Campus landmarks feature storied past

Daily Sundial

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A storied past exists for three of CSUN’s most high-profile physical features and landmarks: the CSUN letters on Nordhoff Street, the audible chimes that can be heard across campus, and the sundial outside Bayramian Hall.

One of the prominent landmarks is the CSUN “spaghetti letters” on the corner of Zelzah Avenue and Nordhoff Street.

According to Dorena Knepper, director of governmental affairs at CSUN, the location of the CSUN insignia at that intersection is significant.

“The corner of Zelzah (Avenue) and Nordhoff (Street) was chosen as the site because the dignitaries pushing the first spade into the ground to construct the campus did so at that corner,” Knepper said an e-mail. “It’s like the birthing point.”

According to Knepper, the dimensions of the sculpture are 7 1/2 feet high and 31 feet long.

In May 1973, students competed to develop a design for the sculpture, and CSUN graduate art student John Banks eventually won.

The cost of the construction for the sculpture was about $11,000.

Banks, who now lives in Henderson, NV, has had a couple of exhibits at a gallery in Las Vegas. He built the sculpture himself using the $11,000 for materials. He did not receive any money for his labor, Knepper said.

“The campus president at the time was James Clearly. He loved the design and even had a small replica of it made to put on the table in his conference room, where his cabinet met,” Knepper said. “I was a member of his cabinet, and I can tell you that it was treated with reverence.”

She said the dedication on April 30, 1975 was a big deal for the university. All of the campus support groups, along with all of the Valley Chambers of Commerce and elected officials, were in attendance for the ceremony.

According to Knepper, subsequent presidents expressed the desire to potentially remove the sculpture, but since it became a part of the campus in which CSUN community members have come to revere, the sculpture has remained.

Another physical feature of CSUN that some students might notice several times every day originates from Cypress Hall, formerly the Music Building.

Beginning at 8 a.m., the carillon – a stationary set of chromatically tuned bells in a tower, usually played from a keyboard – chimes every half hour and also on the hour. At 11:50 a.m., 4:50 p.m., and 6:50 p.m., the chimes play random songs. It stops chiming at 10 p.m., said Jeff Craig, Physical Plant Management network analyst.

With speakers in buildings around campus, such as the Nordhoff Hall, Bayramian Hall, and Redwood Hall, the carillon is heard across the school.

The carillon was a gift to the campus from the senior class of 1966. It was once housed in Bayramian Hall, formerly the Student Services Building, but is now located inside Cypress Hall, Craig said. The clock was originally an engineering student project.

According to Craig, the carillon can be played as an organ and works similarly to an electric guitar as its sound is amplified through speakers.

Before moving to Cypress Hall and after the 1994 Northridge earthquake, the carillon temporarily stayed in a parking lot, Craig said.

“In the late 90s, there was renovation in the Music Department. As part of that, the carillon was also remodeled,” he said.

According to Craig, renovation of the carillon cost approximately $67,000 and lasted about three months, and included completely enclosing the large electrical cabinets in oak cabinets. It was funded in part by Associated Students and also by the president’s office because of its capability for emergency broadcasts.

Even though the carillon is programmed to chime according to time, it is not connected to the large clock on Sierra Tower, Craig said.

On June 1, 2000, the design for another CSUN landmark was created.

The original design for the Sundial fountain in front of Bayramian Hall was created by the Aquatic Design Group based out of Carlsbad, CA.

The design was nearly initially more than the budget allotted for the structure, so PPM worked with the Facilities Planning Department to create another design that would work better with the budget, which was $800,000, said Tom Brown, director of PPM.

Brown also said he believes the idea of the fountain being in the shape of a sundial was sparked by the Daily Sundial campus newspaper.

Copper channels, among other factors, control the fountain’s water supply.

A computer allows a heavier flow of water to flow over the Roman numeral representing the time every hour, Brown said.

Before the sundial fountain, a reflection pond once stood where Etiwanda Avenue now crosses. The pond dried out after the Northridge earthquake, and PPM worked with the Biology Department to set up a botanical pond in its place.

When Etiwanda Avenue had to run through the old location, it had to be moved to its current location, said Brown.

While the history of these landmarks often go unnoticed, they are appreciated, Brown said, who added that he often sees people taking pictures in front of the sundial fountain.

Ariana Rodriguez can be reached at Ariana.Rodriguez@csun.edu.