By JAMES STEELE
Yale faculty moved in to the recently renovated Kline Tower two weeks ago.
The new construction is not without its problems. Still, the faculty remain hopeful.
Kline Tower – formerly Kline Biology Tower – was closed indefinitely for three years while it underwent renovations which started in November 2019. The COVID-19 pandemic pushed the updates back an entire year, originally planned to end in summer 2022. But they finished this summer. Mathematics, Statistics and Data Science, Astronomy, and a small portion of Physics departments will move into the renovated Tower before the start 2023-2024 of school.
The tower’s redesign and opinions about it have been mixed for years.
Sarbani Basu from the department of astronomy explained that during the renovations, the workers reimagined how the inside layout would look. They repiped the pipes, moved the bathroom, eliminated the ventilation in the ceiling and demolished many non-load-bearing structures. Basu claims that this new design is visually more pleasing than the previous one.
Biological professor Joel Rosenbaum who previously worked at the tower and before it’s recent renovations says that the old building was not conducive to faculty interaction.
Rosenbaum explained to The News, “It is a very difficult building in which to work.” “From the very beginning, this building was fraught with major problems. Some weeks could pass without you seeing your colleague. Scientists are friendly and like to speak to each other.
Rosenbaum explained the 14-floor old building had only a few researchers per floor. Researchers from different floors rarely met, while slow elevators caused frustration.
Glass was used to make the pipes for distilled water. This meant that if any of these fragile pipes broke (especially on higher floors), the entire tower would flood. Rosenbaum claims that this type of flooding occurs two to four times per annum.
Faculty also found it difficult to instruct in the tower. Rosenbaum noted that very little space was available to conduct classes bigger than a standard seminar.
Priyamvada Natarjan, professor of astronomy, and others are delighted with this redesign. It addresses these problems, as well as many more.
Natarajan’s new home has an impressive amount of light, and this is one of its unexpected benefits.
Natarajan was quoted by the News as saying, “They’ve made magic.” The natural light is amazing. It’s a beautiful thing.
Basu noted that the white walls and glass panels of the new building give it a modern and cleaner appearance.
Basu stated that it appears the renovation has also addressed the flooding problem. She stated to News that the renovation has not caused any flooding.
Rosenbaum’s communication concerns were also taken into consideration in the design of the new staircase, known as Triplets. Although the central staircase in the building doesn’t allow people to return into the room once they enter, the triplet stairs stretch across three floors and connect departments. It is intended that researchers can move freely between different floors.
Natarjan praised the “brilliant idea” of connecting researchers in different floors.
She added, “Co-location is fantastic.” The possibilities in the future for collaboration, communications and building community… will be incredible.
However, the faculty still have many issues with the Kline Biology Tower. Basu said that the elevators still remain very slow.
She said that her office space was significantly smaller than it had been in her old location. Basu’s office used to have a small table for meetings, and she could hold them there. But her new Kline Tower office isn’t large enough.
But two concerns stand out for the faculty. Basu cited privacy as a top concern, while Natarajan did the same.
Because many interior walls are made of thin glass there is very little soundproofing and walls can be easily penetrated by conversations. Even Zoom rooms designated for online meeting lack soundproofing. Zoom conversations can easily be heard through walls made of glass, while external noises can interrupt the calls.
Natarajan added, “I find this deeply concerning as chair of Astronomy. This is a very frustrating situation for faculty, because it’s impossible to hold a Zoom private conversation. It is not very soundproof. These are completely useless.”
They also have concerns about the absence of an area to host a “colloquium” — a 70-person meeting with a special guest from another university. Natarajan said that colloquia are “crucial”, as they allow for the sharing of scientific knowledge and keeping up to date with recent discoveries.
Basu went on to say that there would also be other unattractive lecture halls at the campus.
Natarajan: “Colloquiums form a core part of all intellectual activities at Yale.” “We were guaranteed a space.”
Natarajan says that, initially, the Astronomy faculty was given a 14th-floor space, but Yale Conference Services took it. To gain access to space at the 14th level, the Astronomy faculty would have to shell out $2,500 each for Yale Conference Services.
Natarajan explained the price of an annual membership fee for Astronomy, which is around $67,000. It’s a high cost.
Although these issues persist, the faculty members within this building are hopeful that they will eventually be resolved.
Natarajan expressed her excitement about the official ceremony and was eager to let everyone walk through. “I am totally convinced that the problems with the building will be fixed”
Kline Biology Tower located on Prospect St., 219
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