I was driving Highway 10 on Kellogg Hill on Saturday when something struck me by its absence. Cal Poly Pomona’s CLA building could no longer be seen.
The tower was collapsing, I knew it. It was in all the newspapers. My colleague Javier Rojas wrote the news version in April. My counterpart in our San Gabriel Valley newspapers, Larry Wilson, spoke out on this in June.
That didn’t mean I was fully prepared for CLA — short for Classroom, Laboratory, and Administration — not to be there. The eight-story obelisk has been visible from Highways 10 and 57 since it opened in 1993.
You have surely noticed it. The CLA was a limestone-clad tower with a steeply pitched roof, then an open pyramid at the top, jutting into the heavens. “Vaguely menacing”, Larry rightly called it, and various movies and commercial shoots have taken advantage of its somewhat spooky atmosphere.
Either way, it’s not like I make a point of looking for the pointy building. Sometimes it grabbed my attention, sometimes it slipped me away. Something this time made me stare.
I drove to campus on Sunday. Hardly anyone was there, that’s how I like it. And no need to pay for parking.
The CLA building was in the midst of deconstruction, like the upside-down Death Star, and considerably shorter than before. All the lower floors were standing, but the upper floors had been pruned.
The pointed building had lost its point. Oh humanity.
In practice, the CLA had lost its meaning years ago. Although a modern landmark, the $24 million tower was plagued with structural and mechanical issues. The university sued and won a $13 million settlement against the contractor.
As if that weren’t enough, the CLA was discovered to have been built on top of – oops – an active seismic fault.
A Poly Post title of 2018 says it all: “Doomed from the start: the CLA building.
Everyone emptied 2018. The tower has stood empty ever since. CLA could be an acronym for Cursed, Loved, Abandoned. But was he loved? If so, that seems long gone. Few students today had ever gone inside.
I had gone inside several times. It was a normal, unremarkable college setting. All I remember is that the windows were many but small. You would think the building would have made more of an impression. Maybe the aliens erased my other memories.
During CLA’s first decade, Hollywood trained its cameras on the unusual exterior.
“It’s been a visually unique part of the campus for years,” says Charles Bentley, a former Cal Poly spokesperson who worked at CLA from 1999 to 2003, “and during that time attracted quite a few film, television, commercial and print advertising managers.
Three sci-fi thrillers, “Gattaca” (1997), “Impostor” (2001), and the NBC version of “Brave New World” (1998), used the tower as a backdrop for their dystopian futures. The Poly Post adds another to the list: 1993’s “Reverse Heaven,” which later received the less subtle title “Heaven and Hell.” I don’t know what locale the CLA played, but I can guess.
Notice the age of these credits. These days, I guess they come from CGI that stuff. No need for sharp buildings in nature.
The CLA might have been vaguely menacing, but take a load of it: Architect Antoine Predock went on to design San Diego’s Petco Park, the Padres’ ultra-charming ballpark. The guy has reach.
I last saw CLA in December during a campus visit. As an inveterate stair climber, I couldn’t resist walking up and down the 30+ exterior steps a few times just for exercise, knowing that was probably the last time I would. would have the opportunity.
With the CLA deemed unsalvageable, the state eventually shelled out the money for demolition, which is happening now. The interior was gutted in May and the rest of the structure is expected to be gone before the students return.
What will replace it? Green area. This will join the Japanese garden it’s been there all along, which I wasn’t even aware of. Efforts are being made to protect it during demolition.
A garden sounds good. It is better to salt the earth to eliminate the curse of CLA.
Nearby is the university’s student services building, the 2019 replacement of the functions of the CLA. It has a triangular shape, a corrugated roof (a building nickname is “the Pringle”), and a tunnel-like atrium between the two wings.
The whole thing looks like a glass-covered mothership from beyond the stars that, for reasons best not examined, has chosen Pomona as its landing pad.
But just three stories tall, you can’t see the Pringle from the freeway, and that makes all the difference.
You’ve heard of the annual San Diego Comic Con, which drew some 130,000 people to America’s most beautiful city last week. Sunday brings the first Perris Comic-Con, featuring comics, toys, Funko and action figures, a Yu-Gi-Oh tournament and more. Venue is Bob Glass Gym, 101 N. D St. in downtown Perris, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Free entry. Hey, even San Diego had to start somewhere.
David Allen remains on the starting grid Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. Email [email protected], call 909-483-9339, like davidallencolumnist on Facebook and follow @davidallen909 on Twitter.