Oldenborg reconstruction crawls forward with new two-building plan

A mock-up of the new Oldenborg Center plans
In a June presentation to the Claremont Architectural Commission, Pomona College renders a mock-up of a rebuilt Oldenborg Center. (Courtesy: City of Claremont)

After several years of hinting at possible renovations, Pomona College says it is now close to rebuilding the Oldenborg Center for Modern Languages and International Relations. In a June presentation to the Claremont Architectural Commission, the college said that the redesign would better align the residence hall with the rest of the campus architecture.

Oldenborg is a coed residence hall where students studying foreign languages live with a native language speaker and converse daily in one of six foreign languages offered. 

In Pomona’s plans, Oldenborg would be torn down and reimagined as two buildings. The first would be a center for global engagement and the second would serve as a language residence hall. 

With clay tile roofs and stucco, the architecture of the building plans align more with the traditional style evocative of neighboring Sumner Hall and Bridges Auditorium. According to the presentation, the college plans to demolish the existing hall in the summer of 2023, and will first work on the language residence hall, then the dining hall. 

Renovation was considered, but deemed too costly and difficult given the desire to open up the space and create two adjacent buildings, according to the presentation. The new building complex would be 14,175 square feet larger than the current building.  

The Center for Global Engagement and the Language Intensive Residence Hall plans were laid out to be more consistent with Myron Hunt’s seminal 1908 Campus Plan, providing an extension of the South Enfilade, an outdoor corridor that runs from College Avenue through the music buildings, Lebus Court and Sumner Hall. 

Upon hearing the news that plans to replace Oldenborg are in the works, Griffin Campion PO ’24 expressed gratitude. The building works moderately well, he said, but only “assuming you know where you’re going.” 

A Japanese language student, Campion added that he hoped the reconstruction would make the complex more “aesthetically pleasing.” 

Anaelle Roc PO ’24, who lives in a friendship suite in Oldenborg, echoed Campion’s remarks about aesthetics, and added that the “confusing” design contributes to a lack of “hallway culture.” 

Upon inviting friends to her suite, Roc said, they initially balked about going to Oldenborg. 

“My friends… were just afraid to come visit me in my room unless I walked them there,” Roc said.

My friends… were just afraid to come visit me in my room unless I walked them there.” —Anaelle Roc

Associate dean of the college Anne Dwyer told TSL the two-building design will help make Oldenborg feel more spacious. 

The current one-building model, she said, creates security protocols that hinder the college’s ability to keep Oldenborg accessible to students from all the 5Cs. By splitting it up into two buildings, the college hopes to better facilitate connections among language students across the 5Cs. 

While designing the residence hall, Dwyer said, the Oldenborg committee reckoned with the current shortcomings of the residence hall that discourage socialization. To combat this, in the new design, bathrooms would be communal and laundry rooms would be integrated into a social space to maximize inter- and intra-lingual interaction. 

In regard to the new designs, she added, “I’m really excited for the new hall.”

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly referred to Griffin Campion as a resident of Oldenborg’s Japanese section. He studies Japanese but does not live in Oldenborg. TSL regrets this error.

This article was last updated Sept. 29 at 10:25 a.m.

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