Some of its neighbors are calling the new Yale structure in their midst "the casino" and "Terminal SOM."
But it has supporters, who describe it as "edgy" and "disturbingly sublime."
All of this fuss is about the massive Edward P. Evans Hall, the new Yale School of Management headquarters that has risen on Whitney Avenue, across from the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History. Its official opening is this Thursday.
Our reporter Jim Shelton wrote that Yale officials are proudly launching it via "a high-profile weekend of all-star CEOs and local luminaries. Honchos from PepsiCo and Time Warner will be on hand."
Yes, it's all part of a gala three-day conference to celebrate the unveiling of this creation by world-famous British architect Norman Foster, who was knighted in 1990.
But don't expect to see me out there cheering, nor many of my East Rock neighbors.
Four years ago, when this 242,000-square-foot colossus was being "proposed" by Yale (but already seemed like a done deal), many local residents objected to how out of scale it would be with their neighborhood.
At the time, I wrote a column objecting to the imminent bulldozing of two distinguished buildings on the site: the Henry Killiam Murphy building, with its attractive front rotunda, and Douglas Orr's structure next to that. Also, the back of the new SOM campus would tower over the historic homes on Lincoln Street.
New Haven Preservation Trust leaders asked that the new building incorporate at least the rotunda of the Murphy building. About 100 people turned out for a public hearing on the plan and many of them stated their objections.
But, of course, Yale won.
And so we have spent the past several years watching this thing sprout and grow and grow and grow. Oddly, its giant steel and glass edifice is fronted by a series of spindly gray columns.
Several weeks ago, I began to notice a series of pointed comments about the SOM building on the electronic email discussion group of the Ronan-Edgehill Neighborhood Association. It has made for interesting reading.
Most of the remarks have been firmly against the building's appearance. But then its defenders fought back.
I'm keeping the names of the commenters anonymous because I didn't track them down to ask if I could put their names in the newspaper.
The dialogue began Dec. 26 at 5:01 p.m., when a fellow I know posted this: "Is everyone loving the new SOM building? I was hoping that after driving down Whitney Avenue 100 times, I'd get used to it. But it just seems to be growing uglier. What were they thinking?"
He later amended: "'Ugly' is such an ugly word. It would have been better to say 'grossly and massively out of place, with total lack of concern for the environment or community.' "
Another local resident replied: "It grates on me every time I go by. The university didn't care how completely out of character (and size!) it was for the street and neighborhood. They wanted a show- off building and thumbed their nose at everything else."
Somebody weighed-in with this: "I call it 'the casino.' "
Then came this suggestion: "Why don't we crate up Evans Hall and send it to Abu Dhabi? Even better, to Pyongyang. Kim Jong Un would love it!"
Another neighbor imagined the specifications required the structure to be: "radically not in keeping with any of the architecture surrounding it; grossly larger than any and all of its surrounding buildings; likely to distract the attention of drivers on Whitney Avenue; easily remindful of almost any contemporary airport terminal."
He also called Evans Hall "an arrogant assault on the broader community of which Yale is a part."
Yet another East Rocker commented, "One of my first impressions, as it was going up, was that American Airlines, in the 1970s, would have been happy to have it standing at LaGuardia Airport."
But on Dec. 28 came this dissenter: "I think the Norman Foster building is a much-needed, edgy intervention into a community where architecture tends toward the massively and boringly conservative and traditional. It's in the long tradition of concrete and glass modernism initiated by Le Corbusier and Frank Lloyd Wright, one that traditionalists have always found jarring and out of place."
He added, "I see the Evans building as an enormous aesthetic pleasure and feel excited and happy whenever I have the chance to pass it by. Yes, it is 'out of place' and doesn't fit into the surroundings but isn't that the point of modernism? Did Picasso's cubism ever fit in? Let's be less concerned with preserving traditions whose aesthetic interest has long passed and more concerned with creating disturbingly sublime new forms."
Another supporter of the building wrote: "Time will tell if it will take its place among Yale's other gems. As with modern art, modern architecture should stimulate debate. Evans Hall certainly does."
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