OSU Geotour Supplemental V: A Spring in Your Steps


Our tour of Oregon State University geology continues apace. We’re just going to make a really quick dash in at

Stop 12: Memorial Union Main Entrance

and – holy fucking travertine, Batman! Maybe not so quick, then.

Travertine staircase. I can't even tell you how beautiful this is - fuck marble. This is light and airy and seems to float - so much stone has never seemed like a cloud before.

Travertine staircase. I can’t even tell you how beautiful this is – fuck marble. This is light and airy and seems to float – so much stone has never seemed like a cloud before.

The dark streaks - impurities - keep it from being overhwelmingly white. And it gives an almost wood-grain effect. It's hard to describe what it's like to walk in to a place and be surrounded by this very straight, stately stuff that looks somberly substantial, and yet seems you could blow gently and make it dissipate like mist. It's no wonder the builders went with it, even though it turns out travertine is a wretched choice for stairs - tends to wear down too quickly. These steps had to be planed down and refinished when they got dangerously bowed in the middle.

The dark streaks – impurities – keep it from being overhwelmingly white. And it gives an almost wood-grain effect. It’s hard to describe what it’s like to walk in to a place and be surrounded by this very straight, stately stuff that looks somberly substantial, and yet seems you could blow gently and make it dissipate like mist. It’s no wonder the builders went with it, even though it turns out travertine is a wretched choice for stairs – tends to wear down too quickly. These steps had to be planed down and refinished when they got dangerously bowed in the middle.

Note the sign over the door on the right: “Pangea Cafe.” Oh, yeah, someone knows their geology – or are unbelievably crunchy and versed in ancient Greek. Either one is possible at OSU.

It is with reluctance that we tear ourselves away from this vision in travertine, this contemplation of feet upon the stairs, and head toward our next destination. We cannot help but turn our heads back wistfully one last time.

Facade of Memorial Union, as seen en route to the Women's Building.

Facade of Memorial Union, as seen en route to the Women’s Building.

Soon, though, we will forget all about travertine.

Stop 13: Women’s Building

So in the 1920s, when OSU built a Women’s Building, they went all-out. It’s like John V. Bennes sat down to plan this thing and asked himself how much exotic stone he could stuff into one building. Also, this was in an era when an inscription wasn’t an inscription unless it was faux Roman.

That's Women's Bvilding to you, plebe.

That’s Women’s Bvilding to you, plebe.

I don’t think this blazing red (akai) monument was part of the original design, but it certainly catches the eye. It looks like granite that’s been swimming in a vat of carminic acid.

Scarlet granite monument outside the Women's Bvilding. It appears to be an actual granite - at least, an early 20th century geologic map of Africa talks about red granite in the Bushveld, so, y'know, mebbe it really is granite. But I don't know why it is so very, very red.

Scarlet granite monument outside the Women’s Bvilding. It appears to be an actual granite – at least, an early 20th century geologic map of Africa talks about red granite in the Bushveld, so, y’know, mebbe it really is granite. But I don’t know why it is so very, very red.

I mean, this shit's red, people. Blazing red.

I mean, this shit’s red, people. Blazing red.

I've never seen granite that red before, and I'm now dying of curiosity. What would make it blaze crimson like that?

I’ve never seen granite that red before, and I’m now dying of curiosity. What would make it blaze crimson like that?

But don’t get too caught up in the very red granite. Get inside – there’s another red delight awaiting you, and this one’s gonna make you scream with delight.

This is the main attraction, folks: the Rosso Ammonitico. This is limestone, yeah. Limestone made of ammonites. Recognizable ammonites. I'm so going back to this building when the light's better and going wild. I've got some very nice photos, mind - my camera is an excellent sport in low light - but I'm saving them for another time. I plan to do a whole entire post on the Rosso Ammonitico, because it is fascinating. Consider this a teaser.

This is the main attraction, folks: the Rosso Ammonitico. This is limestone, yeah. Limestone made of ammonites. Recognizable ammonites. I’m so going back to this building when the light’s better and going wild. I’ve got some very nice photos, mind – my camera is an excellent sport in low light – but I’m saving them for another time. I plan to do a whole entire post on the Rosso Ammonitico, because it is fascinating. Consider this a teaser.

It's kind of anticlimatic, but there are also quite nice marble tiles. See? Marble? Anyone? Is anyone looking at the marble, or are they all about the ammonites? Sigh. Poor marble.

It’s kind of anticlimatic, but there are also quite nice marble tiles. See? Marble? Anyone? Is anyone looking at the marble, or are they all about the ammonites? Sigh. Poor marble. Just can’t compete.

A view of the foyer, looking out. The rich Rosso Ammonitico, the checkerboard marble, the wood accents, elegant lighting - luscious. I could happily live in that building for the rest of my life.

A view of the foyer, looking out. The rich Rosso Ammonitico, the checkerboard marble, the wood accents, elegant lighting – luscious. I could happily live in that building for the rest of my life.

We’re nearly at the end now. When you see what Wilkinson Hall has on display, you’re going to start gibbering incoherently. Stock up on absorbent towels and prepare to drool copiously.

 

Back to Phase IV or Ahead to Phase 6

Comments

  1. rq says

    I was all blase about the travertine and even the red, red granite, but I believe I gasped audibly when I saw the ammonite. (Ok, and maybe I wasn’t all THAT blase about the staircase… Or the red granite. Fantastic colour, that.)

  2. Lyle says

    The red granitic material looks like the town mountain granite of Enchanted Rock, Tx all be it it may indeed redder than the town mountain granite, which is called pink granite in some descriptions.

  3. says

    I had to look up travertine in the Wikipedia; beautiful stone. The article has a great picture of what looks like a Roman-era mortuary temple that once stood near the hotsprings at Hierapolis in Turkey, now almost buried in the stone. If you would be interested in making that lovely picture of staircase public domain, I think the Wikipedia could use an example of travertine used in architecture.

    As for the red granite, I believe that is the color referred to as “ruby red granite.” As best as I can tell by looking through online catalogs from suppliers, it comes from India.

    I’ve seen stone facades made with fossil limestone before. Incredibly gorgeous, and the sort of wall you can stare at for hours.

  4. F says

    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/0b/Square_and_compasses3.JPG

    The red granite looks very much like this monument in Anglesey. (Although this doesn’t look anything like the local Coedana granite from anything I’ve seen so far, which is greenish.)

    I have seen very red granite before, and can find some other examples via search, but none that look quite like this stone.
    http://www.google.com/search?q=very+red+granite+-redgranite
    This bit is insanely red, but I don’t quite trust photographs to be particularly accurate – how they appear depends on far too many factors. http://www.stonecontact.com/stone-Guyana-Red-Granite.htm Then again, I don’t trust non-geological uses of words like ‘granite’ or ‘marble’ (pfft, most “marble” isn’t marble at all).

  5. Tethys says

    I have lurked through the whole enjoyable series, but feel moved to comment about that red granite. It seems to contain very little of the black bits (biotite?) normally found in granite.

    It looks very similar to the Keeweewanean rhyolite which is found in MN, WI, and MI.

    It is red due to iron, multiple bakings, and because its really old. All of the possible sources that have been listed so far are precambrian in age.