Holden Hall Has Fallen Down: Garden Takes Place of Iconic Building

Over the summer, Pitzer College carried out its plan to tear down Holden Hall, a decision that prompted an outpouring of student pushback and debate last semester.

A large, fenced-off dirt plot now stands in the footprint of Holden Hall, which was first constructed in 1965 as one of Pitzer’s original residence halls. Preparations for future use of the plot have already begun, and many construction machines and equipment are currently scattered around the area.

“It’s definitely strange to see a massive construction site in the middle of campus, but I’m looking forward to seeing it transformed into an area that students can actually use and enjoy,” Ella Cooke PZ ’17 said.

Since the college does not plan to begin construction on a replacement building for five to seven years, a committee made up of students and faculty and staff members was tasked with designing an interim landscape plan. The plan approved by this committee is expected to be fully implemented by Nov. 1.

“Originally we weren’t going to have a committee, but several students expressed to the administration that this was something they felt passionate about and wanted to be involved in the decision-making process,” said Lora Funk PZ ’16, a student senator who served on the committee.

According to Funk, Vice President of Student Affairs Brian Carlisle affectionately referred to the committee as “my garden club.” Carlisle regularly met with committee members last semester, including Neeka Gaia PZ ’16, Belmont Pinger PZ ’17, Arboretum Manager Joe Clements, art professor Timothy Berg, environmental analysis professor Lance Neckar and Facilities Director Larry Burik. 

“I hope the new landscape will serve as an organic extension of our beautifully designed campus,” Carlisle wrote in an email to TSL. “The new space should add much more gathering and outdoor art spaces for students, faculty, staff, and visitors.”

The landscape is expected to be drought-resistant and planted primarily with low-maintenance flora. In keeping with Pitzer’s current landscaping theme, the blueprints include a variety of succulents, cacti, shrubs, mulch, gravel and even some sections of artificial turf.

In an email to students last month, Carlisle emphasized that much of the garden is being left open for Pitzer students to express their own inventive and artistic tendencies.

“Community members will notice that the northern portion of the property will be intentionally sparsely planted, allowing for materials and plants to be easily removed if needed for approved outdoor art projects,” Carlisle wrote.

Although Funk is confident that the temporary landscape in the Holden footprint reflects student input, she noted that she views the destruction of the building as a bittersweet moment for the Pitzer community.

“I was very sad to see the old building go,” Funk said. “First they torn down Sanborn Hall, now they’ve torn down Holden Hall and eventually they’ll be tearing down parts of Mead Hall. The original architecture is slowly disappearing.”

Ari Saperstein PZ ’15 is among the students who share Funk’s nostalgia for the now-demolished Holden Hall and its cultural importance to Pitzer’s campus.

“It’s really unfortunate that all the murals on Holden’s exterior are now gone, because they were part of the iconography that comes to mind when I visualize Pitzer,” Saperstein said. “Even though there will be new art spaces, I don’t think those will be able to replace the character and beauty of the old building.”

Despite such sentiments, Funk feels optimistic that the hard work of the committee will pay off and that the new garden area will become an area that students embrace and use for a variety of purposes.

“I hope that it will be used as a space for gatherings and performance art,” she said. “If students take the initiative to purposely use and create a culture around the space, then it will be a success.” 

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