Manuscripts & Archives Library Renovation
Manuscripts & Archives is one of Yale University’s most valuable research assets—an irreplaceable collection of primary resource material documenting centuries of Yale and New Haven history. Apicella + Bunton had the honor of leading the first comprehensive renovation to the space since its opening in 1931.
Housed in James Gamble Rogers’ Sterling Memorial Library, Manuscripts & Archives now comprises over 1,700 collections including university archives, photographs, publications, architectural drawings, correspondences, and over 10,000 hours of video-recorded Holocaust testimonies. With the longevity and security of these documents in mind, our office was tasked with ensuring the library’s vitality as a living research center— one with both a timely mission and timeless character.
Our team prioritized respecting and celebrating the existing building, adding crucial environmental controls for the department staff, and restoring spaces that had previously been closed to the public.
The stunning Gutenberg Chapel, which once housed Yale’s Gutenberg Bible, had been used as a storage room. The vaulted space is now the on-site Gates Classroom where faculty can lead source-driven learning without transporting fragile material beyond a security perimeter.
Prior to the renovation, inadequate lighting and a lack of environmental controls rendered the space uncomfortable for visitors and staff alike. As part of a comprehensive building systems upgrade our team restored and retrofitted original chandeliers with programmable lighting and, for the first time, incorporated fully modern HVAC into the project—all while working within Manuscripts & Archives’ existing design vocabulary. These sensitive interventions make the space more flexible and functional, vastly improving its lived quality. In addition, a suite of custom furniture designed by Luke Hughes further contributes to the space’s flexibility and allow the department greater ability to respond as research needs evolve.
The mezzanine level had been neglected and could only be reached by a narrow balcony walkway. We saw an opportunity to expand the program of the library by reclaiming the mezzanine, transforming one of Manuscripts and Archives’ most beautiful and unique assets. Our first move built a new stair up from the Cowles Reference Center, pulling a selection of bookcases away from the Center’s east wall and drawing on its existing windows and doors for the rail details. We then installed a minimalist system of glass panels so that the mezzanine, as the new Marx Consultation Room, can once again offer its unparalleled views while remaining acoustically insulated from the quiet reading room below.
Photographs © Christopher Gardner