Built in the mid-1960s, the Mesa Lab was designed by well-known architect I.M. Pei. In February, the UCAR/NCAR Archives obtained this site model of Pei’s final design of the lab, pictured here.
The model, which dates to sometime around 1962–64, measures 68 by 98 inches (173 by 249 cm). Divided into three sections, it shows not just the building itself but the entire mesa site, minus the Flatirons. The actual lab that stands today differs somewhat from the model, which called for a third tower on the south side of the mesa and a conference center east of the current parking lot.
Pei’s architectural historian made contact with UCAR two years ago to ask if UCAR would be interested in the model, which was being stored in a warehouse on Long Island at the time. Pei gifted the model to UCAR.
For UCAR archivist Diane Rabson, opening the shipment was an exciting moment. “We didn’t know what it looked like—we only heard that it was beautiful—so we didn’t know what to expect when we opened it,” she says. “It far exceeded our dreams. Usually architectural models are pretty fragile, but this one was definitely made to last.”
EO is currently working on a new exhibit featuring Pei and the designing and building of the Mesa Lab. The exhibit, which will showcase the model and possibly include original drawings and blueprints, will occupy the space outside the Damon Room. EO hopes to unveil the display by this coming autumn, according to exhibits manager Linda Carbone.