Reimagined Kline Tower promotes connections, collaboration
The Yale community last week celebrated the rededication of Kline Tower, a Science Hill landmark formerly known as Kline Biology Tower that has been transformed into a hub for mathematical, statistical, and data-driven research following an ambitious top-to-bottom renovation.
The 16-story building, which is the tallest on the Yale campus, now features open-concept programming space — including two new floors on the top of the building with panoramic views of New Haven and its harbor — that promotes collaboration and connection across departments and disciplines.
The building is now home to the departments of Astronomy, Mathematics, and Statistics and Data Science, all of which are part of Yale’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS). A portion of the Department of Physics is also now located in Kline Tower, as is the new Yale Institute for Foundations of Data Science (FDS). Additional renovations will allow the Poorvu Center for Teaching and Learning to expand its reach to Science Hill.
The project is part of a larger investment in Science Hill, which has included construction of a new Yale Science Building, which opened in 2019, and a historic renovation to the Yale Peabody Museum, which is scheduled to be completed in early 2024. The re-envisioning of Science Hill is rooted in Yale’s strategy to accelerate science and engineering, with a focus on five multidisciplinary areas and several cross-cutting initiatives identified in 2018 by a faculty-led University Science Strategy Committee, which was chaired by Scott Strobel, now Yale's provost, and charged by Ben Polak, provost at the time.
During the Kline Tower dedication ceremony on Sept. 22, Yale President Peter Salovey praised what he described as a revitalization and reimagination of the building, a transformative project that has added vital collaborative spaces connecting disciplines with overlapping interests and complementary approaches.
Large common areas are connected by open staircases to adjacent floors, allowing for easier interaction among faculty, students, and staff alike.
“This structure will now facilitate cross-departmental collaborations in ways that were previously unfeasible,” Salovey said during the ceremony. “Improvements such as open staircases will shatter traditional boundaries and foster interaction by connecting floors and adjacent conference rooms. Event and meeting spaces will enable faculty and students across departments — as well as visiting scholars from around the world — to gather, collaborate, and spark interdisciplinary discoveries and scholarship.”
Strobel, Yale's provost, expressed appreciation for the efforts that went into conceiving of, and constructing, the building.
“I am grateful to the members of the Office of the Provost, the Office of Facilities, the FAS Dean’s Office, the Poorvu Center, and the architectural team who carried out this project over the last several years,” Strobel said. “I especially want to thank the faculty members who contributed to the planning process for their patience and critical input. The dedication of Kline Tower marks a key stop on our path to reimagining Science Hill and enhancing the spaces where our faculty, students, and postdocs will generate new connections between and within their fields.”
Tamar Gendler, dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, noted the purposeful arrangement of the building’s floors.
Infrastructure and pedagogical spaces on the lower floors allow the contributions of the building to extend beyond its walls, she said. On the top two floors are synthetic intellectual spaces: a reception space on the 14th floor, and the Institute for Foundations of Data Science on the 13th.
“And in between those two pairs are three extraordinary trios,” Gendler said. “Floors four, five, and six bring together astronomers and astrophysicists. Floors 10, 11, and 12 bring together the faculty in statistics and data science. And floors seven, eight, and nine bring together faculty in the department of mathematics.”
Designed by renowned architect Philip Johnson and opened in 1966, the tower for decades was home to Yale’s Department of Biology (which is now in the new Science Building). With the new renovation, which was led by Stantec, research laboratories have been converted into new classrooms, meeting rooms, academic offices, and other spaces for collaboration.
A large staircase now connects the lower three floors of the tower to encourage connectivity within the building.
During the rededication ceremony, which began in Steep Café located on the building’s ground floor, visitors were invited to tour the refurbished facility, including stops at the different departments and the reimagined 14th floor, which now features event and gathering space along with its 360-degree views of Science Hill and surrounding New Haven.
The Department of Statistics and Data Science is sandwiched between FDS and the Department of Mathematics. Making up seven floors of Kline Tower, the institute and departments boast ample office space, meeting spaces of different sizes, and areas for casual gatherings. Posters displayed in the Department of Statistics and Data Science illustrated the breadth of the department’s ongoing, collaborative research, highlighting projects on statistical methods for assessing biological data, the human labor behind artificial intelligence, and the link between electoral cycles and deforestation, among others.
Within the lower half of the building are the Department of Astronomy, which sits just below mathematics, and faculty members from the Department of Physics who study astrophysics.
‘Pushing ever forward’
During the rededication ceremony, several astronomy students — including seniors Victor Liu, Anavi Uppal, and Annie Giman — made presentations on their research. Having begun their majors and research in a different building, the students said they were initially concerned about the move. But the new space, they say, has won them over.
Liu, who studies binary black holes, said he was especially excited about the collaborative spaces. And Uppal, who presented her work identifying supermassive black holes that have been launched out of the centers of their galaxies, noted the benefit of having the department’s professors together in one space — and the new opportunity to welcome visitors and discussion with open office doors.
Giman said the views from the building offer more than pretty scenery. “It has given me a new perspective on New Haven,” she said.
During the event, FAS Dean Gendler also touched on perspective. In fact, Gendler, who is also the Vincent J. Scully Professor of Philosophy, went back to her roots, reflecting on Plato’s thoughts on education.
In book seven of “The Republic,” she noted, Plato laid out a structured educational path he thought necessary to train leaders of a well-functioning community. It begins with music and poetry, moves on to physical education, and culminates in the study of math and astronomy. Astronomy, Plato said, “compels the soul to look upwards,” she told the crowd, while mathematics “is the purest form of human thought,” connecting us to the realm of forms.
“This building echoes Plato's insight — that takes us beyond the earthly realm, that causes us to contemplate the universe and our place in it — can truly uplift us,” Gendler said.
“Kline Tower embodies this view figuratively, co-housing three departmental structures, each of which allow us to discern the world’s complexity. And it does so literally, standing as the highest point on Science Hill: a beacon to those who wish to uplift their souls through the study of the numbers and the stars.”
In his remarks, President Salovey recalled the words of one of his predecessors, the late president Kingman Brewster, who at the opening of Kline Tower in 1966 lauded the dedication of “a building devoted to pushing ever forward, ever deeper, the frontiers of modern biology.”
Now, Salovey told those gathered for another celebration at the site, “we rededicate — we revitalize — that same building, and devote it now to pushing ever forward, ever deeper, the frontiers of physics, statistics and data science, mathematics, and astronomy.”
Again he quoted Brewster, who said in 1966 that the university was celebrating more than just a building, “but the achievement of what really is a science campus which brings Yale science up to Yale par.”
“And so it is today,” Salovey said. “Indeed, the renovation of Kline Tower reflects Yale’s renewed commitment and investments in science and engineering on Science Hill and across campus.”