jeweled platypus


sunday, october 18, 2009
The munitions bunkers of MCAS Santa Barbara

If you drive into UCSB along Mesa Road and you keep your eyes open, you can see this in the dry Goleta Slough between campus and the airport:

a bunker

I didn’t notice those structures until a few weeks ago when I started looking into the history of the building that houses the College of Creative Studies. Our building is one of a few remaining ones on campus from 1942, when the area was a Marine Corps Air Station that trained pilots for World War II. I posted the details I found about our building on the CCS Literature Collaborative blog (with aerial photos!).

During that process, I read the UCSB Long Range Development Plan’s Sensitivity Study for Potential Historical Resources (PDF) and saw a listing for building 802, a “Storage Bunker” that served as a “military ammunitions bunker” for the former Marine base. This is also mentioned in the UCSB Long Range Development Plan’s document about Hazards and Hazardous Materials (PDF): “Ammunition was discovered in a bunker behind the police station in 1988.”

I like local history and ruins, especially military ruins (it’s hard to overstate how much Doug and I enjoyed visiting the forts of the Marin Headlands and Treasure Island), and I started thinking about how to find this strange remnant. A few days later I noticed the structures in the photo above, and then I saw another bunker while walking along Los Carneros Road. They’re pretty well hidden — you can barely see them in the background of this photo — but Doug and I went to find them. Here’s a map.

We parked in the small lot by the police/fire station, and I was a little worried that we would get in trouble for poking around, but none of these small roads/trails had “no trespassing” signs (except the fence marking where the airport begins). Nobody was around on a Saturday afternoon except a couple of firefighters washing a fire truck. And before we even walked all the way to the bunker, we saw this surprise:

a fragment? a fragment?

It’s a tall concrete sculpture, but I don’t know what it means or why it’s there. I don’t think it used to be part of any other structure; the base is angled in a way that would probably make it unsuitable as a load-bearing column. There’s a small black plaque on one side, but I can’t make out what it says except the name “Ciabatton” and maybe the date “1968”. A monument or memorial of some kind? It’s close to the bunker visible from the road:

a bunker

Then Doug and I walked toward this one, which we barely saw among the brush:

a nasty bunker

If you look through the heavy fencing, you can see the number 803 and a faded sign that says “CAUTION: HAZARDOUS CHEMICAL WASTE”. Wow!

Back toward the police/fire station, here’s the bunker (802) that Facilities Management uses for storage:

active bunker

There’s also a fourth bunker, but it’s on airport territory and not accessible.

I asked some of my UCSB friends whether they’d seen these bunkers, and most hadn’t heard of them — or had seen something while visiting the police station (to contest tickets, etc.) but hadn’t wanted to get in trouble by looking more closely. It makes sense that the university doesn’t publicize this utility area or make it very friendly, but I’m glad these structures are still accessible to people who are fascinated by the area’s life as a Marine base. There’s a nearby Air Heritage Museum open a few hours a week (for information, scroll down on this museum list), and someday Doug and I are going to wake up early enough to go there. I’d like to ask them about the weird and lovely concrete monument.

This type of camouflaged munitions storage bunker, distanced from other structures, is common on military bases. I think they’re all beautiful.

Update: As of January 2011, the publicly-accessible bunkers have been torn down, along with the concrete “monument” (which was actually probably just a materials test for building Storke Tower).

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tuesday, october 13, 2009
Decorations for a “creative” place

Let’s say you have a drab college building or office (or whatever) that you’re allowed to modify, and let’s say you have money burning a hole in your pocket. Here are some things you might want, based on what friends and I have looked at or gathered for our college’s little building to make it a warmer place to learn and hang out:

papercraft ceiling cat star switchplate eye chart switchplate elephant mobile
geek clock bird decals world's largest crossword puzzle
decorative pillows world map
plastic algae create poster

  1. Papercraft ceiling cat (free) — print this out and stick it above some computers.
  2. La Estrella and eye chart light switch covers ($4.50 each) — there are a ton of tacky switchplates for sale online, but the right ones are amusing in otherwise boring rooms.
  3. Elephant Party mobile ($32) — so cute that you can pretend it’s not for babies.
  4. Geek clock ($25) — to be placed in a room only visited by people who won’t get frustrated by it, aka the Physics and Math study room.
  5. Blik “fly” stickers ($25 for smaller restickable ones or $35 for larger permanent ones) — it’s much cheaper to make your own stickers if you have access to the vinyl cutter in the Art department, but not everybody has a convenient Art department.
  6. The World’s Largest Crossword Puzzle ($30) — perfect to install in a common area as a looming presence that can never be finished.
  7. Cost Plus pillows ($10-20) — make the dingy couch look fancier.
  8. World map (free if you have one hanging around) — hang this upside-down (or get an upside-down map) to remind yourself that cardinal directions are arbitrary.
  9. Vitra Algue ($30-35 for a 6-pack) — these are good to tuck into corners of pipes running along walls, as if plants are growing out of them.
  10. Right Brain Terrain “alternative motivational poster” ($15) — cheesy but pretty.

Also, if you have photos of people who spend time in the building, get them printed (for a few dollars at Snapfish etc.) and put them on the refrigerator with eccentric magnets. Add a magnetic poetry set and find out what kinds of horrible phrases your friends come up with. On a bulletin board, pin postcards and magazine clippings among the flyers.

Fake flowers usually aren’t a very good idea.

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I’m Britta Gustafson.

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