Child Study Center

The world's leading institution for study of the psychology and development of children is the Yale Child Study Center, a division of the Yale University Medical School in New Haven, Connecticut. With success, the Center had grown and was urgently in need of more space for offices and meeting rooms.

Finding a site adjacent to their existing facilities that would not block views and light was a significant challenge. The only available open space had been a city street whose underground utilities are still in use. To complicate matters, the site is surrounded by the Center's 1926 'I-Wing' offices, an 1976 underground addition (the Child Development Unit) facing a sunken court, and the medical school's 11-story dormitory.


Yale University

Location New Haven, CT
Size 22,000 Sq. Ft.
Program auditorium, labs, offices
Year Completed 1999
Photo Credit Jeff Goldberg/Esto
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Design began with interactive programming workshops including a wide array of the Center's community including psychiatrists, doctors, researchers, students, staff, and administrators. They noted that because the Center cares for children, the ambience of the place had to be comfortable and home-like and confirm to parents that their children are in good hands.

The design for the project includes both renovations to the ground floor entry, the Child Development Unit, and a new addition, the Neison and Irving Harris Pavilion. This six-story 22,000 square-foot octagonal building houses offices, labs, and an auditorium. The Pavilion ties together adjacent buildings that are at odd angles to each other. It is clearly an addition to the I-Wing, and yet it stands alone as a statement of new development at the Center.

Inside all but the second floor are rings of offices around a central support area with administrative space, storage, bathrooms, and kitchenettes. Offices are arranged in a modular fashion for easy change from year to year as research projects grow and shrink. A metal roofed attic houses all the mechanical equipment that the utility-riven basement could not accept.

The auditorium on the second floor was limited in its height in order to match the existing building. Though it was structurally difficult, this location was chosen because it is readily accessed from the lower (Main) entry as well as from grade at the rear of the building. Here conferees can look down off a porch into the play court, or take a short stroll though the arched doors to the Medical School's dining hall during conference breaks. An open slat wood ceiling provides acoustical control while it warms and enlivens the room with patterns.