Secret Spots on Campus
Our lovely UC Irvine campus is sprawled over roughly 1,500 acres of land, an expanse that is populated with over 200 buildings. Hidden among the landmarks we all know and love — the rolling hills of Aldrich Park, the slick architecture of the Student Center, the retro-looking Aldrich Hall — are intriguing little places of interest that are tucked away in all corners of campus. Here are a few to check out on your upcoming winter quarter wanderings.
1. The Marble People of the Science Library
First of all, the Science Library is itself an intriguing asset of UCI’s campus, with its curved perimeter and its twin glass frontal towers. Between these impressive towers the pavement dips into a shallow bowl of a courtyard which shows off the library’s sweeping, glass center. This is to say nothing about the interior, which is as aesthetically pleasing as crammed with useful resources.
Anyways, if you ever pull yourself away from the towering glass heart of the Science Library and exit the tunnel on the medical school side, you will be greeted with an unusual sight. From either end of the arrow straight path, you can see what appears to be a simple art installation of white blocks, cylinders and benches placed at even intervals among the carefully lined trees and sparse ground cover. As you walk down the path, it quickly becomes clear that these are more than just smooth white blocks. Squeezed between two slabs, a bald face peers out, its strangely empty eyes widened in a look of mild panic. This is just one of the dozen statues donated by artist Nancy Doran for this unique on-campus art installment.
Each of the 12 pieces features a unique claustrophobic position. Some fully-formed bodies peel their way from the crumbles of a cylinder; another small bald figure hugs his knees and cranes his squatty neck toward the sky; while some are disembodied heads sandwiched between thick slabs. All are carved from high-quality white marble and weigh more than half a ton each. The pieces originate from Pietrasanta, Italy and were donated by the artist Nancy Doran and her husband.
Doran is quoted as having said at the time of the 2005 installment that these statues represent “the human spirit emerging from the forces that seek to enslave us,” as is evidenced by the contorted figures featured here.
2. Jao Family Sculpture Garden
These pure white figures bring to mind another set of UCI’s most permanent residents. Just beyond the arch of the Humanities Bridge in Aldrich Park, stands the Jao Family Sculpture Garden. The four-statue garden was donated in 2005 by local real estate developer Frank Jao, who relocated the statues from a local Vietnamese cultural court in Little Saigon, Westminster.
At the edge of the garden stands the statue of poet Lai Bi, who lived during the “Golden Age” of Chinese poetry. Sometimes called the “Poet Immortal,” Lai was a bohemian wanderer who often secluded himself in the mountains, as is represented by the ring of smooth stones which surround him in the garden. Here, he stands with one hand astutely folded behind his back and the other raised pensively.
Next, half-hidden behind Winter Blooming Bergenia — which represents clouds stands — is the statue of the goddess Magu. In ancient Chinese philosophy, she was the goddess of longevity and is represented here as a beautiful young woman nodding her elegantly coiffed head toward a large bloom in her hand. At the forefront of the garden stands the statue of statesman Qu Yuan, who played an important role in ancient elite cultural tradition. Fittingly, he stands with his hands clasped and with a stoic expression and surrounded by coarse grass that is intended to look like flowing water.
Finally, the bearded statue of philosopher Lao Zi sits serenely, cross-legged in the far corner. The robe-clad statue is surrounded by Lily Turf and Pinkhead Smartweed that have been crossed to represent balance with nature.
3. McGaugh Rock Garden
If these on campus gems don’t satisfy your adventuring needs, you might consider taking a detour to visit the bio side of campus. Specifically, you might find the carefully groomed Zen-esque rock garden on the south side of McGaugh Hall. The swirly garden stands as a soft contrast to the towering aquamarine building with its conspicuous corrugated silver tubing and clean lines. You can try to follow the swirling dirt path among the rocks, but I warn that you might not get far (the path ends abruptly at a door-less wall at one point). Nonetheless, this is a fun, well designed addition to our textured campus.
4. Schneiderman Hall
On the west side of Aldrich Park, a narrow cement path curves among the low-growing bushes. The path appears to lead to a dead end, but, in fact, it leads to the lower entrance of Schneiderman Hall, a doozy of a lecture hall.
From the park, Schneiderman Hall can be reached via steep sets of stairs on either side of the hall, which drop into bunker-looking tunnels.
This tunnel feeling is perpetuated by the echoing hallways which lead to the actual lecture hall itself. This science hall was dedicated to Dr. Howard A Schneiderman in March of 2003. Schneiderman was the Dean of Biological Sciences at UCI from 1970 to 1979. The hall isn’t entirely exceptional, save for the fact that its 343 seats are placed at a ridiculously steep incline. By becoming a member of the Biological Sciences Partners Program after graduation, you can have a plaque placed on your very own seat in Schneiderman Hall, joining the ranks of several alumni, researchers and family in whose honor the plaques have been placed on the uppermost tiers of this steeping lecture hall.
Having had three separate courses in this hall, I can safely say that its steep nature induces a mild sense of vertigo and aggravates any fear of heights. Turning in my final from my seat in the far back left seats turned into a mountain hike. The crammed aisles and the steep ascent of the stairs eliminates any comfort of being safe from tumbling down the stairs. Also precarious are the stairs which rocket straight up and are uncomfortably close together. If you would prefer to exit the hall from the top (as I always did to avoid slipping down the slick stairs), you emerge next to the mysterious coiling pipes that emerge from the top of the stairs. This hall is incongruous from top to bottom but always makes for an interesting visit.
5. Myrmey’s Hallway
Another area which might pique your interest is the Student Center, specifically the hallway directly off The Hill side of Ring Road. This hallway features cozy stair-side seating, which is quirky and comfortable but slightly awkward when stair traffic gets busy. Also featured in this bright hallway, which opens to the Courtyard Lounge and the Computer Lab, is Myrmey, a giant taxidermy anteater for your viewing enjoyment.
This stuffed ’Eater is named Myrmey for his proper taxonomy of Myremeciohaga Tridacyla and is encased within sparkling glass. Myrmey arrived at UCI in the summer of 1988, and has henceforth been the only “real” representative of our mascot on campus. There is a lovely futon sitting just across the narrow hallway from Myrmey, so you can stop by and stare reflectively into the anteater’s glassy eyes for a while and maybe have a little chat about life at UCI.
Next time you pass through the Student Center, make sure to pay a visit to Myrmey, who looks more than a little lonely at times.