Launch Slideshow

Esto Gallery: I.M. Pei’s NCAR at Boulder

Esto Gallery: I.M. Pei’s NCAR at Boulder

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    © Ezra Stoller | Esto

    National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Co., by I.M. Pei.

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    The 214,500-square-foot center’s mass is formed by two clusters of towers.

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    The 243,000-gross-square-foot center includes 30,000 square feet of terraces and outdoor spaces.

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    As I.M. Pei said in Paul Heyer's American Architecture: Ideas and Ideologies in the Late Twentieth Century, "You just cannot compete with the scale of the Rockies. So we tried to make a building that was without the conventional scale you get from recognizable floor heights—as in those monolithic structures that still survive from the cliff-dwelling Indians."

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    An outdoor terrace connecting the masses of NCAR, with the Rocky Mountains in the background.

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    An entry into the research center.

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    A view from one cluster of towers toward the other.

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    NCAR contains 69,000 square feet of office and laboratory space on seven levels.

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    NCAR sits at the foot of the Flatiron formation of the Rocky Mountains.

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    Concrete walls mixed with local sandstone aggregate were bush-hammered to help them blend with their mountainous surroundings.

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    NCAR also houses a 10,000-square-foot library within its walls.

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    Sited atop the Walter Orr Roberts Mesa, named after the first director of NCAR, the Mesa Laboratory offers specatular views of the mountains above, and the city of Boulder below.

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    One of the famed Flatirons (at left) is echoed in the angular, elemantal forms of NCAR.

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    NCAR is set atop a 28-acre mesa with crow’s nest views across a 530-acre public preserve.

Some folks at the 2013 AIA Convention in Denver, which wrapped up this weekend, were lucky enough to tour the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), which was designed by I.M. Pei, FAIA, and completed in 1967. But for those who missed it, ARCHITECT has a look back at this local landmark. Documented by Ezra Stoller, founder of Esto Photography, NCAR—the 1997 winner of AIA Colorado’s 25 Year Award—blends into its surroundings with vertical concrete forms composed of local sandstone aggregate set against a backdrop of the Flatirons portion of the Rocky Mountains. After winding up a mile-long driveway that was designed to preserve the site’s natural features, visitors arrive at the Walter Orr Roberts Mesa, named after the first director of NCAR. The 214,500-square-foot center’s mass is formed by two clusters of towers, linked by underground basements, set atop a 28-acre mesa with crow’s nest views across the 530-acre public preserve within which it resides. Within the center, research laboratories for up to 500 scientists ring a central core of shared facilities.

To see more of Esto's collection online, please visit Esto.com, or visit ARCHITECT’s collection of Esto Galleries.