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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Wander campus for the most scenic secret hideouts

    Gordon Bates / Arizona Daily Wildcat

8th floor Meinel Building
    Gordon Bates
    Gordon Bates / Arizona Daily Wildcat 8th floor Meinel Building

    Nearly 30 hours of searching, inquiring and possibly some trespassing have led to this — a compilation of some of the most beautiful yet least-known places on campus where you can relax, eat, study or just enjoy the ambience. I have been threatened with death to keep some places I unearthed a secret, been bribed to not blow the lid off of some of these joints. But these spots are by no means universal in their anonymity; many of you walk past them everyday. However, I would encourage you to slow down and enjoy the breath-taking splendor that this campus has hidden just off the beaten path.

    10. Break balconies at the Medical Research building

    North of Speedway Boulevard, off of Cherry Avenue, is possibly the most intriguing architectural marvel on campus. However, the large white awning that stretches out from the Medical Research building is not the most recognizable feature of the building. The balconies on every upper floor, which sport some nifty lime-green chairs, represent the real magnificence here. With picturesque views to the west and a great assortment of break room necessities just inside, it is easy to see why so many in the medical field take their lunch breaks out on these balconies.

    9. Vine arches at the Forbes building

    Many of you bike past these arches without a second thought or sideways glance. Three brick arches lead in the back way towards the Forbes building courtyard, but you’d be hard-pressed to see any brick without closer inspection. Two baby palm trees mark the entrance and highlight the often underappreciated landscaping that the campus employs. Take a second to sit on the benches by the opening of the arches and watch life slow down before your eyes as bikers whiz by and the shadows creep across the pavement. The vine arches at the Forbes building are an excellent example of beauty hidden under the common red brick all over our campus.

    8. Second floor benches at Old Main

    An incredible amount of traffic perambulates around Old Main on a daily basis. Take a moment and walk up the steps to the second floor balcony — situated on the single oldest building on campus — that circles the building and find an assortment of benches, the best of which is on the southeast side and faces the UA Mall. Take a seat, preferably right before class gets out around lunchtime, and watch the masses from a higher perspective. It almost seems that you transcend the moment, watching from above, as people flow like water down the streets from building to building. Looking down the Mall at the palm trees that line the sides and the grass extending off into the distance, it is hard not to let go of all that has been troublesome or worrying in your life. If you’re having a rough day, sit down and watch your cares blow away like the teeming masses of people streaming in all directions.

    7. El Portal balcony

    This is the spot that started it all, that sparked my interest and paved the way for my exploration of the entire campus. Passing by Highland Market or coming out of the gym, there is a balcony on the northwest corner of Highland Avenue and Sixth Street that seems more like decoration than for actual use. For those willing to explore, this might be the most inaccessible place out of the 10. Enter El Portal from the Highland courtyard and take the stairs that run along the windows on the left up to the third floor. Here you will find a bevy of cubicles and people who will generally ignore you if you look like you’ve been there before. Hang a left when you get to the top of the stairs and take another left down a hallway that leads to a conference room. Now if a conference is taking place you’re out of luck; if not, make your way to the far end of the room and unlock the glass door. Walk out onto the geometrically designed balcony and behold! You are now in a curious little nook that has been so little traveled I doubt even UA President Robert Shelton knows where it is. Take in the views over the intersection and students braving Sixth Street traffic to jaywalk, or be fascinated with the construction workers toiling across Highland building the new dorm. Either way, you are standing in one of the university’s best-kept secrets.

    6. Orange tunnel

    Between Gila and Maricopa residence halls is a pathway that proves as foreboding at night as it does enticing in the day. The grove of orange trees amidst the dorms makes a perfect tunnel on your way from Third Street to Second Street or vice versa. Though it is an extremely well-traveled place, many students who don’t live in nearby dorms or who rarely walk on the north side of campus don’t know about the tree grove that looks like something out of Narnia. Take a second to lock up your bike on the surrounding bike racks as an excuse to stand and relish in the shade of the orange trees, or simply make the trip through the tunnel part of your daily routine.

    5. Helen S. Schaefer building

    Home to the UA’s Poetry Center, this building is a wealth of architectural fortitude, quietness and, of course, poetry. Just north of Speedway Boulevard at the southeast corner of Helen Street and Vine Avenue, the Poetry Center is the quintessential, architectural wonder at the UA. Featuring huge sweeping windows, dynamic walls and breathtaking architecture, the Poetry Center is a great example of money spent for the right reasons here at the UA. Housing over 70,000 items of poetic merit, this building is a veritable gold mine of ingenuity. Make sure you step out the back door into the garden and look up at the seemingly innocuous set of holes in the wall, which form a set of letters in binary code. The poem is by Richard Shelton and is set in the stone, reading: “”If I stay here long enough I will learn the art of silence.”” Enough said.

    4. Herring Hall

    Tucked away next to the Forbes building and the Yavapai Residence Hall is a seemingly small and ignorable structure with white columns running up the front. . Walk inside Herring Hall — the second oldest building still standing on campus — and find yourself standing on a hardwood basketball court. More curious still, is that there is a key painted on the floor and a hoop that seems a little too high and out of the way, perched on a second-floor balcony. Stranger still are the tables standing out with microscopes, right on the gym floor. Look up at the ceiling, and it’s hard to imagine the hall as being this big when you initially approach from the outside. You are now standing in the first basketball gym for the UA, which was used prominently in the early 1900s before Bear Down Gymnasium was built. Its transformation over the years from gym to radio station and now to a plant storage facility is quite interesting; and if you’re lucky enough, Phil Jenkins, the curator of Herring Hall, might show you around.

    3. Bridge from Old Chemistry to Chemistry building

    Take the northeast stairs in the Chemistry building up to the third floor and hang a left. Down a quick set of stairs you will find yourself on a bridge back to Old Chemistry. Take a seat in one of the four study chairs, and you will understand what the meaning of ergonomic is. The chairs are luscious, and the best part is that they have wheels. So as annoying as you might be, take a second to wheel yourself back and forth across the bridge in comfort; it feels great. Stay long enough and you’ll witness grad students hustling back and forth with supplies and necessities to conduct experiments. While you’re at it, check out the history of chemistry at the UA displayed on the east wall, represented by a timeline on several panels. Take close note of the 1990s panel: at the bottom there is a picture of graduate students at a Halloween party. However, in the caption Halloween is spelled “”Haloween.”” Oops!

    2. Ninth floor study area at the Gould-Simpson building

    Outside of the geosciences community, little is known about the Gould-Simpson building besides the fact that it is the largest building at the UA. Unless you count the Arizona Stadium press box, no building stands taller on campus. While it doesn’t quite rival the views from, say, the Empire State Building, it still offers up some breathtaking vistas. Take a trip up the northeast elevator to the ninth floor. Exiting the elevator will leave you in-awe immediately, as a small area with couches sits next to a window that looks off across the university to the north. Take a left, and the area opens up into a two-story room with tables and chairs that overlooks all of campus to the north and the Santa Catalina Mountains through 30-foot-tall windows. I can’t imagine it would be easy to study up there when you look up and realize you’re hundreds of feet off the ground. Utter silence is the name of the game up here while people study. . So step into the Gould-Simpson way of life, and you’ll see why the geosciences majors have kept this place under wraps.

    1. The entire Meinal Optical Sciences building

    You’ve all done a double take at the crazy-looking siding protruding from the southeast corner of University Boulevard and Cherry Avenue — and probably mused at what exactly was in that glass basement. Now take a step inside. The west section of the Meinal Optical Sciences building is an architectural marvel, a feat in aesthetics as well as functionality. Start by making your way to the glass-covered section in the middle of the building’s two sections. Once inside, head west and around a couple corners to the far-west stairwell. This stairwell is by far the coolest on campus, with a graduated curve sloping outward and up towards a skylight at the top. Every flight has lighting underneath for the stair below, and the walls are textured in a way that gives off an interesting glow in the light. Take a moment and look off the side of the stairwell, up toward the top of the building to keep yourself from getting lost in reverse vertigo. Burn some calories, step up to the eighth floor and exit to your right. The area opens up into an outside break area and an inside study area. Both overlook the mall and campus to the north. When sitting in the open-air room, notice the Big Ass Fan overhead, and yes I did capitalize that for a reason. The Big Ass Fan is an actual product as so aptly described by a placard on the south wall. Don’t think that it doesn’t deliver, either. The Big Ass Fan is quite the wind-maker, and it seems probable that it has blown away a lunch or two in its day. As amusing as the outdoor break room is, the inside study room is even more serene. Once again, the overwhelming views make it silly to study rather than to just stare off at the clouds scurrying by the mountains to the north. Travel down to the seventh floor and check out the conference room, in particular the skylight above and the awesome door leading in. Now drop back down to the fourth floor and take the open stairs to the glass bottom of the building. Stand directly in back of the large crystal on display and watch a flower appear out of nowhere, all the way around the display and try to find how such a small etch can be reflected into a flower on the other side. This doesn’t even begin to explain all the subtleties of architecture and brilliance the building has to behold but rather just glosses over the striking beauty of the best-kept secret on campus.

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