New Haven, Connecticut, USA
67,000 square feet / 6,000 square meters
This nondenominational student center was designed to be a respectful expansion of Yale University’s Catholic chapel, built in 1937. The project includes a new three-level, 2,790-square-meter student center with landscaped exterior courtyards, preservation of the chapel’s exterior, a new 260-square-meter stand-alone retail building, and nine parking spaces.
Designed to serve Yale’s growing Catholic population, the center is used for activities outside of religious services such as lectures, seminars, banquets, and concerts. The center was envisioned as a place where all students are welcome. It includes a multi-purpose room, a dining room, a library, the chaplains’ offices, a student lounge and an interfaith meditation room. The basement and first floor of the new building link directly to the chapel.
The building both complements and is subordinate to the chapel. The chapel’s entrance has a symmetrical composition that remains the most dominant building feature along the street. The form of the new building is a composition of smaller volumes that express the center’s discreet functional elements while respecting the scale of the surrounding block, a transitional area between the university and a residential neighborhood. The center’s primary uses are organized around a small piazza, which provides a new terminus to Yale’s Pierson Walk and reinforces the symbolic connection between the center and the university.
Exterior materials, such as brick and wood, draw from the chapel while providing an identity for the student center as a related but new building. The materials palette consists of red brick with limestone accents, wood window frames and clear insulating glass. The interior has been developed to create a warm and inviting character.
In elevation, the building is a balanced composition of horizontals and verticals. Windows of different heights are organized through the use of minor and major mullions that weave through and stitch the pieces together. The composition is reinforced by stone window sills and copings located at a consistent elevation, and through subtle echoes of the wood mullions in the brick coursing of the inset panels.