The gift of light...

04 Mar 2011

Hopkins completes new solar-powered facility for Yale's School of Forestry and Environmental Studies

Though simple in footprint, Kroon Hall's strategic placing brings coherence to a previously muddled part of Yale University's campus. The new courtyards it frames assert the collegiate order of the quadrangle, its glazed gable ends and recessed arcade connect landmarks to west and east and the roof recalls those of local rural tradition. Beyond significant savings in energy and water, its local, renewable and recycled materials will age gracefully while inside and out is an exceptionally convivial setting for study and socialising.

The existing site was an urban Brownfield and a great eyesore. Immediately to the west and east are revered landmarks, Saarinen's Ingalls Rink and Sachem's Wood. 50 faculty and staff offices, classrooms and a small auditorium, a library and learning centre for intense study, and a lounge and cafeteria for less formal study and socialising were required. Loading facilities for neighbouring buildings in addition to those for the new building would remain. The budget was $33.5 million to enclose 58,200 sq ft.

To maximise use of natural light and ventilation, the building is 57 feet wide and stretches 218 feet long. It defines new planted courts to north and south, the later on a deck over the loading bays and the former another level up, while the gable ends overlook and draw into the building the nearby landmarks. An entry forecourt, shared by the nearby buildings, fronts the western end. On the lower three floors, with facades of Yale's characteristic Briar Hill sandstone, are offices along a central corridor naturally lit from a roof light above the central stairwells. Under the top floor's vaulted roof, with its 105-kilowatt array of photovoltaics, is a suite of common spaces that are also used for international conferences. The grandest spaces are the auditorium and lounge overlooking the ice rink and the Wood.

Entrances at both ends that suggest its openness to all parts of the building are only a short climb up or down. Interactive "greenscreens" that both explain the building's sustainable features and allow them to be monitored at any moment are nearby. The central circulation that gives visual links along and between all floors and fosters casual interaction, the warmth of abundant wood, the generously lofty top floor intimately embraced by its vaulted roof and the play of light from many sources all enhance a sense of easy and relaxed comfort equally suited to study or social encounter.

"What a joyful, beautiful place, and it has led to a new level of interaction among students, faculty and staff. What a gift!" Forestry Dean James Gustave Speth.

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