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Northern Arizona University Flagstaff, AZ
mini location map2018-08-07
30 by photographer avatarroaminghiker
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Northern Arizona University Flagstaff, AZ 
Northern Arizona University Flagstaff, AZ
Hiking avatar Aug 07 2018
Hiking2.23 Miles 233 AEG
Hiking2.23 Miles   1 Hour   15 Mns   1.78 mph
233 ft AEG
1st trip
Linked none no linked trail guides
Partners none no partners
In planning our trip to hike the Grand Canyon (we had, amazingly, navigated the call-in reservation gauntlet and secured a cabin slot) we included a stop in Flagstaff, to hike and view the mountains around that city. We choose some moderate hikes, letting prudence keep us from say summiting one of the San Fransico Peaks before a full descent to Phantom Ranch and back.

We thus did Fatman’s Loop, part of the trip up Mount Elden, and Old Caves Crater. And, given our hotel sat next to the campus, we took an early morning tour/walk through Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff. Two plus miles, not long, since we were driving to the Grand Canyon after that.

The sunrise met us with a cool breeze, and the campus, being August, and fewer students, provided a calm surrounding. So we strolled through the pleasant and open campus grounds, at just a brisk enough pace to warm the legs.

And I took some interest in the architecture. Just as nature can delight the eye and enrich us with its beauty, so can architecture delight the eye and enrich us with its texture.

The architecture of the NAU campus does catch the eye. Almost every building offers some line, or color, or façade, or shape, or form, that generates interest and intrigue.

Take for example, The Wedge, an eating establishment. The building features a severe triangular shape, with a sharp pointed overhang in the roof, and a stark silver and glass façade. The Wedge shares the silver façade and sharp angles with Startbuck’s building, which includes its own flare in a walkway tunnel through the building.

Also, the Science and Health Building. This building features an eclectic U-shape, with a faceted glass façade to the interior court, a bronze metal, horizontally laced frontage to the exterior, and a dramatic nighttime lighting of the interior stairwell. Even the mechanical building proved interesting, as the building had large expanses of glass revealing the electrical, HVAC and other equipment inside, highlighted also with striking nighttime lighting.

So at each turn of our walk, each building provided a new twist, an added combination of features to entice the viewer.

But then, that constant uniqueness became a pattern. The menagerie of buildings exhibited a sort of audacious freedom, bordering on impudent anarchy. General themes existed, but each building in its design interpreted that theme differently, at times discordantly.

So angularity of exterior surfaces ran throughout the campus. But the Wedge exhibited this with a triangular shape and a pointed roof; and the Science and Health Building with its skewed stairwells, faceted cladding and eccentric shape. Diagonal roof lines adorned many buildings, but not all. Some garage stairwells, and the Science Lab Facility, featured angled arcs in their roof lines. And the Health and Learning Center possessed a generally straight roof line and right angle corners, but a metal clad façade with triangular and diamond shaped figures in alternating shades of brown and tan.

Red also ran through the campus. Thus many building featured brick exteriors, but others featured burgundy/red/brown in a metal cladding façade. The Marketing and Operations office used red blocks, not bricks, and the Communication building highlighted its window line with a red, modern adornment. Maybe by chance, but maybe not, sections of the piping visible through some glass facades features red.

On the surface then, the architectural mix here represents an almost blatant chaos. But a more considered perspective, in my eye, reveals a subtle cohesion. The campus serves as a University, not a corporation. Allowing freedom of perspective and interpretation in individual building design, but within a broad framework, fits the aims of a University – respectful diversity of opinion, expression, and exploration.

Further, the University has grown and continues to grow. Different designs, but again within a general architectural concept, give landmarks to the different decades of the University’s growth, and the differing building materials and theories during that growth.

Finally, the University sits among the diversity of the colors and rock strata of its surrounding geography. Sedona to the south, the San Fransico Peaks at its doorsteps, and the Grand Canyon to the north – we admire the variation. The angular and red themes of the architecture, and the variation in the execution of those themes, mimic that of the nature around the University.

Of interest, one key feature did achieve a high uniformity – bicycle racks. Everywhere. Not that the racks were the same – though they seemed to be – but that every building had one. And bicycle lanes. The sidewalks featured bike lanes as prominently as walking lanes. Also uniformly, solar recycle cans dotted the University in every location.

So, as I see it, NAU architecture offered flexibility where it benefited, and uniformity when it mattered.
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