Yale Daily News

Formerly known as the Hall of Graduate Studies, the Humanities Quadrangle Building at 320 York St. is now open and in use for department staff, faculty and graduate students connected to the departments within the building.

The building, which officially opened on Feb. 15 after more than two years of construction, is still undergoing work on some of the uppermost floors and larger classrooms, all of which is expected to be completed in the next few weeks. But humanities departments have, for the most part, been able to move into their new offices. In total, 18 units will occupy the building, including Comparative Literature, Film and Media Studies, French, History, the Humanities Program, Judaic Studies, Spanish and Portuguese and more.

“The renovation of this building and inclusive work of its planning represents a significant institutional and human investment in the humanities at Yale,” Kathryn Lofton, Faculty of Arts and Sciences dean of humanities wrote in an email to the News.

Construction focused on both restoration and renovation of the existing structure, according to Bryan D’Orlando, construction project manager at the Yale University Office of Facilities. For example, workers restored 288 of the original window medallions and rewired the entire building but also invested resources into constructing a new lecture hall and film screening room in the basement.

With these new renovations, some functions of the building will change as well. What used to be graduate student residences in the tower and back of the quadrangle are now department offices, lounges, meeting rooms and floors that will be specifically for graduate student use. 

“The front entryway and the inner courtyard have been reconfigured, the offices have new furniture and heating-cooling systems and the whole place feels brighter, cleaner and newer,” Mick Hunter, associate professor of East Asian languages and literature, wrote to the News in an email. “I’m excited about having a home on campus again and also being in the same building with friends and colleagues in other departments.”

Similar to Hunter, other faculty and graduate students interviewed by the News expressed their excitement at the opening of the new space. 

Christopher Schuwey, assistant professor in the French Department, specifically agreed with Lofton that, with the opening of the Humanities Quadrangle, Yale is demonstrating a “major commitment” towards the humanities.

“I really think it’s a success,” Schuwey said. “Everybody that I talked to, including myself, is really happy with it. This will definitely foster conversation and collaboration.”

Sarah Atkinson, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Italian Studies, currently works in the Humanities Quadrangle and called the renovations both “thoughtful” and “functional.”

She also expressed her appreciation for the efforts made to make parts of the building available for students, staff and faculty, even though construction is not yet fully completed.

“There have been many construction obstacles and delays but everyone I have encountered so far has been incredibly generous and helpful,” Atkinson added.

While the building was initially intended to be completed by the fall semester of 2020, the pandemic delayed the opening until spring 2021. Quarantine complications and COVID-19 safety guidelines “reduced some of the production efficiencies,” according to D’Orlando.

But he mainly focused on his feelings of gratitude towards all of the workers who have taken part and who are currently taking part in the construction.

“Whether it’s a laborer on site, a plaster restoration artist, the architect, other Yale stakeholder teams, we all realize the uniqueness that comes with a restoration [and] renovation project such as this,” D’Orlando said. “It’s truly a team effort to get where we are now, with many team members to thank.”

According to Lofton, buildings that are now vacant due to departments moving into the Humanities Quadrangle, such as 451 College St. or 51 Wall St., will either be renovated for future departmental use or be used as “‘swing’ spaces” while other department buildings are being renovated.

Madison Hahamy | madison.hahamy@yale.edu