I have been working and walking around this University now for over a month but this week something happened. The students returned from their summer vacations and began classes. But that is not really why I began this post in the first place, the idea for this began the first day I spent on the grounds. My roommate Adriana gave me a tour and took me for coffee at a little stand outside of an old church, the church (it turns out) is actually the architecture library and is renovated in an impressive fashion.
The University is not that old, maybe about 60. However, it is unique as it is independent of both the church and the state. They attracted impressive faculty who I assume win grants and money for studies, but I can’t help but think that the obviously wealthy student body doesn’t hurt. The president’s son studies chemical engineering here and you can notice his presence by the heightening of the already tight security. Everyone working or studying on campus has an id, which they use to pass through turnstile gates for entry. Also the perimeter is patrolled by private security including large dogs. In any case it’s a beautiful and interesting place to work and study.
Overall the design and location of the University is impressive. It sits at the foot of the mountains (or hills depending on your perspective, but coming from Atlanta they’re mountains) which border the city to the East. This creates a series different levels to the buildings and an uncountable number of steps as the campus climbs up the side of Mont Serrate. This produces a number of incredible views of the city and has also preserved a number of trees from the high Andean forest. The gym and track where I run sits almost alone another 300m up the mountain and reclaimed from a landfill. At first the layout can be a bit confusing but once you know the shortcuts the solitude of the buildings from one another is refreshing.
This week also marked the opening of another impressive, though not restored, building. This building is going to house their renowned engineering department. Though it’s style and location are a far cry from the creativity and historical preservation of the architecture library, it is an impressive building. I especially like the outdoor seating on the different terraces (shown in the picture). It’s not that the current engineering building is anything to scoff at, I walk through it everyday and am always impressed with the skylights above which bathe the halls and staircases (and also an area of grey rocks directly behind the urinals of the men’s bathroom that looks like a Japanese garden). I also enjoy the subtle wood touches on the work here. Popularly hailed for its use in steering wheels and interior detailing of cars, wood also makes wonderful doors and bridges.
Complete Set of Photos
University of Andes