"Beyond the Bubble": Explore Salem

College Colloquium: IDS-101-15

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Capitol Tunnels

During the first few weeks spent at Willamette University, I heard several stories of an underground tunnel that runs underneath Salem’s Capitol Building.  Of course, such stories piqued my interest; I have never walked through an underground tunnel– let alone one that runs under a building as impressive as the Capitol Building.  After some research, I discovered that the underground tunnel, amongst several other additions, was not added until 1977, 38 years after the Capitol’s construction.  Upon even further research, I found out that the tunnel and an underground parking lot are geared towards the preservation of nature, as well as a lot of history not immediately apparent.  I made up my mind:  I would visit this tunnel for my excursion and see it once and for all and discover as much as possible regarding its functionality.

After opening the doors to reveal the greatly anticipated underground tunnel, I found myself staring at a bland corridor.  Stark white walls and a ceiling lined with rows of overbearing fluorescent lights stretched out before me.  Regardless of my immediate disappointment, I wanted to give the “tunnel” a chance and continued on my walk-through.  After walking several paces into the tunnel, paintings appeared and offered a wonderful change because they added some atmosphere to the otherwise jail-like hallway.

The lack of atmosphere in the tunnel brought me to question its functionality:  what purposes does it serve?  The tunnel clearly functions as a path to the underground parking lot as well as several buildings up to a few blocks away from the Capitol.  Lots of people work at the Capitol, and the large parking lot provides adequate parking space for them.   Now, why is the parking lot underground?  The beautiful State Capitol State Park lies above the parking lot.  The park greatly adds to the beauty of the Capitol’s property, and if the large parking lot were above ground there would be no room for such a beautiful addition.  From my early observations of Salem, nature is greatly valued– with tree-lined streets and sprawling parks dotting the city.  Furthermore, the Salem Capitol itself is geared towards “green-friendly” options and contains the first solar panels on any Capitol Building in the United States.  The Capitol Building also reflects this value of natural beauty by having a park rather than an industrial parking lot in front of the building.The tunnel and other related additions reflect a 1970’s style, in which functionality and modernism is valued over classic grandeur (thenewstribune).  I can speculate that the tunnel reflects this style, which explains the lack of atmosphere.  A lot of history of the Capitol Building conceals itself and a deeper discovery requires more than what strikes visitors at first glance.

Works cited:
Donald, Doug. “Greek Architecture on Modern Buildings in the U.S.” EHow. Demand Media, 01 Apr. 2011. Web. 19 Nov. 2012.

Ponnekanti, Rosemary. “Brutalist Architecture: Cold, Hard and – Well – Simply Brutal.” Tacoma News Tribune. The News Tribune, 24 Nov. 2009. Web. 19 Nov. 2012.

“Capitol Tour – Oregon’s State Capitol.” Capitol Tour – Oregon’s State Capitol. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Nov. 2012.

By Carson Foreman, 10/20/12

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