Yale Child Study Center Dedicates New Addition
The Yale Child Study Center on Thursday, October 14, at 3 p.m., will officially dedicate its new five-story addition - the Neison and Irving Harris Building – which includes space for research and clinical work with young children, community-based programs, and teaching facilities.
Dr. Donald Cohen, director of the center, said the octagonal shaped building occupies an important site at the heart of the Yale Medical School complex.
“The idea is that medical students will see the Yale Child Study Center and recognize that the child and family is essential to their education, regardless of what field they go into,” he said.
The project’s patrons, Irving Harris ‘31 and Neison Harris ‘36, have a longstanding interest in children and families. “This for them was a way of combining their gratitude to Yale with their strong, real commitment for enhancing the lives of children and families, especially those at highest risk,” Dr. Cohen said.
The 21,000-square foot structure fills the space between the I wing of the medical school and its dormitory, Harkness, and attaches to the original building on all five levels as well as to the Child Development Unit at ground level. The project included rebuilding one wing of the existing CDU.
The first floor in the new building and the CDU houses areas for research and clinical work with young children. Other floors are devoted to activities such as the Comer School Development Program, Child Development and Community Policing, community-based programs for families, studies of vulnerable children and children with neuropsychiatric disorders, international collaborations and policy, and teaching facilities.
The new building also has created more space in existing areas for the center’s research programs on developmental neuropsychiatric disorders, autism and pervasive developmental disorders, neuroimaging, and outpatient services.
“We wanted a building that would serve as a bridge between the university and the community - that would welcome the community into the center and provide a focal point for the center’s commitment to the children and families of New Haven and the region,” Dr. Cohen said. “At the same time we wished to enhance the environment for the students and others in the Medical Center with a building that feels distinctive and yet, at the same time, feels like it has always been here.”
The design architect, Mark Simon, a partner at Centerbrook Architects in Essex, said there are offices and laboratories on all of the floors except for the second floor, which has a small auditorium outfitted with state of the art audiovisual equipment. He said the new connection to the Child Development Unit provides circular circulation throughout the entire ground floor, making it much more convenient for staff and visitors.
Centerbrook, which prides itself on its collaborative, participatory approach to design, spent many hours consulting with a committee of 40 Yale faculty, administrators and other employees on how they wanted the building to look and function.
“They wanted visual continuity of the buildings on the outside, and yet they wanted this new element to stand out enough to be an identifiable symbol of the center, and it does that,” Simon said. “We mimicked the fenestration and brick and moldings, and yet, at the same time, the new composition has modern overtones to it that makes it clear it belongs to no other time but our own. It both fits in and looks ahead.”
Simon said another consideration was that the building is utilized not only by children, but also by their concerned parents, as well as academic and other visitors and a range of therapists. “We needed a space that felt comfortable for individuals who are coming for different purposes,” he said. “The building needed to have a balanced tone that was at once comfortable, durable and distinguished.”
Simon said Centerbrook studied more than 20 different configurations for the addition and arrived at the notion of the octagon as a possible solution because it let both the new addition and the adjacent buildings see past each other. “The octagon provides a distinctive face towards both the community side of the building and the Medical School courtyard,” he said. “Each side is attractive and inviting. It also enhances the appearance of the other buildings and creates, for the first time, a true courtyard for the medical students and faculty.”
“The octagonal shape also is a memorable, identifiable, iconic shape,” Simon said. “You drive by and say, ‘Oh yes. That’s the Child Study Center.’”