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SOM's sleek new home: a report and slide show

After 37 years of living in a hodge-podge of repurposed buildings, Yale's School of Management is now under one roof—a spectacular signature building on Whitney Avenue across from the Peabody Museum. Edward P. Evans Hall, designed by the firm of noted British architect Lord Norman Foster ’62MArch, is fully occupied, and classes will begin in its distinctive round and oval classrooms next week. (Click on the numbers above to see all eight photos of the new building.)

A crowd of donors, alumni, faculty, and staff filled the new building's Zhang Auditorium yesterday afternoon for the official opening, taking time before and after to wander the sleek, high-tech building, which is oriented around a courtyard surrounded by glass-fronted corridors. (Former Yale Corporation senior fellow Roland Betts ’68 was heard telling a visitor that "it's just Davenport College, but in glass.")

Speakers at the opening ceremony were dean Ted Snyder, president Peter Salovey ’86PhD, founding dean William Donaldson ’53, recent past dean Sharon Oster, and former Yale Corporation member William S. Beinecke ’36, whom Snyder described as "in many ways, the school's founder." Beinecke, who said he is "four months away from turning a hundred," had advocated for a business school at Yale since the 1950s and helped make it happen when he was a trustee of the university from 1971 to 1982.

Yesterday's events, part of a weekend conference called "Business + Society: Leadership in an Increasingly Complex World," also included a panel discussion about the building with Foster, former president Richard Levin ’74PhD, architecture dean Robert A. M. Stern ’65MArch, and former UVA architecture dean Karen Van Lengen. In his remarks, Levin recalled how when SOM students were polled about their preference for the new building, "they wanted James Gamble Rogers"—traditional Yale architecture. But Levin—with the Corporation's backing—believed that contemporary architecture was more befitting a "twenty-first-century business school."

The result is a building no one will confuse with Harvard's country-club-Georgian business school campus. It is as monumental as a Lincoln Center, as clean as a semiconductor factory, and up to the aesthetic standards of the most exacting James Bond villain. For a student of architecture like me, the fine detailing, transparency, and abstraction are exhilarating. But not everyone agrees: a recent New Haven Register column quoted locals who are unhappy with both the scale and the style of the new building, likening it to an airport terminal. (Not coincidentally, Foster has designed his share of those.)

Besides that glass-walled courtyard, the building's most distinctive features are those curvaceous classrooms, blue-walled drums that come in two sizes on either side of the courtyard. The classrooms are arranged in different configurations for different teaching styles: focused on a lecturer, in the round, or team-based, for example. Foster says that in the midst of the building's overall transparency, the classrooms are designed to be "protected and cocooned from the outside world."

Also worthy of note is the contemporary art distributed throughout the building, including a number of colorful Sol Lewitt murals. In the atrium of the faculty office wing is a large-scale mural created for the site by Swiss artist Adrian Schiess—its panels appear to change color when viewed from different angles.

Most visible from Whitney Avenue are a café and media center and a library above the main entrance. If you still needed any convincing that this is a twenty-first-century school, the library should do the trick: it's as transparent as an Absolut bottle, and there's not a book in sight.




Filed under School of Management, architecture, Edward P. Evans Hall, Norman Foster
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