Beyer Blinder Belle to design Schwarzman Center

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The 84,000-square-foot complex was constructed for Yale's Bicentennial in 1901. It will be reimagined for students of this century.

Yale University has selected the firm of Beyer Blinder Belle Architects & Planners LLP to design the new Schwarzman Center, which will transform the current Commons and Memorial Hall into Yale’s first university-wide student center. This project provides the opportunity to take the 84,000-square-foot complex, constructed for Yale’s Bicentennial in 1901, and reimagine it for students of this century.  

Founded in 1968, Beyer Blinder Belle is widely acclaimed for renovating and revitalizing landmark buildings and sites, as exemplified by its 25-year involvement in the restoration and ongoing stewardship of Grand Central Terminal in New York City. More recently the firm completed master planning for the Metropolitan Museum of Art, a comprehensive building plan for the Kennedy Center, and a major renovation of New York City Hall, and is designing ongoing House Renewal projects at Harvard University. In addition to its work on historic buildings, the firm has designed new buildings and adaptive re-use projects for a number of colleges and universities. 

The selection of Beyer Blinder Belle followed an extensive RFP (request for proposal) process conducted during the course of the summer.

“Steve Schwarzman’s visionary philanthropy has enabled us to undertake a project that will transform student and campus life at Yale, and Beyer Blinder Belle is an ideal partner for us in this endeavor,” said President Peter Salovey. “I was impressed by the firm’s ability to take distinguished buildings and renovate them for imaginative new uses while preserving their architectural heritage, and I am confident that they will help us create an exceptional university-wide student center.”

The Schwarzman Center will be transformative for Yale in providing, for the first time, a center dedicated to cultural programming and student life at the center of the university. It is being designed to draw together students and faculty from all of Yale’s schools and colleges, and with the help of state-of-the-art technology, enable virtual engagement with the outside world in a dynamic way never regularly undertaken at Yale. The goals include creating an exciting intellectual and social center where students across schools and disciplines share ideas, collaborate, and find inspiration with a vibrant set of activities going on each day.

“We are excited to be partnering with Yale on the creation of the Schwarzman Center and by the opportunity to guide the transformation of Commons and Memorial Hall into a vibrant new center for student life,” said Elizabeth Leber, partner-in-charge for Beyer Blinder Belle. “We look forward to getting to know the Yale community and their vision for the project, and to translating that vision into an extraordinary architectural reality.”

Students are being invited to imagine how the spaces in Memorial Hall and Commons can be repurposed for a campus-wide student center. (Photo by Michael Marsland)

The entire Yale community is being invited to participate in imagining how the goals for the center can best be realized. Salovey appointed a committee of 12 students, 4 deans, and 11 other faculty and senior administrators to advise him on the project. Members of the committee are currently engaged in extensive outreach to all parts of the campus to solicit ideas. Input from the student body is critical, and the committee is holding approximately 50 student “Listening Tours” this month, with visits to every residential college and professional school. 

The center is expected to open in 2020.