Yale Daily News

For the past 50 years, the Becton Center has housed cutting-edge engineering research and loomed stoically over students making the trek from central campus to Science Hill.

On Friday, the center celebrated its 50th birthday since its construction finished in February of 1970. The ceremony was held in the Becton café at the base of the building. It was attended by about 35 faculty members, researchers and students. Retired faculty who played a role in the initial planning of the building gave talks about its history and reminisced on old times in its hallways. Professor Emeritus of Engineering and Applied Science Werner Wolf said that the Becton Center has “very favorably” impacted engineering at Yale, its design ingrained in the success of the department.

“It is a very good space to get things done,” Wolf said. “One of the features of the building is that it has a very clever design. It’s a very good building.”

Discussions about the layout of the building began in 1965. For the design, the University tapped architect Marcel Breuer, who is famous today for designing the widely-recognized Cesca Chair. The building was funded in large part by a donation from Henry Prentiss Becton ’37.

Faculty members said that the center’s design has played an outsized role in fostering research and innovation. He added that the machinery and the utilities for the labs are concealed in passageways, which reduces noise and creates a more pleasant working environment.

Werner added that the versatility of the building has come in handy over the years. Given that the center is supported by its concrete exterior, interior walls can be easily knocked down to make space for labs, including part of the Quantum Institute.

“That [is] a very good feature, the fact that you can adjust the width of the labs,” Werner said.

Professor of Applied Physics and Electrical Engineering Daniel Prober agreed, noting that the building did not require any major renovations when refurbishment was necessary.

“The building has not had to have any major renovations because there was very good planning,” Prober said, noting the only exception being the addition of a clean room facility on the fifth floor. “All the things that would require huge plumbing or electrical work … can be done without completely messing up the laboratory operations.”

A major addition to the Becton Center was made in 2012, when the Center for Engineering Innovation and Design, or CEID, was built. It now occupies a large part of Becton’s first floor, functioning as a maker’s space equipped with 3D printers and prototype-building machinery.

“The CEID is like my second home,” Anmei Little ’22 wrote in an email to the News. “It is one of the few central spaces on campus that is open 24 hours to students! The CEID’s open layout and available resources really inspires creativity in all fields of work. It combines study spaces, maker spaces, and collaborative meeting spaces … I often find myself losing track of time inside.”

Another undergraduate, Ellie Gabriel ’22, said that she appreciated the workshops that are held at the CEID, such as “The Physics of Paint” and “How to Build a Morse Code Circuit Board.”

The CEID is not the only learning space in Becton. The educational lecture series called Science on Saturdays is held in the Davies Auditorium in the building’s basement. The program, which was founded by Werner in the 1970s as a way to cultivate interest in science in high school students, still runs today.

The next Science Saturday event will take place on April 4.

Maya Geradi | maya.geradi@yale.edu