jeweled platypus


wednesday, december 05, 2007
Unlike the artificially coherent city of Santa Barbara

This is the De La Guerra dining commons at UCSB:

an interior shot of a cafeteria

I like it because it’s one of the only new-ish buildings on campus that has an exterior style like the older buildings on campus. The lower right corner of the picture shows a little bit of this sandy stone/concrete pattern that you find on some of the older buildings, like the library:

sunshine and eucalyptus trees

Those brown textured walls and lots of windows are what a friend pointed out to me as making up the UCSB style. Nerdy amazement! I used to be faintly annoyed by the mixed-up randomness of UCSB architecture, but when he said that obvious thing, I realized I could develop extensive naive theories about why I got faintly annoyed by the architecture. Anyway, this is the style I like for my Southern California beach campus because it helps the buildings live comfortably in their surroundings:

a geometric brown stone pattern

a guy walking near the lagoon

But a lot of the newer buildings on campus have been built in a bland neutral postmodern style with lots of orange and yellow and red, and it doesn’t look good in context:

looking at the university center and the lagoon

If you look closer at that one though, it references the older style:

the stone pattern at part of the ucen

I don’t know why the newest developments — the ones built in the past ten years and currently being built — forgot about all that in favor of pastel lameness:

the blocky modern entrance to another cafeteria

A good example of the difference between the styles is these pictures showing off the old and new Engineering buildings, on one of the department websites:

Engineering I, aka Harold Frank hall Engineering I, aka Harold Frank hall

Engineering II Engineering II

The old building has that nice sandy style with vegetation and visual variety; the new one is flat and boring with no local character.

The interiors of the old buildings aren’t so great though, with their own ugly orange stuff. That’s why I like the pretty De La Guerra dining commons so much. Also because of its unlimited cookies and horchata.

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monday, september 10, 2007
Getting sunburns while nerding out in Marin

Doug and I spent most of Labor Day exploring the Marin Headlands (aerial picture). I visited Rodeo Beach a long time ago and adored it because its sand consists of tiny colorful stones, but this time I skipped the beach and we headed to the military ruins.

Doug wandering around the concrete near the ocean.

One of the informative plaques said:

Battery O’Rorke

Construction of Battery O’Rorke was begun in 1902 and completed in 1905. The fortification was named for Patrick Henry O’Rorke, who had become a colonel at the age of 27. He was killed in action at the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863.

During both World Wars, this battery housed 4 guns with 3″ diameter rifled barrels. Each weapon could fire shells weighing 15 pounds a distance of almost 5 miles. These small guns were important because they could be loaded and fired more rapidly than larger weapons. They were located here to prevent enemy landings on Rodeo Beach.

Battery O’Rorke was abandoned and its guns scrapped in 1946.

There are a bunch of these concrete-and-iron fortifications hiding in the hills (including some neat bits like base end stations), which watched the quiet bay until they became obsolete. You can wander around most of these bunkers and peek inside the rusting doors and crumbling tunnels — plenty of adventure while knowing that anything actually dangerous has been fenced off, repaved, or sold for scrap metal. I like seeing how the iron is rusting and how the dusty old designers planned for the future.

The red and white buildings in the distance.

There are also a ton of old wooden fort buildings, beautiful and mostly empty. Some are being restored and retrofitted, some hold art centers and museums, and some are decaying and closed. I love the empty ones; they make me wonder why they were built, what they used to hold, who used to hang out there, and what I could use them for in some post-apocalyptic scenario where I am in charge of the world. Some of the structures have neat graffiti, too.

The roofless room of some old structure.

Update October 18, 2007: BLDGBLOG reminds me that The Rings of Saturn, one of my favorite books, expresses those thoughts much better than I could:

These abandoned weapons testing ranges, complete with odd concrete structures, Sebald writes, looked like “the tumuli in which the mighty and powerful were buried in prehistoric times with all their tools and utensils, silver and gold…the closer I came to these ruins, the more any notion of a mysterious isle of the dead receded, and the more I imagined myself amidst the remains of our own civilization after its extinction in some future catastrophe.”

For Sebald, “wandering about among heaps of scrap metal and defunct machinery, the beings who had once lived and worked here were an enigma, as was the purpose of the primitive contraptions and fittings inside these bunkers, the iron rails under the ceilings, the hooks on the still partially tiled walls, the showerheads the size of plates, the ramps and the soakaways.”

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I’m Britta Gustafson.

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