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The Campus of Wonders

By phil villarreal
Arizona Daily Wildcat
February 4, 1999
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Eric M. Jukelevics
Arizona Daily Wildcat

The Park Ave. Garage's strange glass elevator is one of the many examples of interesting architecture here at the UofA.

Ever hear about the legend of the vacated swimming pool? It's true. There's an empty pool in our own Student Union.

And then there's the creepy, Stonehenge-like structure that stands outside of the Architecture building, not to mention the dungeon at the bottom of Harvill and the waterfall inside McClelland building.

There are several pieces of architecture on campus which are, as they say, wack. It was high time to get to the bottom of it all.

A Catalyst reporter and photographer went on a journey last week in search of the UA's strangest buildings. A third was added to the party when a freshman named Bird started following us.

It was impossible to focus on every single flawed structure on campus. For brevity's sake, we left the dorms alone. But on every other corner of campus, a valiant effort was made.


They stand as a monument to, well, wooden planks.

Seven wooden planks stand in a line outside of the Architecture building. We stormed the building in order to get the whole story.

An elderly woman who identified herself as an Architecture professor said that Archi-Henge is actually a school project - its mastermind is senior Colin Seah. Its purpose is to reveal the effects that the elements have on exposed wood.

When we told her about the story, she disagreed with its premise. She said that there was no bizarre architecture on campus, but then we reminded her of Harvill."That's a good example, but probably the only one. And no, I won't tell you my name," she said. "I don't want to be associated with this thing."

The Dungeon

[Picture] The classrooms aren't numbered in any logical way at Harvill, but that's just keeping in step with the rest of the UA's classrooms. At least there's a sign to direct students. One such sign sported six arrows. Odd-numbered classrooms this way, even-numbered rooms thataway. Then there was an awkward, twisted arrow that started off to the right but then pointed down. That was the arrow pointing to the elevator.

"You have to go downstairs to get to the elevator?" Bird said.

Deep in the bowels of the Harvill building, there's a dungeon. The dungeon looks like a courtyard gone bad, and it's located just north of the building. The dungeon is flanked by a rock-solid 25-foot-high wall, which corrals the floor and connects to the building.

The floor is mostly dirt, but seven concrete flats form a strange pattern on the ground. A horizontal pillar of concrete hovers above the dungeon, acting as a bridge.

Upon closer inspection, Bird pointed out that there were several rollerblade-marks on top of the pillar. Some of those marks turn right off the side, indicating that some of those bladers never made it across the bridge.

Those poor guys. They fell right into the dungeon. Of all the places to break a leg.

Jungle, Labyrinth, and The Great Glass Elevator

[Picture] No discussion can begin about McClelland Hall, the UA's business college, without the jungle.

Also known as the Samuel Witt Courtyard, the jungle sports a waterfall and lush tropical vegetation, including bushes and palm trees. The waterfall is mounted on a metal frame, which is severely rusted. The water flows into a wishing well that's not a wishing well, in that no dimes, nickels, or even pennies lay at the bottom.

Business students must not make wishes. Either that or they don't have any money to go throwing into fountains.

Outside the building are lots of staircases. They go up, down, and all around; together they look like an M.C. Escher drawing. After spending upwards of 15 minutes walking around the labyrinth, we discovered two things:

1. That all of these staircases connect in some way.

2. That contrary to rumors, there is no minotaur in there.

The Park Avenue Garage, across the way, sports a Great Glass Elevator, just like the one from that Willy Wonka movie - and don't pretend that you don't remember.

The pristine structure looks out of place in such a dumpy parking garage, but it does add a bit of intrigue.

Sometimes Oompa-Loompas even come out of there carrying large machines covered by black tarp.

Luckily, we were there for such an occasion. Only this time, it wasn't a Loompa, but an attractive young lady with a large tarped item in tow.

"The elevator is pretty cool, I guess," said the lady, who identified herself as music masters student Camia Moore. "It gets my harp up and down."

Damn, a harp. Too bad it wasn't an Everlasting Gobstopper machine.



The poor Engineering Building. When it was erected - built singlehandedly by Jebediah Wildcat himself in 1792, to be precise - it was a technological marvel of its time. Had magazines existed back then, it might have been named the "Building of the Year."

Now, in the year 1999, magazines do exist, and this one is naming the Big E as "The Ugliest Building on Campus."

The building's most striking feature is its wooden wall. Near a wall on the building's south face, the brick gives way to rotten, decayed, particle board-like wood.

We went inside the building to get an explanation for this, and we found a man who could help us. He wouldn't give his name, but he said that he's an Economics professor and that he used to head the department. He told us that the wooden wall is part of a 12-year-old renovation project, and that the wood was there as a "temporary" fill-in until the hole in the wall would be filled.

Then he revealed to us the darker side of the building. He pointed out baseboards that had been eaten out by termites several years ago and classroom desks that looked like they had been pulled straight out of a Charlie Brown cartoon.

When told of the architecture professor's statement that all UA buildings were architecturally sound, he said, "That's a bunch of baloney."

Inside most UA buildings, there are signs that read "No smoking, please." In the Engineering building, there's a sign that says "ABSOLUTELY NO SMOKING."


Time machine

[Picture] The final leg of our journey brought us to the Memorial Student Union. We were set on finding the pool from way back in the day.

We found it all right, but not before walking through the basement and up two flights of forgotten stairs.

When we entered the pool area, it felt like we were transported back to the 1950's. Two cold-style changing houses sit on the far end. The wooden boards that once made up their composition are bent backwards.

Then we turned to see another relic from the past - several stacks of plastic Coca-Cola soft-drink containers.

It was almost sad to see stacks upon stacks of old the Coke carriers. It brought back memories of times of old, when Coke and R.C. were allowed on this campus, when a basketball player could wear a pair of Reeboks without having to face persecution.

As we left the building, we encountered the old ladies room. We saw that someone had pulled a prank. A clever hooligan had painted over the first, second, and last letters in "LADIES." The sign was now apropos to its location. Dead as Zed.

"That says 'die,' " said Bird, master of the obvious.

"That it does, my friend," I said to him. "That it does."