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1997-28 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: October 2, 1997

NCAR Mesa Laboratory Recognized for Outstanding, Enduring Design

Contact: David Hosansky
UCAR Communications
P.O. Box 3000
Boulder, CO 80307-3000
Telephone: (303) 497-8611
Fax: (303) 497-8610
E-mail: hosansky@ucar.edu

October 2, 1997
BOULDER--The National Center for Atmospheric Research's Mesa Laboratory, a Boulder landmark designed by I.M. Pei, has won the 1997 AIA Colorado 25-Year Award. AIA Colorado, a chapter of The American Institute of Architects, created the award in 1994 "to recognize a Colorado project completed 25-35 years ago that has withstood the test of time and still functions in its original capacity." The award will be presented October 18 during AIA Colorado's annual Design Conference, to be held this year on the grounds of Denver's former Stapleton Airport. NCAR's primary sponsor, the National Science Foundation, provided construction funds for the Mesa Lab, which was completed in 1966.

The lab's poured-concrete towers, tinted by native red sandstone to blend with their dramatic mountain backdrop, rise above southwest Boulder from their mesatop site. Architect Pei, who went on to design the East Wing of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., and the Pyramid at the Louvre Museum in Paris, among other projects, was inspired by the Anasazi cliff dwellings of Mesa Verde. "Their buildings are always comfortable with the land itself," says Pei, who echoed the Anasazi's elemental, geometric forms in the NCAR design.

"When I first saw the NCAR site, I was so excited," Pei recalls. "All my work to that point had been in cities. Then suddenly I was offered the opportunity to create something in this spectacular setting."

Two AIA Colorado chapters, Denver and Colorado North, independently nominated the Mesa Lab for the 25-year award. Stephen Loos, incoming Colorado North president, looks to award winners as "exemplars of what we ought to strive for in every project." The three previous recipients are the Engineering Center at the University of Colorado at Boulder (1994), the Hyperbolic Paraboloid at Denver's Zeckendorf Plaza (1995; another Pei creation, since torn down for the Adams Mark Hotel addition), and the Boettcher Memorial Center at the Denver Botanic Gardens (1996).

Free, guided noontime tours of the Mesa Lab are available on a drop-in basis each Wednesday during the fall, winter, and spring, and daily during summer. The hour-long tours include exhibits illustrating lightning, tornadoes, and other atmospheric phenomena, as well as a look at NCAR's supercomputers. Two art galleries offer changing displays, and the library and cafeteria are open to the public on weekdays. The building's hours are 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. on weekends and holidays. Adjacent to the lab is the Walter Orr Roberts Weather Trail, the only handicapped-accessible nature trail in Boulder. The half-mile trail features 11 signs, each focusing on a single weather-related phenomenon that may be observed--or whose effects may be evident--from points along the way. For tour information, call 303-497-1174.

NCAR is managed by the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research under sponsorship by the National Science Foundation.

NOTE TO EDITORS: Photos of the Mesa Lab and environs may be obtained by contacting Nita Razo, NCAR Visual Communications, 303-497-8606; razo@ucar.edu. Preview photos in NCAR's Digital Media Catalog .

Digital Media Catalog Catalog Photo No. 973
NCAR's Mesa Laboratory has won the AIA Colorado 25-Year Award.


DMC Photo No. 913
Boulder's Flatirons form the backdrop for the NCAR Mesa Laboratory.


DMC Catalog Photo No. 972
The geometric forms of NCAR's Mesa Lab echo the cliff dwellings of Mesa Verde.

-The End-

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telephone 303-497-8601 or by email butterwo@ucar.edu

Writer: Zhenya Gallon


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The National Center for Atmospheric Research and UCAR Office of Programs are operated by UCAR under the sponsorship of the National Science Foundation and other agencies. Opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect the views of any of UCARs sponsors. UCAR is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action employer.