Yale to make historic investment in engineering, lower Hillhouse Avenue
Yale University on Thursday announced plans for a historic series of infrastructure investments that would transform the face and trajectory of its School of Engineering & Applied Science (SEAS) and advance the university’s strategy for hastening engineering, science, and technology breakthroughs.
Over the next decade and beyond, Yale will seek to undertake several major construction projects in the lower Hillhouse Avenue area, all on sites already owned and occupied by the university, Provost Scott Strobel and SEAS Dean Jeffrey Brock said in a meeting with engineering faculty.
The combination of new and renovated spaces will be designed to manifest and reinforce the school’s culture of innovation and collaboration, aiding Yale’s broad effort to address grand challenges of the 21st century, from access to clean drinking water to reliable artificial intelligence (AI). Collaborative spaces for faculty and communal gathering areas will sit alongside cutting-edge laboratory and instructional facilities, helping nurture new ideas and generative partnerships.
“This momentous opportunity to re-envision and revitalize our dated infrastructure will help SEAS attract additional premier faculty while supporting existing faculty and students through state-of-the-art spaces and facilities,” Brock said. “A robust slate of major improvements will allow SEAS to continue growing and will enrich both Yale and our surrounding community, furthering our pursuit of real-world impact and intensifying the spirit of innovation in the heart of Yale’s campus.”
The lower Hillhouse projects follow other major recent and announced infrastructure investments, which share the common aim of increasing cross-disciplinary collaboration and furthering the connection between Yale’s campus and its home city of New Haven. These include, among others, Yale Divinity School’s “Living Village”; a new unified space for the economics department and Tobin Center for Economic Policy; and 100 College Street, the future home of the Wu Tsai Institute and the departments of psychology and neuroscience. In 2021, Yale opened the Humanities Quadrangle, a shared home for 15 humanities departments in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences with a variety of state-of-the-art convening spaces.
The SEAS projects will be developed in phases over the next 10 to 15 years, and Yale will work closely with city officials and neighbors throughout the process to discuss their interests and concerns, and to seek necessary approvals. Detailed planning will begin soon, with the appointment of faculty committees to gather and provide input. The university will take special care to retain the historic character of lower Hillhouse.
In line with SEAS’s Strategic Vision, all new spaces will be organized by research and teaching priorities rather than by department, mirroring an approach Yale has taken in other recent infrastructure projects, including the Wu Tsai Institute and parts of both Kline Tower and the Yale Science Building. Renovations and new construction will thoroughly modernize the existing SEAS campus — which is concentrated on Hillhouse between Grove and Trumbull streets — and are being envisioned with the school’s ambitions in mind. Accordingly, there will be hubs dedicated to specific areas of emphasis, such as AI, computational and mathematical modeling, and robotics. Additionally, plans will provide space for existing strengths and for initiatives still to be imagined.
Brock said a revitalized engineering campus in the heart of Yale will position SEAS to fully realize its aim to be the school of engineering and applied science “most integrally engaged with its larger university mission”— a centrally located school ready and eager to create partnerships across the breadth of the university.
Maximizing interaction among faculty, staff, students, and visitors will be a priority, and initial plans call for a new open quadrangle on the east side of Hillhouse that will be central to daily life. Plans also call for new maker spaces, homes for centers and institutes, facilities supporting innovation and entrepreneurship, and room for future priorities.
An immediate effort will focus on alleviating current space constraints within engineering buildings by bringing new state-of-the-art labs online as quickly and thoughtfully as possible. The emerging plan will allow room for maintaining SEAS’ steady growth while minimizing relocations for existing faculty.
The overall project will also serve Yale’s sustainability goals: buildings would be comprehensively renovated or demolished, and new structures built to Yale’s zero-carbon-ready standard. A geothermal network would provide efficient, clean, and resilient thermal energy.
The revitalization of lower Hillhouse will complement work already underway on the Physical Sciences and Engineering Building (PSEB), which will be located on the north end of Science Hill. That building — one of the largest facilities projects in university history — will house numerous engineering and science initiatives, including quantum computing, quantum engineering, and materials science.
Strobel said that, together with the PSEB, the plans for lower Hillhouse signal Yale’s resounding commitment to engineering.
“This new infrastructure is an intentional investment we’re making in the future of engineering and applied science at Yale,” he said. “It will afford the school the kind of flexible, well-equipped spaces it needs to conduct world-class teaching and research, and to develop elegant, sustainable solutions to global challenges. Alongside other recent investments across campus, this reimagining of SEAS facilities and its ambitions will benefit generations of scholars to come.”
The innovations enabled by an enhanced engineering campus will ultimately yield benefits throughout society.
“At Yale, we are accelerating the pace of research and innovation in engineering and science,” said President Peter Salovey. “The work of SEAS over the coming decades will transform technological development across every sector. The investments we announce today will provide a platform on which to build next-generation solutions to the most pressing global challenges.”
News of SEAS’s planned physical transformation comes a year after Yale announced an investment that provides for the hiring of more than 30 new SEAS faculty, as well as substantial organizational changes allowing SEAS to expand its research program. With new and improved buildings and facilities, Brock said, SEAS will be able to optimize partnerships within and outside Yale and become better integrated than ever with Yale’s other graduate and professional schools.
“The new SEAS footprint will serve as a central destination and identity for our community, reflecting our greatest aspirations for top-quality convening and research space,” he said. “It will provide a sense of place and identity for a thriving and growing enterprise, a re-envisioned school advancing Yale’s reputation and its own standing alongside Yale’s other great professional schools.”