Jun 012005

(All photos for this are posted here)

On Friday of our Central Coast vacation we went to explore Poly Canyon. Poly Canyon is a nice outdoor area behind the California Polytechnic State University campus in San Luis Obispo. We walked up the side of a hill to check out the landscape. It was quite pretty, as the yucca were blooming. Have to watch for poison oak though, the stuff is everywhere.

Besides being a nice nature walk the canyon also holds a number of architectural projects from the school. These range in age from the late 60’s to just last year, and in scope from small tests to full dwellings. I had to check them all out. Above you can see the bridge at the start of the poly projects, a new tensile structure, and a deck-like cantilever structure that is about 20 years old.

Above is the standard geodesic dome, a fully functional washroom made with earth (earthcrete?), the underground house (which looks a hell of a lot like a 60’s idea of what a martian’s house would look like), and the stick house (which is starting to crumble).

What surprised me the most about the Poly Canyon projects was the scope of some of them. Above you can see the Bridge House. Peering in the windows one could see that it was fully furnished and operational at some point. Roaming partiers had done some damage to the inside and the building was now locked up. But it is still a great looking building – I’d live in it! I’m not sure what the gear on the roof is – weather station, network stuff?

Above is a cement pavilion, a strange tri-arch structure made with straw and mud, and a brand new (2004) observatory platform.

The second project that really amazed me was the shell house. Above you can see the front side of the house in the first photo, the edge of the house in the second, and the back of the house in the third. The house was designed and landscaped quite well. It looked great, even though time and partiers had taken a toll. The house has a rounded triangular roof that opens up the three ends of the house. Even though the roof covers the front and center of the house, the house has windows behind it. The design feels very private, but open and light at the same time.

The first photo is looking inside the house at the center, the second is looking along the center of the front of the house, and the third is looking down from the upstairs loft. The first photo shows the kitchen end of the center piece of the house, to the left is the living area of the center piece which had some built in shelves and seats. The other side of the center area was shelving units, a closet, and a full bathroom. At the back of the house I found a abstract shaped cement lattice that curled up above the center piece of the house. I couldn’t resist, so I climbed up it. To my amazement, the top was a loft – just enough space for a bed. I loved it, the house was so very different from a standard layout, but felt familiar. All the characteristics of a great design.

The first photo is the greenhouse, the second photo is the inside of the greenhouse through a glass block, and the third photo is the modular house. The greenhouse was an interesting building, the chimneys had scoops that swiveled in the wind. The modular house looked like another interesting project, but there was a sign up saying that it was a private residence now. Lucky!

I’m a bit of a architecture nerd, so it goes without saying that the whole thing is fascinating to me. But I think even the average person would also find it to be a really interesting place to explore. I highly recommend the $4 parking fee on campus to go for a walk and check it out.

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