Yale School of Management has moved into its new home, Edward P. Evans Hall. The huge glass palace on Whitney Avenue is an architectural landmark for New Haven, but it's also attracted some controversy.
The first word that comes to mind when you walk into Edward P Evans Hall is transparent. The five floors of the building soar above you, but you can look up and through the entire structure, constructed as it is around a central open courtyard, with walls almost entirely of glass.
Anjani Jain, the senior associate dean for the MBA program, gave me a tour. He just moved his office over from his old quarters in the Hillhouse campus within the last couple of weeks.
"This is really quite a drastic change," Jain said. "We were housed in these elegant residential mansions of Hillhouse Avenue. There was a certain charm to these offices, especially for the faculty, but the student spaces were sub-par."
Jain took me into the new Wilbur Ross Library. "Of course it's a virtual library," he said. "There are no books. There is access to the entire system of libraries. This is a four-story space; right above us is a quiet reading room, which is suspended from the ceiling. You see all of Yale's campus to our west."
This $243 million building effectively doubles the space available to the school of management, which was previously spread around ten separate buildings.
Architect Lord Norman Foster said his aim was to accommodate the school's larger ambitions, while remaining true to the history of academic building, "around the traditional concept of the heart of a community," he said, "the internal quadrangle, the symbolic significant space. And using transparency and lightness to in a way dissolve the larger mass of those buildings."
The hall was celebrated with an elaborate three-day opening conference, which brought stars from around the financial world to New Haven. Dean of the school Edward Snyder said the new building and its technological capabilities are a statement about the future. "I think it's just very important for us to have a world class facility," he said, "that does invite people in from around campus, that does connect globally."
Yale School of Management is a relatively young business school, and doesn't rank in the top ten in the U.S. Snyder said the school is well off in terms of its endowment, but "the financial picture could be better if we were to improve our operating budget," he said. "And that means building out our programs and having a better set of programs: better scale, better scope. That's what this building will allow us to do."
The building caused disquiet among some preservationists during the three years it was being constructed, and its massive size bent the city's zoning rules. Snyder said he intends to reach out to the neighborhood and the wider city. "It's a change for New Haven," he said. "It's a change for the neighborhood. We'll do the best we can to be good neighbors. I hope that people will embrace the building, [and] recognize that it is clearly one of the most amazing buildings anywhere, and will feel a lot of pride in it."
This week, the school's 400 students are getting their first chance to try out the classrooms in what its proponents said is the nation's first truly global business school.