting relocation.
“The design work … includes not only beautiful new classrooms and comfortable faculty offices, but also light-filled spaces for collaboration and conversation that will draw the community together, promoting discovery and understanding,” Gendler wrote.
Still, in interviews with the News, professors expressed mixed opinions on how the slated move to the Kline Tower would affect their working environment.
While professor of astronomy Pieter van Dokkum and members of his department were initially concerned about the transfer, van Dokkum told the News that the planned renovation is “quite amazing” and will transform the tower into a functional workplace with plenty of light and collaborative space. He added that he is looking forward to the move because his department is currently scattered over three buildings, and that sometimes meeting with colleagues and students can be a challenge.
“In [Kline Tower] we’ll be able to easily interact, not only with others in the Astronomy department and the Astrophysics group in Physics, but also with our friends in other departments in the tower,” van Dokkum wrote in an email to the News. Van Dokkum is a member of the faculty team that helped with the tower’s renovation plans.
Still, in an interview with the News, astronomy professor Frank van den Bosch said he is worried that the new tower will be flooded with people, particularly during morning meetings on the top floor — the proposed site of a shared conference space. According to van den Brosch, the three “pathetic” elevators that provide transit to the top floor are not enough to accommodate all of the people in flux.
The tower’s current design has already led to concerns about congestion. Brock said that the biology tower’s old top-floor dining hall overlooking New Haven caused backups — a concern then and now.
Initial plans for the project were insufficient and, at times, frustrating, van den Bosch said. He also expressed frustration about the initial renovation plan to replace office walls with fully transparent glass.
“I don’t want to sit in an aquarium,” he said.
According to Brock, the University has amended renovation plans after “loud and clear” faculty input. Instead of transparent, the windows could instead be frosted, or semi-transparent.
He added that concerns about congestion could be resolved by the large internal staircases connecting the department floors within the tower. Elevator upgrades will come with the renovations, he said, and students can reach the second-floor classrooms by way of a wide staircase from the ground floor. That way, the rush Van den Bosch fears would be lessened — and elevator congestion could be relieved.
Last February, the Kline Biology Tower made the news after a fire sparked by an electrical transformer in the tower’s basement led to the loss of many prized biological samples.
Kline Tower received attention in 2018 for replacing its floor-to-ceiling windows on the ground floor lobby with tall, communal whiteboards. Filled with scribbles of math equations, science formulae and stick-figure drawings, the art space was loved by many, but may not survive the renovations, Brock said. Still, he explained, the intention is to have “as much vertical writable space as we can throughout the design,” including hallway blackboards for the mathematicians.
“[The tower] will inspire generations of faculty, students, and staff to do their best work in research, in teaching and in the collaborative inquiry so vital to our mission as a community,” Brock and Gerber wrote in their email.
Consisting of 16 total floors, Kline Tower was the tallest building in New Haven from 1966 to 1969.
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