On America’s birthday, the Department of Energy’s National Lab system feels like quite a gift. The amount of innovation and discovery coming from the dramatic-yet-humble concrete structures is another reason to celebrate.
North Country temperatures abruptly rose from 20ºF to nearly 60ºF before suddenly dropping to -20ºF—all in under 36 hours. The result was rain that completely melted almost all snow, followed by freezing rain that deposited a layer of ice, followed by a new 12″ of snow to replace what came before.
In the midst of that chaos, I visited the Grasse River through the center of Canton to see it rising above its banks and jamming the shores with ice.
Berkeley Lab’s Advanced Light Source, a massive X-ray laser sourced from a building-sized particle accelerator, was undergoing upgrades while I visited. Construction in the area added an mundane veneer to the superscience happening inside.
The first “real” snowfalls of the winter have arrived in the North Country, and I can’t think of a better time to look back on the never-snow geometries of Berkeley. The architectural possibilities expand when structures will never have to bear the load of a late-winter storm and stairs will never have to be scraped free of ice and snow. I think the design is particularly well-expressed in the boxes-on-boxes-on-boxes design of this building. The best detail, to me, is the sunlight passing in one side and out the other of the corner window on the first floor.