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Talking Roberts

Fall 2016

In a TEDx talk filmed midway through the Roberts Pavilion construction process, JFAK Architects principal Alice Kimm noted that “Architecture is space that helps us to communicate.” CMC Magazine talked to co-principal John Friedman about what that means in terms of our campus’ new space.

CMC Magazine: What about this project sets it apart from other projects you’ve worked on?

John Friedman: I would say that from the very beginning of the project, we realized and aspired for the project to be a new social nexus on campus.

Given the importance of recreation around many people’s lives now, we wanted it to be a center. My daughter is 15 and she likes to take her laptop and go to Starbucks. Students kind of nomadically travel with their laptops in study groups. If we provide that space, they will come.

[Roberts Pavilion is] not just for recreation; it’s not just varsity sports; it’s recreation, wellness, other events like music and lectures, so we knew that was important. We felt like the school wanted something that would be flexible and multifunctional.

As we were thinking about the lobby and the main open space, we made an effort to provide those spaces [in a way that] wouldn’t just scream ‘athletics.’ That became more important as we went along: There seemed to be a feeling that we’re building this great big facility that we want to speak to the general student body, not just athletics.

CMC Magazine: In Ms. Kimm’s TEDx talk, she underscored the importance of architecture in communication and sustainability. How does Roberts Pavilion fulfill these tenets?

JF: In a lot of these buildings, the coach’s office may have been upstairs and away from everything; the recreation might be rigidly separated from the varsity athletics. But by putting the recreation on the third floor, we activated all the floors and made sure that the whole building was used, although it is still compact.

We got the transparency in all the right places. We were very strategic. It worked beyond what we thought.

We thought of this as kind of a challenge: have the three floors, but also have this set of spaces where people would be constantly passing each other.

[In this building, we’ve used] a lot of white, and not a ton of color. It doesn’t try to insist on this collegiate warmth and clubby wood. We wanted [the Pavilion] to feel sort of open and not necessarily ... part of that ‘college club.’

CMC Magazine: How does Roberts Pavilion fit into the ethos and identity of CMC?

JF: I think it comes to a more specific thing: It comes to that character wall. [This] is a piece that’s very specific to CMC in its global thinking.

I think academics and research are a puzzle, which is [one] reason ‘Claremont McKenna College’ isn’t really spelled out in all big letters adjacent. It’s provocative, and it makes [visitors] think and reflect.

CMS Athletics Roberts PavilionCMC Magazine: What are your highest hopes for Roberts Pavilion?

JF: I’d love to see it become part of the iconography of the school. The form is unlike anything on campus. The color palette fits in really well. It invites you in from across the field.

I’d like to see the lobby become just as popular as the Living Room, but in a different way. I’d love to see the students take over this space.