James Steele, Contributing Photographer

It’s been two weeks since Yale faculty members moved into a recently renovated Kline Tower. 

Although at least two faculty members are pleased with the progress made in renovating the building, a variety of issues — including inadequate privacy and meeting spaces — plague the new construction, impacted faculty said. Still, they remain hopeful for continued solutions.

Kline Tower, formerly known as Kline Biology Tower, was closed for over three years as it underwent renovations that began in November 2019. The updates — originally set to finish in summer 2022 — were set back a year by COVID-19 pandemic but finished this summer. The mathematics, statistics and data science and astronomy departments, as well as a portion of the physics department, moved into the renovated tower before the start of the 2023-2024 school year.

For years, opinions on the tower — and its redesign — have been mixed.

The renovations reimagined the internal layout of the building: workers repiped the plumbing system, changed bathroom locations, removed ceiling ventilation and tore down many non-load bearing structures, astronomy professor Sarbani Basu said. The resulting space, according to Basu, is much more visually appealing than its predecessor. 

According to biology professor Joel Rosenbaum, who worked in the tower before its recent renovations, the old building did not facilitate faculty communication.

“It was a difficult building to work in,” Rosenbaum told the News. “Right from the start, the building had some major problems built into it. Sometimes you could go for weeks without seeing a colleague. Scientists like to talk to each other.”

Rosenbaum explained that the old building spanned 14 floors, with only two or three researchers working on each floor. Researchers on different floors rarely saw each other, and slow elevators were a common inconvenience.

The old tower’s distilled-water piping system was made of glass, and if the weak glass piping broke — particularly on upper floors — water would flood the entire building. According to Rosenbaum, such flooding events happened two to three times per year.

It was also difficult for faculty to teach in the tower. Rosenbaum said that it had very few spaces to teach anything larger than a seminar. 

Accordingly, faculty members such as astronomy professor Priyamvada Natarajan are pleased with the redesign, which sought to address these issues and more.

For Natarajan, one of the new building’s unexpected benefits is its significant amount of natural light.

“They’ve done magic,” Natarajan told the News. “It’s just beautiful, very positive, and [I’m] literally gushing about the natural light in the buildings because I really did not anticipate it would be like this.”

The new building is covered with glass panels and white walls, Basu added, giving the building a cleaner and more modern appearance. 

Basu also said that the renovation seems to have addressed the flooding issue. She told the News that no flooding has occurred since the renovation.

The redesign also incorporated Rosenbaum’s concerns about communication by adding staircases known as triplets. While the building’s central staircase does not allow occupants to reenter floorspace once they are in the stairwell, the triplet staircases stretch three floors through departments. They are intended to allow researchers to move more freely throughout different floors of the building.

It’s an idea that Natarjan described as “just brilliant” to connect researchers on different floors. 

“It’s just fantastic to be co-located,” she said. “The future possibilities for collaboration, communication and building a sense of community … [are] gonna be fantastic.”

However, many of the issues faculty raised about the old Kline Biology Tower still afflict the new Kline Tower. According to Basu, elevators remain extremely slow. 

She also described a significant decrease in office space from her previous location. Basu was once able to hold small meetings in her office on a meeting table, but her new office within Kline Tower is not large enough to accommodate one.

However, two issues stand out most for faculty. Both Basu and Natarajan independently listed privacy and space for a colloquium as prime concerns.

Since many internal walls are constructed out of thin glass, there is little to no soundproofing in the building and conversations are easily heard through walls. Even the building’s designated Zoom rooms for online meetings lack soundproofing: Zoom conversations can be heard through the glass walls and external conversations can disrupt the Zoom calls, Basu and Natrajan told the News.

“For me, particularly as chair [of Astronomy], this is deeply troubling,” Natarajan said. “It’s very difficult for all the faculty members because … we cannot have a private Zoom conversation anywhere. They are not at all soundproof. They’re completely unusable.”

Their other concern about the building is the lack of a space to hold a colloquium — a meeting of approximately 70 people featuring a guest speaker from a different university. According to Natarajan, colloquiums are “crucial” to share scientific information and stay up-to-date on recent findings.

Other lecture spaces on campus, Basu added, would be undesirably large as well.

“Colloquium is a fundamental part of the intellectual work of every department at Yale,” Natarajan said. “We were promised a space.”

According to Natarajan, the Astronomy department was initially promised a space on the 14th floor, but the University later opted to assign the space to Yale Conference Services. In order for the Astronomy department to access the 14th floor space, it would need to pay a fee of $2,500 per colloquium to Yale Conference Services.

Because the Astronomy department holds 26 colloquia each year, Natarajan explained, the annual fee would sit at around $67,000, a price that is prohibitive for the department.

Despite these issues, faculty within the building are optimistic about their resolution.

“I’m actually very enthusiastic about the official inauguration and excited to give everyone an opportunity to walk through,” said Natarajan. “I am completely convinced that [the issues with the building] will be resolved”

Kline Biology Tower is located at 219 Prospect St.