Weiss/Manfredi - Tsai Center for Innovative Thinking creates peace in body and mind
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Tsai Center for Innovative Thinking creates peace in body and mind


Education  /  Completed

Originally, the Tsai Center for Innovative Thinking at Yale (CITY) existed in a collection of buildings, all of which were leftover spaces. To consolidate and advance their mission, CITY invested in finding its own space on campus. Meanwhile, Becton Plaza—the future site of the Tsai Center—was seen as a lost space.

Transforming the windswept collection of multilevel plazas situated between Yale’s Engineering, Math, and Computer Science centers, the Tsai Center creates an accessible and glowing focal point; a “cross-roads” and “living room” between the disciplines. The building establishes a space of exchange, mentorship and collaboration, uniting students and faculty from diverse fields to create innovative solutions to real world problems.

The oval shape of the Center differentiates itself from the diverse surrounding buildings while also engaging those structures through reflections on its curved glass walls. Alternating between concave and convex curves, the Center references the history of the campus through the surrounding facades. The 22-foot-tall glass panels create uncommon views of the gothic and brutalist-style buildings that frame the courtyard. These curved, structurally self-supporting panels are also transparent, encouraging circulation through and around the Center and revealing the work occurring within. The existing Plaza was entirely paved—creating a stormwater problem for the campus and city at large. The new garden significantly reduces stormwater runoff and encourages activity year-round.

Having achieved LEED Gold, the project continues Yale’s tradition of leadership in sustainability. New planting and a green roof reduce site runoff. Storm retention tanks reduce the impact on city storm systems and provide sufficient water to irrigate new planting. Recycled and local materials are utilized whenever possible. The project makes use of existing campus hot and cold water, with maximum efficiency radiant heating / cooling systems and daylight harvesting lighting controls to minimize energy use. High efficiency perimeter glazing brings natural light into all workspaces and provides panoramic views. An automated curtain provides protection from glare when needed and creates a protected setting.

The Tsai Center for Innovative Thinking establishes a beacon for university wide interdisciplinary collaboration. The program, unique to Yale University, is based around team workshops that allow students to bring their ideas to fruition.

The building’s unique, elliptical form is centrally positioned in a courtyard of stepped orthogonal structures. Curved transparent glass walls encourage circulation through and around the center and allow the rest of the university to see and participate in ongoing work. Indoor and outdoor connections between the center and the adjacent landscape establishes this section of the campus as a new circulation route and home for innovation.

Within the center, continuous sightlines throughout unite spaces of creation and critique, encouraging interdisciplinary discourse. The open studio, conference and breakout spaces create opportunities for spontaneous discussion and provide a link between public areas and adjacent instructional spaces. In keeping with Yale’s commitment to sustainability, the project replaces the current underused paved plaza with a new planted garden, significantly reducing storm runoff and encouraging activity year-round.

The combination of connectivity, sustainability and new collaborative space transforms the existing plaza and establishes the Center as a new interdisciplinary learning environment that cultivates innovators, leaders, creators, and entrepreneurs in all fields and for all sectors of society.

The Tsai City project program, while extremely popular on campus, was originally housed in a series of small, disconnected spaces that did not suit their use. The original site was in disrepair and underused. The creation of an expanded new home for Tsai City, designed with input from the users, will allow the program to flourish and grow. The recreation of the site as a campus garden courtyard creates a new sustainable destination in a part of campus where it was very much needed.


 New Haven
 Connecticut, USA
 Yale University
 Educational building
 1133 mq
 Weiss/Manfredi Architects
 Marion Weiss, Michael Manfredi, partners in charge; Mike Harshman, project manager; Pierre Hoppenot, Bryan Kelley, Dave Maple, Heather McArthur, Catherine Chang Qi
 Lighting Workshop (lighting); WSP (AV/IT, security, sustainability); FRONT (glazing); WSP (m/e/p/fp); Thornton Tomasetti Associates (structural); Langan (civil)
 Exterior Glazing: North Glass, Massey, Fabbrica; Built-Up Roofing: Sika; Interior Glass: Oldcastle; Building Envelope: TPG; Doors: Dorma, Curries; Paints & Stains: Benjamin Moore; Lighting/Controls: Elliptipar, Edison Price, Bega, Erco, Lutron
 Albert Vecerka / Esto Photography, Jeff Goldberg / Esto Photography


WEISS/MANFREDI, Architecture/Landscape/Urbanism, is a New York City-based multidisciplinary practice is known for the dynamic integration of architecture, art, infrastructure, and landscape. Founded by Marion Weiss and Michael A. Manfredi, their notable projects include the Seattle Art Museum: Olympic Sculpture Park, the Baker Museum addition in Naples Florida, the Women’s Memorial at Arlington Cemetery, and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden Visitor Center. They are currently designing the Tampa Museum of Art expansion, the US Embassy in New Delhi, India, and the addition and renovation of the La Brea Tar Pits Page Museum in Los Angeles. Their work has been exhibited at the Venice Biennale, the Guggenheim Museum, the Cooper-Hewitt, the National Building Museum, and the Museum of Modern Art. The firm was recognized with the Architectural League’s Emerging Voices award, the Cooper Hewitt National Design Award, and the 2020 Thomas Jefferson Foundation Medal.


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