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KieranTimberlake Upgrade Saarinen's Yale Dorms

KieranTimberlake designed a major renovation of Eero Saarinen's Morse and Stiles Colleges dorms at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. Photo: Peter Aaron/ OTTO

Eero Saarinen originally designed the Morse and Stiles Residential Colleges dormitory buildings at Yale University, completed in 1962. As the final part of the university's phased plan to modernize its twelve student-housing colleges, KieranTimberlake designed a series of respectful modifications to the Modernist master's structures.

In keeping with recent trends in college housing, the dorm rooms were upgraded from stand-alone single rooms to suites. Additional space is also devoted to student recreation and living activities, including a 25,000-square-foot (2,300-square-meter) subterranean addition in the crescent-shaped main courtyard, which was also reconfigured to emphasize greenery over hardscapes.

Section rendering through courtyard, addition, and upgraded recreation areas. Image: KieranTimberlake
The addition receives daylight from a sunken courtyard that skirts the inner perimeter of the main ground-level courtyard, while new wood and steel bridges maintain access to existing entrances. Because student recreation spaces are in the basements of Saarinen's original buildings the renovation also includes new skylights inserted into the roofs of some of these areas to improve daylight access.

One of the dining halls of Morse and Stiles Colleges. Photo: Richard Barnes/ OTTO

Care was clearly taken to respect the form and spirit of the existing buildings while significantly improving the dorm experience for student residents.

Renovation of the Morse and Stiles Colleges has received an Honor Award in the Architecture category of the 2013 AIA National Design Awards.
Exterior overview of the Morse College dining hall, which now includes an outdoor wooden terrace. Photo:Richard Barnes/ OTTO

Jury Comments 

A thumbs-up for preserving the work of Saarinen and exploiting the basement space that was originally less desirable without altering the general impression and character of the project. 
It is sensitive to the resources and shows real attention to detail—great use of materials, lighting dynamics, and spatial results. 

Looking into the new sunken courtyard from an adjacent corridor. Photo: Peter Aaron/ OTTO

All of the spaces were clearly improved, and the spaces of this two-college complex were connected functionally and agreeably. 
The creation of the sunken courtyards and inclusion of skylights were done in very subtle ways, increasing area and allowing additional uses.

New and old spaces are thoughtfully integrated. Photo: Peter Aaron/ OTTO

Project Credits
  • Architect: KieranTimberlake
  • Client: Yale University
  • Code Consultant: Bruce J. Spiewak, AIA, Consulting Architect, LLC
  • Commissioning Agent: BVH Integrated Services
  • Construction Manager for Construction: Turner Construction Co.
  • Construction Manager for Preconstruction: The Whiting-Turner Contracting Company
  • Cost Estimator: International Consultants, Inc.
  • Elevator Consultant: Van Duesen and Associates
  • Engineer – Civil: URS Corporation
  • Engineer - MEP/FP: AltieriSeborWieber LLC
  • Engineer – Structural: CVM Engineers
  • Environmental Consultant: Atelier Ten
  • Food Service Consultant: Ricca Newmark Design
  • Geotechnical Consultant: Haley & Aldrich, Inc.
  • Geotechnical and Environmental Engineers: URS Corp.
  • Interior Designer: Marguerite Rodgers Ltd.
  • Landscape Architect: OLIN
  • Lighting Consultant: ARUP
  • Signage Consultant: Strong Cohen
  • Specifications Consultant: Wilson Consulting, Inc.
  • Theater Consultant: Theatre Projects Consultants
  • Water Proofing Consultant: Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates, Inc.
  • Photographers: Peter Aaron/OTTO; © Richard Barnes/OTTO

Seating in the sunken courtyard. Photo:Peter Aaron/ OTTO

Daylight washes the wall in a basement-level weaving room. Photo: Richard Barnes/ OTTO

Ground-floor plan drawing. Image: KieranTimberlake

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