Door knob: Desert Lab

The Desert Laboratory Buildings

Door knob: Desert Lab
Door knob: Desert Lab

The handful of stone buildings just off the road half way up the hill are what is left of the old Desert Lab. It was created in 1903 with funds from the Carnegie Foundation to answer the question, “How do desert plants survive with so little water?” And of course, once you have one question, an unlimited number of others come to mind. They wait in line, each taking their turn to be considered and worked on.

That’s still the kind of thinking the hill seems to encourage. Whenever I notice one thing, even a detail, it leads me to see more, and then more beyond that, even in places I have been many times, and think I know them well. There is always something I had never noticed before.

Desert Lab buildings: iPhone panorama
Desert Lab buildings: iPhone panorama of a transient lighting effect (click to enlarge)

The 100 year old buildings are still beautiful. They have been restored, but also have aged gracefully. The botanical garden? planted by desert scientists over the years has gotten a little out of control. In a good way.

A city landscaper would have a hard time resisting trimming things way back. But as it is, I think the combination of neglect and the natural inclination of plant growth has done the site good. The desert has grown up around the building and the nature and architecture make a harmonious composition. I always appreciate that whenever I wander around between the buildings.

Often I am the only person there and the solitude is part of this effect. It’s quiet as a monastery. The whole place seems to be in deep meditation. I started making a photo essay of the Desert Lab grounds, some of which I’ll present here.

Director's office from south side
Director's office windows? from south side
Windows from inside the director's office
The same windows? from inside the director's office
cardon_puddle
Shadow and reflection on Desert Lab patio
Organpipe on Desert Lab patio
Organpipe on Desert Lab patio
Chairs on desert lab patio
Chairs on desert lab patio
Inside the old greenhouse
Inside the old greenhouse
Sunset in the greenhouse
Sunset in the greenhouse
Greenhouse door
Greenhouse door

I really like that greenhouse.

3 thoughts on “The Desert Laboratory Buildings

  1. the entire sketchbook is mind blowing. I want to send it to everyone I know, both residents and potential visitors to tucson, so they see and understand this hill from paul’s eye.

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