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Pomona College Studio Art Hall

In October 2014, Pomona College opened a stunning 35,000-square-foot Studio Art Hall. Designed by wHY architect Kulapat Yantrasast, the building’s striking exterior is marked by a soaring wood-beam roofline and extensive use of glass, which floods the studios with natural light.

Pomona-College-Studio-Art-Hall-By-wHY-Architecture-03-Pomona-College-759x377 Pomona College Studio Art Hall / wHY Architecture

© Pomona College

Located in Claremont, California, the 35,000 sq ft interdisciplinary arts centre is spread across two storeys and draws on the natural surroundings of the San Gabriel Mountains and historic oak grove in its design. As such, a grand steel and wood roof arches over the facility, also referencing the bow-string trussed warehouses so often found in LA’s art scene.

  • Workspaces leak out into the pedestrian and social areas in the Pomona College Studio Art Hall as floor-to-ceiling windows enable passers-by to gaze into the study areas and engage other students in conversation and debate. It is hoped that these discussions will lead to the cross-pollination of ideas across the institution.
Pomona-College-Studio-Art-Hall-By-wHY-Architecture-04-Pomona-College-759x505 Pomona College Studio Art Hall / wHY Architecture

© Pomona College

“This building allows daylight and green views to flood the studios and let passersby view artists at work. The building sits on the edge of a native Oak stand at the gateway to the Sontag Greek Theater. The landscape design reflects the historic movement of water through the site with a modular pavement system that erodes to form green spaces within a central courtyard. An outdoor classroom acts as a transition between the developed landscape and the Oaks. Low impact development strategies and an efficient irrigation system make the most of Claremont’s infrequent rains and reduce water use on site. The design maximizes flexibility to give students and faculty plenty of space to gather and make/exhibit art in the landscape.” – EPT Design

Pomona-College-Studio-Art-Hall-By-wHY-Architecture-07-Iwan-Baan-759x542 Pomona College Studio Art Hall / wHY Architecture

© Iwan Baan

  • The arching steel and wood roof appears to float above the building, mimicking the ebb and flow of the surrounding mountains. To create an undulating shape, most of the steel used in the roof’s framing was set at 45° angles with respect to the column grids. The curvature in one direction was developed by straight lines of beams at a constant elevation within the same line; in the perpendicular direction, the curved geometry was achieved by faceted beam lines. The result is a steel diagrid with sawn-lumber joists spanning between the beams to support the roofing system.
Pomona-College-Studio-Art-Hall-By-wHY-Architecture-09-Pomona-College-806x1200 Pomona College Studio Art Hall / wHY Architecture

© Pomona College

  • The complex geometry of the roof canopy was rationalized and documented using Grasshopper, a parametric toolbox incorporated in Rhino that enables designers to define and manipulate the intricate geometric shapes. The overall design of the building was a 180° turn away from the campus’ existing traditional Spanish mission-style structures, making it a signature building on campus for students, faculty, alumni and the public to visit for years to come. Every detail of the building was thoughtfully and carefully designed and constructed to create an iconic structure that is sure to inspire all who walk through its doors.
  • Sited at a key position on campus adjacent to the Oldenborg Center, an international center and residence that helps assimilate students into various aspects of international life, Pomona’s new Studio Art Hall brings art making, art appreciation, and art interaction together under one roof to reimagine the program and site as the center of daily campus life.
Pomona-College-Studio-Art-Hall-By-wHY-Architecture-10-Pomona-College-759x506 Pomona College Studio Art Hall / wHY Architecture

© Pomona College

  • An exposure to the studio arts is a critical part of the College’s mission, and the Studio Art Hall creates an environment where an appreciation for the creative art process can be born and enhanced. The porous, village-like nature of the new building provides a green, cool, transparent, and collaborative atmosphere to serve as a nexus for cross-pollination of ideas from the entire campus.
  • Initiated through a rigorous programming phase with faculty and students, wHY uncovered their desire for mixing and exposing different disciplines during the art-making process. The integration of semi-public collaborative ‘Grey Spaces’ encourages collisions between different thoughts and influences for formative minds to explore new ideas, materials, and media. Studio spaces are organized around and open onto a central courtyard with views to the surrounding landscape.
  • Sustainability is integrated throughout the new building including natural ventilation, day-lighting, photovoltaics and storm-water collection and filtration. This Studio Art Hall is on track to achieve a LEED Gold Rating.
Pomona-College-Studio-Art-Hall-By-wHY-Architecture-12-Pomona-College-759x427 Pomona College Studio Art Hall / wHY Architecture

© Pomona College

The building’s design emphasizes the contemporary ways of making art and thinking about culture. Its open and porous nature emphasizes connections, with glass walls exposing the various disciplines during the art-making process and creating a cool, transparent and collaborative atmosphere to explore new ideas, materials and artistic production.

Based on a village model, the new home of the Pomona College Art Department maximizes the intersection between students, faculty and staff as they move through the studios and public areas. The glass walls provide students with insights into the creative processes of their peers and faculty members in multiple disciplines.

Maximizing the benefits of its California location, floor-to-ceiling windows in many studios frame the expansive San Gabriel Mountains or adjacent oak grove. The arching wood and steel roof echoes the rise and fall of the nearby mountain range and draws parallels to the historic bow-string trussed warehouses, that are home to Los Angeles’ thriving art scene.

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© Pomona College

“The seeds for new ways of thinking are planted through the serendipitous encounter, the unplanned studio visit and the informal visibility of the workspaces and studios. The building’s non-hierarchical gathering of mediums fuels an openness and unrestricted approach to art.” – says Mark Allen, chair of the Pomona Art Department

“Cross-pollination of ideas cannot occur in walled-off art studios. The Studio Art Hall’s concept and design reflects Pomona College’s ethos of nurturing innovation and culturally-minded graduates who either stay in the arts or venture into science, humanities or business. This building really could not exist anywhere else.” – says Kulapat, an award-winning architect

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© Pomona College

Built to the LEED Gold standards of the U.S. Green Building Council, the $29 million Studio Art Hall forges new connections to disciplines beyond the arts. Major program elements are arranged around a central courtyard that accentuates a prominent north-south path through campus. The studios have the capacity to expand the working environment into the natural elements and pedestrian spaces.

Pomona-College-Studio-Art-Hall-By-wHY-Architecture-18-Pomona-College-866x1200 Pomona College Studio Art Hall / wHY Architecture

© Pomona College

wHY Architecture:

The new Studio Art Hall at Pomona College brings together, under one roof, art making, art appreciation and art interaction. The Studio Art Hall synergizes many important faces of the school’s esteemed identity as a leading liberal arts college. At the heart of the school’s mission is a drive to create a balanced, well-rounded education for its students. An exposure to the studio arts is critical within this objective. Whether a student continues an education in the fine arts or is off to a future in another field entirely, part of the project’s objective is to create a physical environment where an appreciation for the creative art process can be nurtured and explored.

Pomona-College-Studio-Art-Hall-By-wHY-Architecture-Landscape-02-EPT-Design-759x481 Pomona College Studio Art Hall / wHY Architecture

© EPT Design

Recognizing that artists have historically been catalysts for urban and cultural development, the wHY IDEAs Workshop, working with the Pomona College team, reimagined the program with a site that supports the making of art in a more public campus setting. The village-like open, porous nature of the new building forges new connections within the site’s key position at an intersection of daily campus life and other campus arts buildings. This green, cool, transparent and collaborative atmosphere serves as a nexus for cross-pollination of ideas from the entire campus.

From the project’s conception, programming sessions with the art faculty and students uncovered a desire for interaction and engagement among the disciplines during the art-making process. As formative minds explore new ideas, materials and media, collisions between different thoughts and influences are to be encouraged.

Pomona-College-Studio-Art-Hall-By-wHY-Architecture-Landscape-08-EPT-Design-759x481 Pomona College Studio Art Hall / wHY Architecture

© EPT Design

To address this, wHY created semi-public collaborative ‘gray spaces’ for exploring and exchanging ideas in a more informal way, and gave them just as much importance as formal studio spaces. By arranging major program elements around a central courtyard that is itself part of a prominent diagonal path through campus, the new building encourages collaboration among art majors as well as non-art majors and the general public that the College desires.

Throughout the building, the individual studio spaces are stacked with strategic areas of transparency to the whole. Visual connections are established across open spaces in the building open artistic dialogue. Covering and bringing it all together is an arching steel and wood roof that echoes the rise and fall of the nearby mountain range and draws parallels to the historic bow-string trussed warehouses that now house art galleries and studios throughout Los Angeles. Every studio space not only has views of the lush, natural surroundings of the arroyo but also the capacity to expand the working environment into the open air or natural surroundings.

Pomona-College-Studio-Art-Hall-By-wHY-Architecture-02-Pomona-College-759x427 Pomona College Studio Art Hall / wHY Architecture

© Pomona College

Project Data:

Project name: Studio Art Hall
Location: Pomona College, 333 N College Way, Claremont, California 91711, United States
Coordinates: 34.097324, -117.710655
Type: Art center / Gallery, College
Building Program: Studio spaces, Classrooms, Joint-use work areas, Flexible gallery/assembly/future studio space, Permanent gallery, Lecture hall, Courtyard, Flexible outdoor terrace
Project Area: 35,000 sq.ft / 3,150 sqm
Site Area: 88 acres
Status: Built
Cost: $28 million
Completion Year: October 2014
Visit Pomona College’s website: here

The people:

Client / Owner / Developer: Pomona College
Architects: wHY Architecture – 9520 Jefferson Blvd, Culver City, California 90232, United States
Structural: Thornton Tomasetti
MEP: Stantec (formerly IBE)
Civil: Magnusson Klemencic Associates
Landscape: EPT Design
Acoustical: Veneklasen Associates
Lighting: George Sexton Associates
Waterproofing: Roofing Waterproofing & Forensics Inc.(RWFI)
Vertical Transportation: Lerch Bates
Door Hardware: Assa Abloy Muscat, Shari
Code Consultant: AON Fire Protection Engineering
Contractor: Hamilton Construction
Text Description: © Courtesy of wHY Architecture, Pomona College, EPT Design
Images: © wHY Architecture, Pomona College, flickr-Randall Howard, Jeremy Bittermann, Benny Chan, Iwan Baan

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