Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Gothic architecture is dominant,
striking, plentiful at Duke University

I think that, subconsciously, I put my visit to Duke University last on my "tour" of the big four Atlantic Coast Conference universities in North Carolina. Why? Possibly because of the aura surrounding Duke's deep tradition as a major college basketball power, and I wanted proper time to prepare for stepping foot in Durham.

I didn't make it to the football and basketball facilities on my trip to North Carolina State (see previous post), so I made a mental note not to do the same when I arrived at Duke on Thursday, April 21.

My photographic tour of Duke's campus started at the iconic chapel, an imposing 210-foot edifice built from 1930-32 at the center of campus. Oddly, though the chapel is at the heart of campus, it's part of what is referred to as West campus. Thanks in part to my quest to get to Duke's basketball (Cameron Indoor Stadium) and football (Wallace Wade Stadium) facilities, and because I had to dance around construction obstacles at Wade Stadium in the process of doing so, I never made it to Central or East campuses, or the university's expansive medical complex.

Bad luck stung me at the onset of my self-guided tour. The chapel was undergoing a yearlong restoration ... and I learned that it would not reopen until today (May 11). Sadly, I missed getting unobstructed shots and access to the inside by less than a month. Even worse, the construction crew had yellow caution tape around the main entrance, so all of my front shots of the building would be marred by that and construction crews working there.

Disappointed, I concentrated on the best shots I could compose and tried to find interesting detail in the building's stone exterior. The photo leading off the post, for example, shows the chapel's back side. After that, I moved to the quads flanking the Chapel Drive oval, where building after building of Gothic architecture designed by African-American architect Julian Abele present themselves as a sight to behold. The northeast wing of the quad features academic buildings and the Bostock Library; the southwest wing is stacked with student housing (including, I think, fraternities and sororities).

On the lawn of the northeast wing, just off the oval, there were a dozen or so tents set up in community fashion (a sign near the walkway indicated the community was called A-ville, or Amnestyville). According to their Facebook page, A-ville consists of "students and workers in solidarity and struggle against the culture of institutional racism and violence" at Duke.

From there, I found the student union, where I swung by briefly (I would return later) before moving southwest to the athletic complexes. I walked right past Cameron arena my first trip through the west plaza after which I spied Morris Williams Track and Field Stadium and Koskinen Soccer Stadium. I spent a bit of time photographing those, before trying to navigate through the obstacle-laden maze surrounding Wade Stadium in hopes of reaching the football field.

That wasn't going to happen. After a couple of futile attempts to find an opening amid the orange fencing and yellow tape from two different approaches, I talked to a construction worker, who told me that the work going on there precluded any access near or inside the facility. I grabbed some shots of the facade and a portion of the seating from an elevated point at long range using the far end (300mm) of my Tamron 24-300mm f/3.5-6.3 Di VC PZD lens.

From there, I started my return to West campus but asked another construction worker to guide me to Cameron Stadium, the basketball arena. He pointed to a door of a building I had passed on the plaza earlier. When you walk in that south entrance, the first thing you see is the concourse festooned with banners toasting various Duke men's and women's basketball achievements. I stepped inside one of the arena entrances from the concourse to find mostly darkness. On the basketball court, there were a few low-intensity lights helping to lightly illuminate a couple dozen or more dining tables set up for some kind of event or banquet. I did not have my tripod with me, so all of the hand-held shots that I tried to take of the court, for which I had to use a slow shutter speed, were blurred from camera shake.

I did come upon one unexpected surprise shortly afterward -- the Duke University Basketball Museum and Sports Hall of Fame. I hadn't realized Duke had such a thing, so I grabbed a few photographs of that before resuming my trek back to West campus. I dabbled for a bit at the schools of engineering, environment and public policy before walking to the law school and library and, after that, hopped across Towerview Road to get the Gross Hall complex, which includes the centers for Sustainability and Commerce and Innovation and Entrepreneurship as well as the Department of Political Science.

Afterward, I reached the Bryan Center and student union before heading back to the chapel to wrap up my shoot. That's where I found a smaller chapel in the adjacent Divinity School, and managed a few pictures inside there.

Click on any image in this post to view a larger and sharper version (which is particularly useful when accessing this post from a mobile device). To see a full gallery of shots from my trip to Duke, visit my galleries at

Photo geek stuff: I bracketed exposures for all of my photos at Duke University so I could process them in Photomatix high-dynamic range (HDR) software afterward, although there is at least one photo below that was processed from a single frame. I used a Canon 6D equipped with a Tamron 24-300mm f/3.5-6.3 Di VC PZD lens. Most of the three shots for each image were taken at ISO 160, boosting upward accordingly to adapt to darkening available light. I used an aperture of f/8 or f/9. The shutter became the variable camera setting to render my different exposures. 

Note: In the days ahead, I'll be filing posts on my trip to Charleston, S.C., including visits to Fort Sumter and Boone Hall Plantation as well as a look at some of the dishes Lee Ann and I tried at various restaurants while in Charleston. I'm not finished processing all of those photos yet, so you might not see any of them for a few days.

Above: One of my shots of the chapel from the front. If you click on the image and look closely by the main doors, you can see the tape warding off visitors. 

I noticed I was drawn to photographing a lot of doors on the Gothic architecture buildings at Duke, and the one above (with a detail shot below) was on a set I found on the side of the main chapel. Although there was no construction tape to ward off visitors, the doors were locked. 

Above: The chapel inside the Divinity School adjacent to the main chapel. 

A look down the quad (above) from its north end toward the Chapel Drive oval near where you can see the Amnestyville tents. A closeup of the tents and the students/workers sign are in the next two photos.

Above and next three below: More images integrating the Gothic artchitecture buildings in the quad with the stately trees around them. 

Above and below: These were taken in the gardens situated at the south end of the oval. 

Above: The fraternity houses on the other side of the quad have the same Gothic and stone architecture. The signage in front of this house grabbed my attention. 

Above and next five below: Some detail, arched covered walkways and a few more facades. 

Above: There is a charming wooded area that connects the quads to the athletic complex. 

Above: The plaza behind Cameron Indoor Stadium, which I walked right past unknowingly before coming upon the track, soccer and football facilities after reaching the far end of the plaza. 

Morris Williams Track and Field Stadium (above) and Koskinen Soccer Stadium (below. 

My long-range shot of the Wade Stadium seating (above). The extent of the construction work is explained in the sign below. 

 Above: The first thing you see when you enter Cameron arena from the south end. 

One of several display cases (above) sprinkled throughout the arena concourse. The next five images below were taken in the building's museum and hall of fame wing.    

Above: Cameron arena as seen from the north end.  

Above: One of the buildings in the Sanford School of Public Policy complex.

Above and below: Different views of the law school facing Science Drive. 

Above: The J. Michael Goodson law library. 

Above: Outside the law school complex near its Marcy's Garden. 

Above and below: The Gross Hall complex across Towerview Road from the law library features the centers for Sustainability and Commerce and Innovation and Entrepreneurship. It also houses the university's political science department, social science research institute, information initiative. The Pratt School of Engineering Researchers also share the facilities. 

Above and below: The steps leading from the Gross Hall complex to Science Drive.

Above: Along Science Drive near the biological sciences building is this institutional art sculpted in 1993. It commemorates the late Duke physiology professor emeritus Knut Schmidt-Nielsen and his 20-plus years of studying and dispelling myths of how camels withstand the harsh desert environment.   

The architectural design of the back entry to Bryan Center (above) and a detail shot of its stone work (below).  

Above and below: The outdoor plaza and seating area at the student union, where there was construction of a West Union addition to the center. 

Above: A reflection of the Gothic structures off the glass of a new building under construction. 
Above: In the chapel oval is a statue of James Buchanan Duke, who in 1924 established a $40 million Duke Endowment. When he died a year later, he left half of his estate, another $67 million, to the endowment. The university was name for his father, George Washington Duke. 

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