Pierson and Davenport Colleges Yale University

By rethinking program, building systems and materials, the renovation of Pierson and Davenport Colleges demonstrates the evolution in collegiate living in the past seventy-five years. In this 1930s residential complex, formal dining halls that once served a seated all-male population have been transformed into active self-service dining facilities; a basement that was once cluttered with pipes, storage, massive foundation walls and squash courts now encompasses a myriad of community spaces including a library, commons, workshops, cafeacute;, laundry, basketball court, and theater, all linked by passages that are washed by sunlight from above.
Originally designed by James Gamble Rogers in 1930, the two buildings form the western edge of the undergraduate residential campus. With five floors and a basement organized around a series of courtyards, the colleges employ a Gothic vocabulary toward city streets, with an intimate Georgian vocabulary on the courtyard sides. The original program included basic student living and dining spaces, as well as residences for faculty.
The new architectural interventions begin a dialogue with the past. The old is uncovered, framed and revealed by new materials and forms. Building systems, finishes and roofs were surgically removed, just as the existing structures were preserved and restored. Contemporary systems were strategically woven back, so that in their fine scale, they highlight the grandeur of the original construction and extend an architectural conversation across generations. This is most apparent in the basement, where long neglected back-of-house spaces are now reclaimed.
The weaving of new into old required creative structural solutions, including the conversion of narrow underground squash courts into a contemporary theater for seventy-two. A set of basement shear walls was removed to increase the footprint of the space, enabled by floor-to-ceiling trusses inserted above. Similarly, in order to provide light, circulation and visual framing of what is beyond, openings were carefully inserted throughout the foundation walls and mediated by new steel beams and columns.
The use of materials both distinguishes and relates the old and the new. Existing masonry was sandblasted to showcase the quality of prewar materials and construction, which were never intended to be seen, but in their newfound revelation pay tribute to the hand of the mason. For new interventions, self-finishing materials were selected to maintain a constant dialogue with the old, whether it is the end-grained wood block and colored concrete of floors, or the exposed steel of columns and beams.
The experience of the renovated Colleges is a reflective passage across time. In the course of daily life, a student passes through the stainless steel and glass servery into the original wood-paneled dining hall; holds a slender contemporary railing in a robust stairwell; or chooses whether to relax in the underground cafeacute; or in the renovated historic common room above. With each passage, the student glances through precise openings in rugged stone walls to discover new passages and views. The unique program spaces of Pierson and Davenport Colleges further promote the constant crossover and interaction of the students, activating the two historic residential colleges with vibrant contemporary programs and details.


Project Type


New Haven,