Yale Science Building Plaza

Yale Science Building, Location: New Haven CT, Architect: Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects
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A new social and cultural center for Yale’s Science Hill precinct relates to new and existing buildings through this broad, nuanced commons opening up to Prospect Street. The landscape orchestrates movement and furnishes a variety of shaded, intimate landscapes for refreshment and for gathering. Built on structure, atop laboratories and a library, the plaza elegantly mitigates elevational variations for building access and neighborhood connections.

Immediately prior to this project, Reed Hilderbrand had led the creation of the Landscape Framework Plan for Science Hill & Upper Prospect. Whereas previously Sciences facilities had merely engaged their own sites in an ad hoc fashion, Reed Hilderbrand’s vision articulated the means of connecting facilities continuously by engaging topography and commanding hillside views; weaving accessible paths through a connective fabric; and expressing the legacy of science in the garden. Pelli Clarke Pelli and STANTEC engaged Reed Hilderbrand to apply this knowledge at the inception of the Sciences Center project, which followed the demolition of a very large existing building partially sunken below-grade.

This project reinterprets a plaza that was originally formed by the intersection of 1960s modernist buildings, including Phillip Johnson’s Kline Biology Tower, with earlier gothic revival buildings. Walks, lawns, and gardens comprise the the plaza landscape. Accessibility and ease of movement between facilities, including into the new dining commons, guided the creation of paved and stone dust paths. Broad lawns protect sensitive waterproofing above labs and critical infrastructure. The role of the twin gardens on either side of the plaza is the same: to accommodate solitary and communal life simultaneously, through screening, topographic operations, and urban tree canopy. This landscape makes the scale of these facilities more intimate, more comfortable, while also enacting the efficiency and ambition of inquiry that animates these departments at Yale.


New Haven, CT