Recently we went to Palo Alto to see a friend and her newborn who were, unfortunately and fortunately, at Stanford Hospital. Having spent a lot of time there as a young woman I had absolutely no desire to explore the area around the hospital, just escape it as quickly as possible back then. But whenever the discussion of Stanford University would come up with my photographer friends they would always be shocked and dismayed that I had never photographed this Ivy League College. So when the opportunity presented itself we decided to make a quick stop off at the college to see what the hullabaloo was all about. After our brief tour, trying to beat the setting sun, we now know we need to return and explore even more! Here is a tour of the bit we were able to see!
First off, I'd really hoped to be able to share with you Palo Alto and one of the great eateries we had found online. Especially a Cuban food place since we adore Cuban food. Not to be. We found out the hard way that most of Palo Alto, the downtown part, doesn't open up on Sundays till Noon.
So while you can see really beautiful architectural details, like the ones on this building in downtown Palo Alto, you just can't have a bite to eat at that great place next door...cause it's closed. I'm positive this isn't the case during the week but the whole idea of going to Stanford on a weekend was to catch it with a low volume of people. With our hospital visit ahead of us and the hopes of having enough time to see the University as well, we didn't have the time to wait for the good food to open up and had to be happy with fast food and the pretty details we could see on the outside of the buildings.While disappointed with our food choices we were anything but disappointed in the University. Suddenly I knew what the fuss was about and why other artists come here to explore this beauty.
With over 8 thousand acres and 700 major buildings we knew we'd only have time for a small slice before the sun set on us and we ran out of light. But the details took my breath away. Built in 1885 and opened in 1891, this place is just so architecturally beautiful that you can easily get lost in the details like the sandstone urns.
I have a thing for lamps, lampposts, lights, lighting fixtures...and the more ornate the better. Here at Stanford there are so many different styles of illumination that I would have been happy just photographing them!
Stanford is famous for it's columned walkways. On a Sunday afternoon when the area is nearly deserted, it's easy to get swept away by the romance of them.
These are a staple of the University adding style and grace to the main buildings of the seven schools of the college. When you enter from the front of the school the hallways make a large H configuration with two middle braces. It was this "cube" style that we toured while there.
One of our favorite details were the hearts, of different styles, that were carved into the columns. Serious romance.
But the beautiful details didn't stop at the arched hallways. The main entrances were ornate in their own right.Looking back towards the entry way from the Church courtyard you can see The Burghers of Calais sculpture installment. This is not the only art you will see on campus. Besides pieces like this all over campus there is also an actual art center. The Cantor Arts Center features a Rodin Sculpture Garden.
You also get a very pretty view of the Hoover Tower from the church courtyard. You can go up into the tower for a small fee and have a stunning view of the area from there.
Stanford Memorial Church was our main goal of the day. We just wanted to be able to see inside of it before it closed for the day at 3:30pm. We made it just in time.
Opened in 1903, Stanford Memorial Church was built by Jane Stanford as a memorial to her husband Leland. If you want to have a very interesting read, go do a little research on Leland Stanford. Once our Governor as well as a Senator, he had history with the railroads as well as being part of the "Big Four" who helped shaped this part of the US.
As you can see, the stained glass is truly lovely. Having toured European churches, chapels and cathedrals, I have often been disappointed in Californian churches. They tend to lack the ornate details of their European counterparts.
Perhaps because of who designed it, or that it is over a hundred years old, but Stanford Memorial has all the details and more of those in Europe.
With massive front door and deeply carved archways, the romance of the University is turned up about 40 notches.
I'm tempted to make a trip back and stay till sundown just so I can see how this gorgeous lamp, which hangs in front of the main entrance to the church, looks like when it's all lit up!
The side doors, we entered by the left hand set while the right hand set stayed closed, were as ornate as the rest of the church. This is the only way I'd have glass front doors...if they were completely covered in gorgeous filigree ironwork!
I love the shiny nose on this little cherub. Like hundreds of hands have pressed there to enter, or maybe just rubbed it shiny trying to get a bit of luck or spiritual peace.
Entering the chapel brings you to another style of lamp. For some reason these remind me of Morocco. Maybe it's the shape or the gold and blue color of them but I find them irresistable.
Stained glass is the other beautiful view you have the moment you enter the church. Several panes of leaded glass can be found lining the walls of this chapel.
At mid day this dome light can illuminate the entire church. At the end of the day the effect was more of a soft golden glow.
There was a string quartet playing when we visited but only a small handful of people while we were there. Since it was very close to closing time I can't tell you if this is a normal state or due to our circumstances.
I always prefer to photograph an empty, or nearly empty, church for two reasons. The first is that people find it odd that you'd photograph them and the second is that I feel like I'm intruding in their time of faith worship. When the area is clear of people then I feel much less like an intruder.
Little reminders of where you are at are everywhere to be found. You just have to look for them. What struck me first about this wall decoration was not the "S" in the middle but the mosaic trim. Such a beautiful color detail.
You can be married here if you have some affiliation with the University. The rates for such a grand venue are amazingly affordable. You can even renew your vows here, for an even more affordable rate, if you have been married for more than 20 years. You do not need to be Catholic but that is an option as well. I can just imagine a wedding here. It would be breathtaking.
As you turn to leave the church, make sure to look up. I've found that people often forget to look up when they visit some place, even in their daily life, and they miss quite a bit. In this case, if you didn't look up, you'd miss the amazing pipe organ located above the front entrance of the church. So beautiful!While you are looking up, take a look at the lamps in the area between the front door and the inner church doors. The gold and blue color palette continues but in a new form.
Looking down is important too! On the way into the church I didn't notice these tiles because I was looking up at the lamps. But on the way out I saw them and asked a student what the numbers meant. She told me that each graduating class places a time capsule down into the walkway. At 100 years they dig up the time capsule and see what is inside. So, since 1992 each graduating class has both dug up and burried a time capsule. Seriously cool!
From the church we decided to go right. There are arches on each side of the square courtyard but this direction seemed to be more interesting to us.
Even those arches that appeared to be "plain" were not. We love the "checkerboard" look to the trim of this entryway.
We walked down to the Lasuen Mall in front of the Bing Wing where the Cecil H Green Library is housed. There is a fountain in front, dry due our drought perhaps, that honors those who supported the University the first 100 years. Another beautiful view.
One of the things I love about this place is how many open areas they have for just sitting and enjoying the area. Not only are there lots of steps, courtyards, fountain edges but there is also plenty of benches located around campus so if you want to study, do homework, have a bite to eat or just enjoy the scenery you can do so in comfort. Since most of the undergraduates that attend Stanford also live on campus this is a serious perk!
Unfortunately we were on campus at a time when the Art Gallery was getting ready for a new installation. Otherwise you can go see local art for free! It's a must stop the next time we visit.
So I had to be happy with the outside of the building...and look at all of this detail! The craftsmanship that went into this architecture is impressive!
Each "school" has it's own building and label. And quite the ornate label it is. History Corner is part of the Wallenburg Hall.
The two statues on the front of the building are of Johann Gutenburg and Benjamin Franklin. These are finely crafted replicas that were recently placed in 2013. The original marble statues disappeared from campus several decades ago when Stanford Law School was being renovated (they occupied this Hall at that time) and it was suspected that the original statues were damaged in the construction. In 2007 the school contracted sculptor Oleg Lobykin, who had already done work for the University replacing the sandstone urns, to create the replicas. All restoration was done in the original fashion so Lobykin had to carve these marble statues just like they were carved originally by Antonio Frilli.
As you can see, the light was getting quite dim by this part of the day calling a regretful end to our explorations. As we walked back to our car we admired the groves of trees, that are in wonderful pockets all over campus, and made our plans to return again with more time to discover more of this amazing place.
So if you get the chance when you find yourself in the area make some time to see Stanford University...even if it's just the Main Quad like we did. You won't regret it!
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