Assessing Campus Renovations

Stepping onto campus, I inhaled the smells of Claremont McKenna College and promptly choked. The previously lush grass had been torn up. In its place were giant seas of brown, which, although they provided great camouflage for squirrels, did not suit my refined aesthetic taste. Over the summer, CMC renovated several areas in the North Mall area of campus. But any decision to demolish our treasured lawns, and more importantly, our sacred fountain, must be approached with caution. As any film scholar knows, remakes can be either painstakingly disappointing or refreshingly original.

So which is it? Has CMC, with its pristine new campus, emerged from the shadows like a reinvigorated Bruce Wayne? Or has it plunged from its prior glory like Clark Kent on Kryptonite?

The most salient change is the newly filled moat surrounding the Kravis Kube. The location serves as the centerpiece of the new design and is intended to be a forum for studying, bonding, and, if you’re a Pitzer student, dancing. Last year, hearts were shattered when completion of the moat was postponed until summer. Despite several setbacks (apparently Faculty Support doesn’t enjoy underground rainfall), it is now completed.

Because of minor adjustments, the moat is very shallow and seems likely to evaporate on a sweltering summer day. From a distance, however, this flaw is hardly noticeable. The reflection pool is beautiful to look at, a quality only accentuated when CMC students see themselves. Furthermore, the engineering accomplishment does give a badly needed badge of elegance to CMC, whose campus has a reputation of lagging behind its neighbors.

While I do have issues with some of the more pragmatic aspects of the design, like ease of repair, the reflection pool is a welcome change from the grass and concrete landscaping to which we have grown accustomed. It seems like this school year, the cube is the place to be, if only for the novelty of being in a moat surrounded glass cube.

Another great change was expanding the patio adjacent to the Hub. Before, the space only allowed for a couple of tables, which made social gathering difficult. Considering that the point of the Hub was to, well, be a hub for students, this arrangement was counterproductive.

Now, the Hub has a more welcoming, open personality, which will incentivize students to eat there. Notably, the renovations have made the Hub, McKenna Auditorium, and Heggblade far more handicap accessible, increasing these entrances beyond just the one on Ninth Street. Not only do these changes make the Hub look more visually appealing, but they serve an important purpose. Although there are several other issues to deal with (particularly the lack of green tea) the Hub renovations appear to be successful.

For all the welcome adjustments to CMC, my greatest qualm is with the removal of some of the grass and trees between McKenna Auditorium and Bauer. The plan called for a singular walkway between the Kravis Building and Bauer Auditorium, meaning some of the pristine lawns in front of Dean of Students have been replaced by concrete.

Furthermore, in an effort to accentuate the beautiful oak trees, many of the pines lining the walkways have been cut down.

Personally, it was not the type of trees I was concerned about, but rather the shelter they provided from the oppressive sun. Now, only around ten of the oak trees remain between the walkway from Kravis and Bauer. Compared to the lush greens of last year, they look barren next to the pale concrete. In fact, the entire walkway looks less colorful and more dreary.

While I admire the administration’s desire to have a more uniform campus, matching beige buildings to grey concrete is hardly the answer. In truth, there may have been environmental concerns factored into the removal of the lawn, but repairing the overzealous sprinklers throughout campus would have easily conserved enough to water to maintain the lawn.

As for the new fountain, I have mixed feelings. Certainly, the new design is an enormous improvement over the old one in size, looks, and function. It also conveniently allows students to walk through on their way to class. Unfortunately, the coloring of the fountain makes the water look yellow and dirty, dissuading students from relaxing in it. Overall, it seems less inviting than its predecessor.  Despite these changes, it remains to be seen if the remodeling lives up to the years of CMC tradition ponding, thesis partying, and tanning.

In the scramble to complete construction before freshman orientation, many new changes have yet to be implemented. One of these, the outdoor classroom in the Autism Center, have moved forward quickly. Others, like the green in front of Collins, have barely started. All in all however, the new changes to the North Mall are welcome beatification to a school already populated with beautiful people.

All photos by David Leathers '15.