Students, faculty settle into Baker Hall

Professional school students and Law School faculty are adjusting to learning and living in the newly-renovated Baker Hall, which became a part of the Law School in 2017. Baker Hall’s reopening at the beginning of this term marks the Law School’s first expansion since 1931.

Located one block away from the collegiate gothic Sterling Law Building, Baker Hall was dedicated on Sept. 20. Previously serving as annexed housing for Yale College students, the hall now houses law and other professional students while also offering classrooms and social gathering spaces. Prior to the building’s reopening, the Law School — which once housed students in Sterling Law Building — had not offered housing for 11 years.

“When I went to Law School, graduating in 1959, the students did not just go to class and go home,” said Robert Baker ’56 LAW ’59, whose donation of $25 million in 2013 launched the effort to acquire and renovate the space for law student housing. “We lived at the Law School and interacted both socially and intellectually. Baker Hall gives law students the opportunity not only to live together but to interact together in the social areas they are provided for those purposes.”

The building now features one and two–bedroom suites, a two-story lecture hall, multiple seminar and meeting rooms, office spaces and a courtyard.

Though law students have priority for Baker Hall housing, other graduate and professional students may live there if space permits. This year, the building — which has a capacity of 111 people — houses 110 total residents, which include 79 Law School students and 31 students from other professional schools, according to Law School Deputy Director of Communications Debra Kroszner. In an email to the News, Kroszner said the School expects the number of law students living in the building to increase next year.

Styna Tao LAW ’19 said that she finds it “nice to be the first one to live in something” but added that she does not yet feel “embroiled into the Law community” even though she is living in the building designated for law students. Still, Tao said she appreciates living in close proximity to her classes.

Katie Mertens SPH ’19, who also lives in Baker Hall, said she enjoys living with a group of students who are not her classmates. She added that it would be “quite easy to be sucked into spending all day with the same people” if she lived in a residence occupied only by other School of Public Health students.

Though the Yale Housing office categorizes Baker Hall as a dormitory residence, Laura Pirie of Pirie Associates Architects — the firm that was hired to renovate the building — emphasized that the firm aimed to create residential units that were closer to market rate apartments than dormitories. All units include locally sourced wood furnishings, a full bathroom and a kitchen.

Pirie told the News that she saw expanding the Law School’s campus as both a challenge and an opportunity. She said the building project allowed her firm to create a more informal space for law students to relax and hang out with each other.

Mary Zhao SOM ’20, who lived in ES Harkness Hall on Cedar Street last year, said Baker Hall is a “great departure from any other dorm or Yale housing offering,” noting that the building has a “more furnished, newer homey feel” than her past residence.

Law professor David Schleicher, who teaches in Baker Hall’s lecture hall, said that he likes that the space has a better functionality compared to the Sterling Law Building classrooms in which he previously taught. Though he said that the newly-renovated building does not carry the “great feeling of accumulated wisdom” that Sterling holds, it is also not weighed down by the “ghosts” the older building carries.

Baker Hall is located at 100 Tower Parkway.

Asha Prihar | asha.prihar@yale.edu .

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