Pitzer Hosts Panel on Future of Holden Hall

Students at Pitzer College discussed the future of Pitzer’s Holden Hall at a panel April 29. The administration’s plan to demolish the building, scheduled to begin this summer, has drawn criticism from students and possibly inspired vandalism to the building two weeks ago as a form of protest against Holden’s destruction.

The panel, which was organized by Belmont Pinger PZ ’17 and
Anna Leopold PZ ’17, was attended by about 40 Pitzer students.

“The purpose of the event was to create an open and
transparent dialogue in which all members of the Pitzer community could discuss
what Holden was, is, and will be,” Pinger wrote in an email to TSL.

The administration plans to build a mixed-use residential structure in Holden’s place. Since construction of that building could take up to seven years, a temporary garden landscape planned by a committee of students and faculty members will be installed in the space following Holden’s demolition. 

Many students, however, have argued that the building should be preserved and repurposed.

Pitzer Vice
President for Student Affairs Brian Carlisle explained the building’s structural problems in an email to Pitzer students, faculty, and staff. He cited an evaluation the college commissioned from John A. Martin and Associates, Inc.

“Concerns expressed by the firm focused strongly on the
seismic safety of the building, specifically that the building block is not
solid grouted … and there is no horizontal reinforcement in the masonry walls,” Carlisle wrote.

Pitzer Dean of Faculty Muriel Poston emphasized at the April 29 panel that the building that will replace Holden could host a
variety of new academic spaces, including mid-sized lecture rooms, art studio
classrooms, and rooms for students to do collaborative work. Building a new structure, she said, is a more promising plan than repurposing the building. 

“I don’t see the current Holden building being retrofitted
into a place that could facilitate these sorts of academic spaces,” she
said at the panel. 

Also on the panel were two professors of environmental analysis: Pitzer professor Lance Neckar and Pomona College professor Char Miller PZ ’75. Both professors were concerned about the
consequences of demolishing Holden and remarked on the historical
importance of the building, which is nearly 50 years old.

“Holden Hall, where I lived during my sophomore year, was a
vibrant place,” Miller wrote in an email to TSL. “It was so in part
because of the way it compelled its residents to interact with one another—up
and down the halls, in its spacious living room, and through its outdoor nooks
and crannies.”

According to Neckar’s calculations, demolition of Holden
Hall would take approximately 20.8 million kilowatt-hours of energy to
complete, enough power to support 3,000 Californians for a year. He said that it would also create 4,250 tons of
construction waste, although much of that would be recycled.

David Shearer, who serves as the executive director of the
Claremont Heritage Foundation, asked the panelists several probing questions during the discussion. His organization
has been skeptical of Pitzer’s multiphase plan to reconstruct and renovate
many of its original buildings. He
believes that the plan, which was created in 2001, ought to be revisited.

“Pitzer should put a hold on the demolition until they can do a thorough evaluation of the cultural and historical significance
of the building,” Shearer said at the panel. “Demolishing it would be completely antithetical to the idea of
sustainability.”

Pinger wrote that students will
continue to stay involved by holding the administration accountable.

“The conversation
facilitated by this panel brought up questions that need to be answered before
demolition takes place,” Pinger wrote. “Once we have this information I think
the community will feel much more confident in making the decision of whether
demolition is the best option.”

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