Yale Unveils Plans for Peabody Museum

Published on August 28th, 2018

Yale University has announced an addition and renovation by Centerbrook Architects & Planners to the historic Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History in New Haven, Connecticut.

This undertaking will be the first major work on the landmark building since it opened in 1925, and will modernize the Peabody Museum by substantially increasing exhibit space and on-site collections.

“Our additions will create many new educational spaces for Yale undergraduates, who will use the collections for hands-on learning in liberal arts as well as the sciences,” Centerbrook Principal Mark Simon, FAIA, said. “Circulation of people and things throughout the complex will be more efficient, rational and intuitive. The place is very complex, with interlocking technology and structure, yet we hope to make it simple for all to understand and use. We are also greatly improving its sustainability, from energy use to wellness betterments.”

The new construction will be a four-story infill addition between the Peabody and neighboring Environmental Science Center (ESC) on Science Hill. The addition will feature a new glass entrance tower that faces the adjacent Kline Geology Laboratory (KGL) and a dramatic sky lit four-story central gallery.

“The new North Court and entry tower will be the Yale community entrance offering an outdoor exhibit and celebration space,” said Simon. “We are also creating a variety of other social spaces inside and out to encourage interaction between visitors, staff, and the university community. These updates will underscore that the Peabody is more than a museum; it is a home of science, a treasure for the city, state and region.”

The Peabody Museum is among the oldest and largest university-based natural history museums. The current collections include more than 13 million objects and represents more than 4 billion years of geological, biological, and human history.

Renovations to the existing Peabody Museum, originally conceived in 1917 by Charles Klauder – a prominent campus architect of the era – will create modern spaces for exhibits, study rooms, collections and offices. The renovations will extend to both the ESC and KGL buildings, integrating the Peabody and ESC structures for efficiency and improved underground circulation.

Over 130,000 people visit the museum each year, including 25,000 school children, and more than 1,200 Yale graduate and undergraduate students encounter Peabody specimens as part of their coursework each year.

“We are thrilled to be part of the team revitalizing Yale’s Peabody Museum,” said Simon. “It is a tremendous honor to work on such a renowned institution – one that has been in the forefront of American scientific research, collections and education since its establishment in 1866. For instance, it saw some of the first discoveries proving Darwin’s evolution theories. It is especially exciting to consider such a storied past while aiming for a promising future.”

This project brings to fruition Centerbrook’s extensive planning for the Peabody Museum. Yale commissioned the firm for a feasibility study in 2004, and for a master plan in 2011 that was later updated for this renovation and addition. Centerbrook began designing the current project in late 2017. The studies’ goals remain in the final design: increasing university student engagement, expanding collections-based teaching, increasing exhibit space and programming potential, accommodating more collections and research facilities, and supporting enhanced K-12 student outreach and experiences.

Centerbrook is delighted to work with a stellar team of collaborating firms. Turner Construction will serve as the construction manager while ARUP, Gilsanz Murray Steficek, and Langan providing engineering services. James Corner Field Operations is the landscape architect with Reich + Petch on board as the exhibit designers.

Centerbrook has completed more than a dozen building projects at Yale through the years. Those include sustainability marvel Kroon Hall with Hopkins Architects, additions to the historic Yale Bowl, a new building for the esteemed Child Study Center, and Reese Stadium – home to the recently crowned national champion men’s lacrosse program.

The Peabody renewal project was originally unveiled through an exclusive story in the New York Times, followed by Yale’s official announcement.