Light & Verity

Architecture dean will design new colleges

Peter Aaron / Esto

Peter Aaron / Esto

Robert A.M. Stern Architects designed an addition (right) to a James Gamble Rogers dormitory at the Taft School. View full image

What will Yale's 13th and 14th residential colleges look like? Their architect isn't saying yet, at least not exactly. "I think it's safe to say they'll look like Yale residential colleges," says School of Architecture dean Robert A. M. Stern ’65MArch, whose firm was selected in September to design the colleges.

Stern's 220-person New York office is best known for buildings in traditional historic styles, from sumptuous Shingle Style houses in the Hamptons to the Colonial-style Norman Rockwell Museum. He says that building in styles of the earlier colleges, most of which were designed in the 1930s by architect James Gamble Rogers, is "perfectly possible." Stern cites as an example a "sympathetic" addition his firm designed for a Rogers dormitory at the Taft School. His firm has also done Georgian-style buildings for the University of Virginia and the Harvard Business School.

The colleges, which are scheduled to open in 2013, will be built north of the Grove Street Cemetery on a triangular site bordered by Prospect, Canal, and Sachem streets. Their construction will make possible a 15 percent expansion of Yale's undergraduate enrollment, from 5,250 students to around 6,000.

Stern was in some ways an obvious choice for the job: since becoming dean in 1998, he has been heavily involved in campus planning, and he has exerted great influence over what gets built on campus and how. "His knowledge of Yale and its architectural tradition is deep and profound," said President Richard Levin in announcing Stern's selection.

Stern says he has already begun learning from the earlier colleges. "The brilliance of the colleges does not reside only in their style," he says. "The style is almost secondary to the brilliance of the urbanism of the colleges. We're trying to take all that into consideration in designing the buildings."

Stern says he has also been looking at Rogers's papers in the Yale library, which include postcard views of the universities of Oxford and Cambridge that the architect used for inspiration. "Rogers had never been to Oxford and Cambridge before he designed the colleges," says Stern. "I've been there, so I guess in that sense I have a leg up."

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