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.
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.
“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,” says Mark Allen, chair of the Pomona Art Department. “The building’s non-hierarchical gathering of mediums fuels an openness and unrestricted approach to art.”
“Cross-pollination of ideas cannot occur in walled-off art studios,” says Kulapat, an award-winning architect. “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.”
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.
The Pomona College Art faculty is a group of productive contemporary artists whose practices range from photography and public art pieces to sculptural installations, performance, computer art and conceptual drawings. They are Lisa Anne Auerbach, Mark Allen (director of Machine Project), Michael O’Malley, Sandeep Mukherjee and Mercedes Teixido.
Alumni include: light and space artist Helen Pashgian ’56; light and space artist James Turrell ’65, who just received the U.S. Medal of Arts; photographer and filmmaker Judy Fiskin ’68; sculptor Chris Burden ’69; sculptor Peter Shelton ’73; video artist Denise Marika ’77; public works artist Michael Parker ’00; and visual artists Kim Ye ’07. The role of the Pomona College Art Department and the Pomona College Museum of Art were a celebrated part of California’s Getty-coordinated exhibitions Pacific Standard Time.
“Our investment in this building is an investment in creativity throughout the campus,” says Pomona College President David Oxtoby. Pomona is a place that infuses creativity across the disciplines. The open and interactive nature of the building will spark even more interactions, discussion and new ideas across groups.”