Viewpoints are sharp on Cal Poly Pomona’s CLA tower, now gone – San Bernardino Sun

People liked the CLA Building at Cal Poly Pomona or they hated it. I heard a little of each after writing a month ago about the in-progress demolition of the pointy building.

A majority hated it, though. And many who admitted liking it were almost sheepish.

“Honestly, David? I rather liked it,” Susan Patterson wrote.

Your secret is safe with me, Susan.

“I always liked it,” Linda Gray Takeuchi said, a bit more confidently. “I’d been in it a few times over the years.”

Several alums expressed stronger opinions.

“Glad they tore that money pit down. Too bad it was public money,” Eric Hanson said. “That thing was leaking before it even opened.”

“What a waste of money (I’m an alum also),” wrote Darryl Musick. (His name is Musick to my ears.)

“Good riddance to a really bad architectural disaster!” Gae Seal said.

“Fellow alumni — never liked it — glad it’s gone,” Bill Roebuck wrote curtly.

What’s left of the former CLA Building at Cal Poly Pomona is surrounded by a construction fence Saturday, with only portions of the foundation standing. (Photo by David Allen, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

Steve Lustro, a retired community development director for Montclair who is now on the Pomona City Council, offered his view on the eight-story tower, which could be seen from the 10 and 57 freeways.

“As an alum, I won’t miss it,” Lustro said. “Totally out of scale with the rest of the campus.”

Lisa Snider, reading the above Facebook comments, was thrown on the defensive.

“I might be the only alum who actually liked it! I mean, it was rather iconic. Quite stunning to see if from afar too,” Snider said. “I’ll miss it.”

“It was a unique and iconic symbol of Cal Poly Pomona. Too bad they couldn’t preserve it,” Eric Trypucko chimed in.

By email, Eric Scherer, La Verne’s community development director and a Cal Poly graduate, told me of a one-day class in the mid-1990s, when he was a student, that was devoted to the CLA Building.

Two fun facts: “The point at the top was strategically pointed to the main flight path to LAX” and within “the void” on the roof were amphitheater-type seats designed to hold an outdoor class.

“I think they said they attempted to do so,” Scherer said, “but the winds were unbearable.”

Scherer wasn’t a fan of the building either, noting its small interior hallways and a climb of 30 steps just to get to the main entry. Me, I go out of my way to climb stairs, but then, I’m not wearing a backpack full of textbooks.

To refresh your memory, the tower opened in 1993 and almost immediately was beset by mechanical problems and construction defects.

Frances Leigh was in her senior year when the CLA was new and attended political science classes there.

“In that inauguration year, the building already started to have water leaks when it rained, from the top level down. There was always standing water in the hallways,” Leigh said. “The offices were cramped and the building itself was not a place to hang out because it was not inviting in design.”

Leigh added, in case there was any question about her feelings: “I never liked that building. For me personally I think was rather ugly. Glad to see it go.”

It’s being torn down in part because geologists later determined the CLA had been built atop the San Jose earthquake fault. People were barred from entering since 2018. Could there have been a way to save it? University and state officials decided to wash their hands of it rather than pour an estimated $80 million into the $24 million building.

A Poly Post article on the CLA’s woes, headlined “Doomed From the Start,” quotes a 2010 message to the campus by the university’s then-president. “Even after a major renovation,” Michael Ortiz wrote, “the CLA would remain difficult to navigate, waste internal space, be energy inefficient and subject to future mitigation issues — and it would still sit atop the San Jose Fault.”

The CLA Building at Cal Poly Pomona, seen here in 2018, was a campus landmark. (Photo by David Allen, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)
The CLA Building at Cal Poly Pomona, seen here in 2018, was a campus landmark. (Photo by David Allen, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin/SCNG)

Christopher Hawthorne, L.A.’s chief design officer and former architecture critic for the L.A. Times, thinks the decision misguided.

“Cal Poly Pomona is demolishing one of the most significant works of architecture on its campus, Antoine Predock’s CLA Building, before it has even turned 30,” Hawthorne tweeted in response to my column. “A mistake in both ecological and architectural terms.”

Elaborating, Hawthorne continued: “Imagine how powerful it would’ve been for the administration & College of Environmental Design to team up to rehabilitate it to fit the current needs of the campus, making the case for adaptive reuse as progressive climate strategy.”

He summed it up this way: “Yes, the building had flaws. But real presence too!”

Enough presence to land the futuristic-looking tower in several science fiction movies: “Gattaca,” “Impostor,” “Brave New World.”

There’s another, less upscale screen credit, perhaps the CLA’s first, that I had overlooked: 1993’s “Philadelphia Experiment 2,” in which the Nazis won World War II and are marking 50 years of rule over America.

“We shot there as the future Nazis’ American high command, the rest of the ‘alternate 1993′ dystopia being Kaiser Steel,” said Don Jankiewicz of Upland, a background actor of many years’ standing.

“Philadelphia Experiment 2,” Jankiewicz joked, “reminded us all to never let Germany steal your nuke-equipped B-2 bomber during unauthorized time-travel experiments into early 1940s Europe.”

Consider that a public service announcement.

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