At the end of 2012 I sketched a series about the final days of the old boiler building on the UC Davis campus, as it was being torn down.It has been an empty space ever since, though there are currently odd piles of dirt dotted around like giant molehills that weren’t there before. What will take this place is the Music Recital Hall. You can see if you look really closely something resembling a tiny puddle. Well, not much of one. Last night, for the first time in absolutely ages (three months maybe?), we had rain in Davis. Loud, epic, sweep away your shed rain. Any rain in Davis gets a weather warning it seems (water from the sky is just such a weird concept), this one got a flood warning too. It never rains, quite literally, but it pours. And then it is gone. And people are probably already saying, it rains so much here in spring. A couple of weeks ago with the onset of 90s weather looming I overheard someone say that “we’ve had a week of spring and then it’s summer!” as if it hadn’t been in the 60s and 70s and full of sunshine since January. I also heard someone say that we have had a really long winter this year. That was in mid-January. Seriously, dudes.
The first year I was here, though, we had some proper extreme weather. Rain like I haven’t seen since, for months, with massive floods on New Years Day. I just assumed that it was a permanent lake between here and Sacramento, it was a real surprise to me when I first saw the land part of those wetlands by the Causeway. The rains and snowmelt finally gave way to summer, and what a summer that was. We had two weeks where it didn’t fall below a hundred degrees, even at night, and while I’ve experienced hot summers since, there has been nothing quite like that summer of 2006. Here is a sketch from back then which illustrates it. This Londoner just doesn’t do such heat. Well, summer is coming.
These lunchtime sketches are the last drawings ever of the old UC Davis Boiler Building. I made a point of getting there today to see what was left, and met a wide open space and a sad, defiant little corner. I just had to sketch straight away. As I sketched, big machines heaved and huffed and knocked away segments. Large cracks appeared accompanied by deep thunderous booms. It’s nothing personal, they said, we just want a place for the music to happen. The old external boilers, which originally drew me to the building (I sketched those back in 2010 as part of my hydrants and pipes NaNoDrawMo series), were holding out. I moved to the other side, to excitedly grab another sketch from a different angle. Such a thirst for the creative powers of destruction! When I came back a couple of hours later, all that remained were the boilers and a small section of wall. Oh, and a lot of rubble.
I am not done, of course. I’ll chart the new building as it grows, the new Recital Hall. I don’t know what it will look like yet (I don’t want to see any of the plans, I want the surprise).
Fare thee well, old Boiler Building! Rest in Pieces!
Back to the old Boiler Building, and the machines are really tearing it down now. The whole east side has been turned to rubble, leaving a sad, draughty, haunted shell. A small crowd of people with young, construction-machine-loving-aged children (you know the age, parents!) to see the mighty mechanical dinosaurs at work, and to wave goodbye to a historic part of UC Davis. Back at work, I spoke about this sad demise of a much-loved campus sight to some of the professors who have taught there for the past few decades. “Where’s this, then?” they said. “Boiler Building? Is that downtown somewhere? Don’t know that one.” Well, I’ll miss it. Even if I too had no idea what it was for until recently.
I can’t get enough. I’m not obsessed or anything. Here is the UC Davis Boiler Building again, still in the same state of deconstruction as in the previous two sketches. It’s looking so sad and beaten, yet triumphant as well, as though it’s saying, come on, do your worst. Another demolition machine has lined up beside it now, like a warrior preparing for more hyperbole. I drew it from the back this time, another angle, in fact the same angle as I drew it from in August, this one here:
It was sunny today, too. I just didn’t show you the blue sky. It just didn’t seem appropriate.
No, this isn’t my bedroom when I was a teenager, this is another view of the old Boiler Building on the UC Davis campus, currently under demolition. It’s the same gaping hole I drew the day before, but I wanted another angle so at lunchtime yesterday I pottered over and sketched away. Sometimes destruction can be beautiful. You can make out the silhouettes of big metal pipes inside the building still, though it looks like the scene of an escaped dinosaur disaster. I can imagine KCRA 3 news now, “Alert on the UC Davis campus as a nine ton T-Rex escaped from the old Boiler Building yesterday, police are conducting a thorough search but have been warned not to use pepper-spray,” or something. That probably is how they would report it, after the weather, and after the traffic reports, which as you know on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving is all people care about, the ‘Busiest Travel Day of the Year’. “More on that escaped Tyrannosaur later, now back to Richard on I-80″, “Thanks Kelly, well the traffic has been backed up for hours here, and, oh wait is that a T-Rex? We’re getting confirmed reports from LiveCopter 3 that a big rig has been overturned on I-80 by a dinosaur, well at least traffic will start moving a bit faster…”
And back to the imagination. Happy Thanksgiving folks. I hear T-Rex tastes like turkey (a species which roams freely on the streets of Davis) so if you catch one, there’s meat for everybody.
And so, demolition has finally come. I have drawn the old Boiler Building on the UC Davis campus several times now over the past few years, with a little more frequency since I knew for certain it was being pulled down. After much waiting, the mechanical monsters have moved in, pulling down the two smaller buildings to the side, and now a large gaping hole has appeared in the main Boiler Building itself. It’s days are numbered. It will make way for a new Recital Hall, as the sign says, which I’m sure will look very snazzy. I will keep sketching this historic old beast until it is a pile of rubble, and then chart the new building as it rises from the, ok I’ll stop with the hyperbole. Buildings rise and fall all the time, like the great Empires of old…
Sketched with brown uniball signo um-151 in the watercolour Moleskine. I listened to a History of England podcast while I sketched, which was actually mostly about medieval Wales, on the eve of the wars with Edward I. Kind of fitting.
Another one from the boiler building, which is still standing. I sketched from the back today, this big old window, full of texture and detail. I don’t know when this building is finally going under the sledgehammer, but apparently it is soon. Still standing…
Another one from the soon-to-be-gone boiler building on the UC Davis campus. This little roof, covering some sort of underground opening, is dilapidated, cobwebbed, glass-broken and dusty, and great as a subject to sketch. Likely still a sketch or two to come from this building, before its eventual demise.
I have drawn this building before, but never knew what to call it. It seemed rude to ask its name by that point. The boiler building, by the music building, has long been a favourite of mine for the rusting boilers and pipes that dot its edges, and its general old but warm feel. A slice of the old campus, a cousn of Hart Hall. Here is my previous drawing (which hung on the walls of the Pence in my show last December; it’s now available in my Etsy store). The one above was done a week or so ago, when I was invited to come and sketch it with Catherine Buscaglia, from UC Davis Design and Construction Management, who had emailed me to let me know that finally this old building will sadly be demolished later this month. I have come back a couple of times to draw it again, and may come back to witness its demise.
Here are some of the rusty boilers I was talking about. I have drawn them before, as part of my ‘pipes and hydrants’ series, and you can see them here. I have looked through the broken window, and inside it looks even more interesting for sketchers of metal pipes, though I may be a little too scared of spiders crawling all over me to sketch inside. Below, one more, done from the front side of the building. The ever changing landscape; I wonder how it will look by the time the new academic year begins?