Pierson College | Kieran Timberlake | Architecture

Pierson College
Yale University
New Haven, Connecticut
Kieran Timberlake


Designed by James Gamble Rogers in 1930 and opened in 1933, Pierson College forms the western edge Yale University's undergraduate residential campus.

The college encompasses a net useable area of 124,000 sf, (154,000 sf gross area), on five floors plus a basement, arranged in wings containing vertical entry student housing surrounding a large courtyard.

The original program consisted of student housing, a dining hall and kitchen, library, commons room, squash courts, faculty offices, faculty apartments and the college Master's residence.


The original student population was 197, all male. During the subsequent sixty-nine years, the student population changed to coed and increased to above 270, with resultant shifts in interest and lifestyle that were accommodated to varying degrees in sanctioned and improvised alterations to the original construction.

The central aesthetic and programmatic agenda for this project is the pairing of newly inserted contemporary spaces with fully renovated historic spaces, sometimes side-by-side, sometimes directly above and below each other, but always juxtaposed in a lively conversation between historic and present form.
A revered and restored past exists in an ongoing conversation and dialogue with an equally compelling present.

Bathrooms and storage give way to a new stair linking the historic entry to contemporary conversions of the basement and squash courts. Underused squash courts become a new double volume library, study and computer cluster that give entry to the restored old library in the base of the tower.

A new servery replaces the old skylit kitchen, parallel to the great dining hall.

This allows for restoration of the great hall and removal of all serving equipment to a compelling new space.


A new cafe, reclaimed from basement service areas, is inserted directly below the historic common room, a lively juxtaposition and conversation between pre-war and contemporary student life.

Unused space between buildings becomes a contemporary courtyard, with additional housing, and passage paralleling the historic upper court.

The completed alterations and renovations strive to balance the restoration of the beloved structure with the programmatic and technological requirements for change.








The resultant interventions respond to these new requirements with a contrasting language of materials intended to draw comparison and conversation between the past artifact and the new world.






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