Students Work with Architects on Millikan Remodel

A committee of students, professors and administrators is working with EHDD Architecture to develop plans for the renovation of Pomona College’s Robert A. Millikan building.     

The committee, which is made up of students and faculty from the Math and Physics & Astronomy departments and representatives from the Office of Facilities and Campus Services and the Dean of Students Office, hosted a brainstorming session March 8 in Millikan’s math lounge. The event allowed interested students to meet the architects in charge of the project and offer input while Physics Professor David Tanenbaum whipped up some liquid nitrogen ice cream.  

EHDD, a San Francisco-based firm, has also worked on the Monterey Bay Aquarium and various LEED certified buildings.            

One major point of discussion at the meeting was whether to attempt a renovation of the current building or to tear it down and rebuild it completely. Committee members said that while the plans are still vague, they will likely include a science courtyard that would replace the parking lot currently behind the building, in hopes of improving the aesthetics and sustainability of the area.      

Students use Millikan both during the day for classes and at night for mentor and study sessions.    

“There are lots of people here after hours,” said Allison Miller PO ’12, a math major. Miller mentioned one student who routinely slept at Millikan and then went to his morning class in the building.               

At the event, the architects from EHDD asked students to mark on a diagram the ways they entered and exited the building and the paths they took inside the building. The architects collected these diagrams and will use them in creating design plans. The architects also asked students to suggest any ideas they had for a renovation that would make for their ideal Millikan.      

Some of the more outlandish ideas included a particle accelerator in the basement, a hot tub time machine in the courtyard and the exclusion of any 90-degree angle from the building. More realistic suggestions ranged from more windows, an additional staircase and better study spaces.      

An intense discussion on the merits of chalkboards versus whiteboards also raged on for several minutes as whiteboard advocates suggested that the chalkboards be replaced with the less powdery and noise intensive dry erase system.                  

Millikan was built in the 1950s and is the final science building to undergo renovation, or potential demolition. The renovation is not only occurring to improve lab, office and study spaces, but also because the current plumbing and air-conditioning systems leave much to be desired.      

Large numbers of students can be found in the building on any given night, and many at the meeting expressed bittersweet sentiments about the renovation. 

“Even though it might be an ugly building, it works well, and we don’t want to lose that,” Gillian Grindstaff PO ’14 said. Grindstaff serves along with Gabrielle Badie PO ’14 and Claire Dickey PO ’14 as a student representative on the Millikan project committee.      

Grindstaff said that the committee and architects were leaning toward the option of tearing the building down rather than renovating the existing structure, but that the plans were not finalized. The hope is that the design plans will be finished by the end of the semester, she said.    

According to the Office of Facilities and Campus Services, the current budget and timeline for the project are undetermined, especially in light of Pomona’s other development projects and plans. South Campus renovation continues and construction of the new arts building is planned to begin in fall 2012.      

Millikan construction will break ground in spring 2013 at the earliest, giving students plenty of time to savor the old building and prepare themselves for the impending period of Math and Physics & Astronomy department homelessness.

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