Sage Boy to Get His Muse

The best measure of whether a building qualifies as green may not be the solar photovoltaic array on the roof or the Menerga air handlers in the basement, but whether people enjoy being there. “If a building is not popular, is not liked, does not have social capital, it’s not going to work,” said Michael Taylor, a director at Hopkins Architects, early in the design process for the new home of the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies.

On those grounds, the early evidence suggests that Kroon Hall works. Soon after completion, the bright open spaces on the top floor of the building became the hub of student activity. “I love the natural lighting,” said Bidisha Banerjee ’10, who described being there as “one of the most effective safeguards I’ve ever experienced” against wintertime New Haven blues.

The space also seems to be changing the social dynamic of the school, as its builders had intended. “I helped organize a panel discussion, which we held in the Knobloch Environment Center,” said Simon Tudiver ’09, of the new social gathering place on the top floor, “and the space was really an integral part of the event’s success. It was much more accessible and open to students passing by than events that typically took place behind closed doors at Sage Hall.”

The student reaction to Kroon has also been naturally skeptical. Some wondered if the computer lab had been left out because it would have worsened the building’s carbon footprint. Deputy Dean Alan Brewster replied that the limited physical footprint was the real issue, with office and study space getting a higher priority. Most students now use laptop computers, he said, so Kroon will still get the plug load. A smaller computer lab will open in its old location in Sage Hall after renovations there are completed.

Otherwise, students have been so pleased with the building that they promptly set out to give it a guardian spirit they named Kroon Girl. The aim was to make her a counterpart to Sage Boy, the iconic statue of a forester leaning on his ax handle affixed to the front of Sage Hall, the school’s old headquarters just next door. But if Sage Boy evoked the early 20th century, Kroon Girl will speak to the future of environmentalism.

At press time, everything was still up in the air—where to put her, how people would vote on different designs and whether the university would approve. But the prevailing sentiment was that Kroon Girl would be made of recycled materials, multiethnic and not so much a Mother Earth figure as an active protector.

Like Sage Boy, she would also have to be suitable for dressing up in outlandish attire on special occasions. “It’s a way of letting the students make their mark,” said Elizabeth Thomas ’10, “of showing that it’s our home.”

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