building the pitzer, part one

music recital hall (under construction)
music recital hall (under construction)
More construction on the UC Davis campus, while I slowly scan (and finish in some cases) my French sketches. Long-memoried observers of my UC Davis sketch adventures (really, that sentence) will recall that I spent a lot of time a couple of years ago or so sketching the demise of the old Boiler Building. You can see those posts at The space was assigned as the location of the brand new Music Recital Hall, which (thanks to a generous donation by the late alumna Ann Pitzer) will officially be called the Ann E. Pitzer Center. When complete, it will be a 399 seat concert venue (why 399? Definitely no room for 400? Bet there’s a bureaucracy reason, oh I love the bureaucracy. No, I actually do). It will also be a classroom space, which will have course schedulers gleefully rubbing their hands with their 400-capacity classes (ah, I see why it’s 399 seats now…). Anyway, I got back from Europe and saw that construction had finally begun, with the first concrete panels going up (top sketch). A week later (yesterday) the large concrete box was already sealed. I don’ know what the vertical lines around the edges signify, but they add a touch of interest into what currently looks like some sort of military installation. It won’t always look like that. Once the shiny glass and steel are added this will be one of the most attractive buildings on campus, and one of the first you see when you enter on Shields Avenue, in what will be known as the campus ‘Arts District’. Old Boiler Building

On the right, you can see how this spot used to look, in 2011. I miss the old Boiler Building, with its rusty pipes and sun-burnt tiles. You can find out more about the Pitzer Center here at Here is how it will eventually look (pictures from the Davis Enterprise). I’ll be sketching its progress, so watch this space…

some forever, not for better

former boiler building location
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.

that’s what i’m trying to tell you kid, it’s been totally blown away

boiler building 121112 one
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.
boiler building 121112 two

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!

bring it on down

boiler building, coming down

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.

will soon shake your windows and rattle your walls

boiler building (back)
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:
behind the boiler building
It was sunny today, too. I just didn’t show you the blue sky. It just didn’t seem appropriate.

one of our dinosaurs is missing

boiler building, under demolition
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.

walls come tumbling down

boiler building, under demolition
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.