CMC breaks ground on Robert Day Sciences Center, a ‘quantum leap into the future’

Students gather for a photo opportunity during the groundbreaking ceremony (Courtesy: Claremont McKenna College)

As its first step toward doubling its campus, Claremont McKenna College hosted a groundbreaking event for the Robert Day Sciences Center on Sept. 30. Slated to open in the fall 2024, the new building will replace a baseball field at the southwest corner of East 9th Street and Claremont Boulevard. 

The building serves as a formalization of CMC’s exit from the Keck Science Department previously shared by Claremont McKenna College, Pitzer College and Scripps College, and the inception of the Kravis Department for Integrated Sciences, which will be solely run by CMC. 

The Robert Day Sciences Center is just one part of CMC’s plan to double the size of its campus by way of the Roberts Campus east of Mills Avenue, enabled by George Roberts CM ’66 $140 million gift. The expanded campus will include a consolidation of athletic fields into a single sports bowl, along with a pedestrian bridge across Claremont Boulevard and additional student living spaces.

The groundbreaking event featured two speakers: CMC President Hiram Chodosh and architect Bjarke Ingels of the Bjarke Ingels Group, which was contracted to design the project. The event was part of ImpactCMC, a weekend of programs at the college bringing together alumni, faculty, staff and students. 

Ingels, the designer for the Roberts Day Sciences Center and other parts of the Roberts Campus, is the founding partner of Bjarke Ingels Group, an architecture firm which has been awarded for its innovative designs across Europe, Asia and North America. Ingels has been named an honorary fellow of the American Institute of Architects, selected as one of “Time Magazine” 2016 100 list and appointed Knight of the French Ordre Arts et Lettres, among other honors. 

According to Ingels and Chodosh, the new Roberts Day Sciences Center is designed to facilitate interdisciplinary learning and community building from the ground up.

“It almost perfectly embodies what I think is unique with the idea of an Integrated Science Center in the liberal arts campus — that you’re actually bringing the analytical and the experimental, the rational and the creative, together in a new and unified environment,” Ingels said. 

The new building will not follow the trend of traditional, sterile science spaces; instead, it will include warm colors, homely designs and large open spaces. Described by Ingels as a “Jenga of spaces,” the building will emphasize connection across and between floors.

“On one hand, it has to be a very technical, rational space for science and for labs,” Ingles said. “But on the other hand, it wants to be playful and inviting and engaging and create meetings across disciplines and across the different levels.”

At the event, Chodosh challenged the idea that the new science center will change the makeup of the CMC student body or the type of students drawn to CMC, which is known for its strength in social science subjects like government, economics and psychology.

“It’s not so much that the student body will change or that we seek to change,” Chodosh said, emphasizing that the college is catching up to where students already are. 

Chodosh also added that the new facilities will help with college address “the grand socioscientific challenges that we face in our civilization.”

The event was held in the parking lot east of the soon-to-be-demolished Bauer Center. Alumni and students attended the event to tour the recently cleared construction site. 

Mark Schwartz CM ’78 said that the new building is “a quantum leap into the future.”

“The world is evolving where information — data science — is the bedrock for most decisions. So I really salute the school for moving forward with programs that they have,” said Schwartz, an entrepreneur and former investment banker involved in CMC’s fundraising efforts. 

Brittany Ruiz CM ’08, a partner at the international law firm Latham and Watkins LLP, commented on the significance of CMC’s campus expansion for the culture and future of the college.

“How many colleges reach this level, this type of funding, are able to do this kind of construction and build out their academic programs the way CMC has, in such a short period of time?” Ruiz said. “It’s a very innovative, ambitious and entrepreneurial school. And you don’t often see that in an academic institution.”

Despite Chodosh’s reassurances, Devin Dinh CM ’25 said the new building might represent a shift away from an institution with heavy emphasis on government and economics and toward a focus on data science and physical sciences.

Because the new science center will have a dedicated computer science department, CMC students will not have to “leech off of Harvey Mudd or Pomona,” he said.

As Chodosh finished addressing the crowd, he praised the science building and its implications for generations of CMC students to come.

“We’re all going to be able to enjoy it as one of the most powerful learning platforms ever developed in the world of higher education,” he said.

 Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly referred to Brittany Ruiz CM ’08 as Bethany Ruiz. It has been updated to reflect the correct name. TSL regrets this error.

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