Studio Art Hall Opens Doors to Creative Collaboration

The Pomona College Studio Art Hall opened its glass doors for the first time Oct. 11 with a dedication ceremony and art-filled open house. Located next to Seaver Theatre and The Wash, the $29 million facility features a series of interconnected studios to maximize collaboration across disciplines including sculpture, painting and multimedia. 

Transparency is a prominent motif in the hall. Extensive use of glass both symbolically and literally promotes interconnectivity. The visibility of studio spaces allows for the open sharing of ideas, and natural light fosters inspiration for students to work outside their comfort zones. 

“I can already see it in my studio,” Pomona College Assistant Professor of Art Sandeep Mukherjee said. “My students’ work has changed so much because of the space they are working in. The scale has gotten so much bigger; they are dealing with architecture and space in a much different way.” 

The building's architect, award-winning architect Kulapat Yantrasast, also incorporated what he calls gray spaces into his design. These are rooms or areas with no specific purpose, which allow for complete flexibility in their use. Gray spaces accommodate the evolving needs of students and faculty members, giving the building long-term versatility.

“I really believe that art is life, and we want people to feel like everything in their life is art,” Yantrasast said at the dedication ceremony. Yantrasast, the founder of wHY design practice, received his M.Arch. and Ph.D. in architecture from University of Tokyo, and was the first architect to receive the Silpathorn Award for Design from Thailand’s Ministry of Culture in 2009.

The building's design reflects the architect's vision. Its structure blurs the line between the functional and the aesthetic, innovatively uniting the two. The contours of its roof mirror the curves of the San Gabriel Mountains, and its village-like layout creates a welcoming environment, designed to encourage passersby to enter and explore.

“The center of this building is people," Yantrasast said. "The building is a stage for everyone to explore their own potentials, both in art and in life.”

The hall was also built with the environment in mind: Highly energy- and water-efficient, the facility meets LEED Gold Standards of the U.S. Green Building Council, according to a college press release. It was constructed using 20 percent recycled and 20 percent regionally sourced content. 

The open house following the dedication ceremony gave guests a preview of exciting things to come in the building. One sun-soaked classroom showcased student-painted self-portraits, and gave visitors the opportunity to draw or paint still life tableaus along a paper-covered table. Another featured a robustly decorated birthday cake, an edible masterpiece that doubled as a subject for sketching. Guests could later sweat their worries away in artist Michael Parker’s mirrored steam egg, then take a plunge in the complementary cold pool. 

“The community that is going to be built as a result of this physical space is what I am most looking forward to,” art major Kulsum Ebrahim PO ’15 said. “Just being able to walk from here to there, seeing other classes, and calling each others’ names from across the courtyard is a whole new experience for us.”

Mukherjee is confident that the thoughtfulness and malleability of the building's design will be a major asset to the Claremont Colleges.

“Possibilities of what we can make and what we can think have been widened,” Mukherjee said.