New Colleges Designed To Be ‘Bridge’ Between Campuses

Yale’s two new residential colleges will serve as both a literal and architectural bridge between the rapidly developing northern campus, including Science Hill, and the iconic and traditional Central Campus — so said Yale School of Architecture Dean Robert A.M. Stern, who recently unveiled his design for the colleges at a gathering of Yale community members in the auditorium of Sterling Memorial Library.

Bruce Alexander, vice president for New Haven and state affairs and campus development, introduced Stern (M.Arch. 1965), citing some of the singular achievements of the dean’s firm, Robert A.M. Stern Architects, that make him the ideal candidate to implement what Alexander described as “another important step in the development of this great institution.” Among those Alexander mentioned are the New York apartment building 15 Central Park West; the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts; and such signature contributions to university campuses as the Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia, the Baker Library at the Harvard Business School and the Jones Graduate School of Business Management at Rice University.

These drawings show what the new Yale residential colleges — designed by School of Architecture Dean Robert A.M. Stern — will look like from Prospect Street.

The new colleges, which will be home to up to 800 additional Yale undergraduates, will be bounded at the north by Sachem Street, and on its western and eastern sides by the Farmington Canal trail and Prospect Street, respectively.

The triangle-shaped college complex will change the perception of the north campus, said Stern. He cited Kroon Hall, a new facility for health services, the completely renovated Ingalls ice rink and Rose Center as hallmarks of the northern expansion.

The colleges’ gothic architecture will echo the predominant style of Central Campus, and the towers strategically spaced around the perimeter of the new complex will at once serve as portals to the northern campus and hearken back to the spires that loom over the core of Yale College, evoking ancient academic traditions, said Stern.

A walkway extending from Prospect Street to the Farmington Canal trail through the complex triangle will provide another important corridor between Science Hill, Kroon and Rosenkranz halls, and the new University Health Center, he added.

The new colleges — which are being referred to as North College and South College until officially named — will not only integrate the old and new architecturally, they will also embrace established custom while introducing new innovations, said the dean.

While many Yale buildings are in Georgian style, Stern took James Gamble Rogers’ last completed residential college as his prototype and adopted many of its Gothic-style conventions. Each new college, which will accommodate 468 members and contain 425 beds, will have its master’s house facing the larger of several internal courtyards, and both master’s houses will have gardens.

In a departure from all the residential colleges except Timothy Dwight and Silliman, the new colleges each will house freshmen, with the first-year student quarters separate from those of the upperclassmen.

Like Stiles and Morse colleges, the new colleges will have separate dining halls, but will share a kitchen at a lower level.

In another innovation, all the residential areas of the colleges will be air-conditioned, not just the public spaces, and all bedrooms will be singles, with suites comprising configurations of two singles and a common living area or a “sextet” of individual sleeping spaces.

Stern noted that each college would offer the “full panoply” of spaces that are historically part of the residential facilities as well as those that have evolved through the 10-year renovation program. The students who are assigned to the new colleges, he said, will find “a distillation of ancient and recent experience at Yale.”

While the complex of residential colleges will occupy the majority of the triangle, space is set aside at the northeast corner for the eventual addition of a theater for the exclusive use of Yale undergraduates.

Asked why he had chosen Gothic over Georgian architectural style for this project, Stern noted that Science Hill was itself in the Gothic mode, making that the better style to integrate the two sides of the campus. He also pointed out that Harkness Tower, the most commonly evoked icon of Yale, was Gothic.

“Georgian,” Stern quipped, “is not as central to our DNA as Gothic.”

Last year, President Richard C. Levin announced the plan to establish two new residential colleges to allow a 15% increase to the student body of Yale College. Noting that Yale College admits fewer than 10% of its applicants, while 70% of those admitted choose to attend Yale, Levin indicated that increasing enrollment was an institutional priority.

“This expansion will allow us to make an even greater contribution to society by preparing a larger number of talented and promising students of all backgrounds for leadership and service,” Levin wrote in a letter to the Yale community announcing the intention to build the two new residential colleges.

At Stern’s recent presentation, Alexander said the earliest possible date for completion of the new colleges would be 2015.

— By Dorie Baker

Campus & Community