The Yale Peabody Museum recently underwent its first major renovation and expansion since its inception in 1925. GMS provided structural engineering services for this ambitious project, which aims to increase daily engagement with visitors and Yale students.

The renovation included a four-story, 65,000-square-foot infill addition to the existing museum. This addition comprises a gateway terrace, new galleries, study spaces, a three-story atrium, a glass tower, and a new 4,400-square-foot loading pavilion with a planted green roof. The project also involved extensive modifications to the historic structure built in 1925. A central feature of the expansion is the three-story, 3,135-square-foot Central Gallery, situated in a previously unused courtyard surrounded by three campus buildings. This gallery serves as the museum’s central axis, linking common areas and amenities with the exhibition galleries. Above it, a sloping skylight roof supported by Douglas Fir Glue Laminated (glulam) timbers forms a dramatic gabled structure visible to visitors below. The 18-inch-deep glulam timber beams and braces provide structural support for the glass roof, bear the weight of snow drift, and support large hanging fossils such as a Tylosaurus pursuing an Archelon. Additionally, these timbers create a lattice for solar shading beneath the skylight, projecting intriguing shadow patterns onto the space’s walls during sunny days. They represent sustainability and resilience, sourced from sustainably managed forests and certified by the Forest Stewardship Council.

Goodfellow Incorporated, a Canadian company committed to sustainable forestry practices, fabricated the timbers. Their installation required meticulous coordination among the design and construction teams. Each timber was modeled in 3D using BIM software to accommodate the sloped roof area of differing widths at each end. A full-scale mock-up ensured the concealed connections, integrated lighting, sprinklers, fossil mounts, and skylight standoffs met the standards for the architecturally exposed application. The installation process involved erecting a large, three-story scaffold platform above the first floor to provide safe access for timber observation and installation. A large crane was utilized to place each glulam individually, akin to constructing a “ship in a bottle,” while ensuring the protection of the glulam elements with a resilient finish.

In addition to the Central Gallery, GMS worked on smaller renovations to portions of the Kline Geology Building and the Environmental Science Center and replaced a pedestrian bridge linking the museum to the Kline Geology Building. Design work for the overall project began in 2018, with construction starting in late 2020. The Museum re-opened in March 2024.

This renovation not only revitalizes the museum’s infrastructure but also strengthens its role to bridge the past and the future. The innovative design and careful preservation efforts have created a space where the legacy of natural history is celebrated under the protection of contemporary materials and engineering marvels. The project stands as a testament to GMS’s commitment to excellence in structural engineering and sustainable design.