What San Juan Islands?
How would you like to be going to school for the first time and find yourself walking through a place of mystery and beauty? Many don’t understand the importance of the different colored bricks or the reason for the specific pattern of grass mounds. Many others walk through and around these beautiful islands multiple times a day and a notable amount of students, especially first time students don’t realize these grass covered islands actually represent something.
The San Juan Island replica, which is located in a central plaza of Western Washington University’s campus, models the major coastal landmark in Washington State creating the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The small replica on campus spread out in Haskell Plaza in front of our six STEM buildings only resembles a small portion of the actual islands. As a first year student from Washington already knowing the geography of the area, I could see how some students wouldn’t know much about the San Juan Islands and what they look like.
The largest island also holds one of the largest sculptures in the area known as Log Ramps built originally in 1974. Three other sculptures have been placed throughout these islands as well. According to Westerns website (http://westerngallery.wwu.edu/south-campus.shtml) these sculptures include Normano Column built in1979, Normanno Wedge constructed in 1980 and Feats of Strength erected in 1999. These sculptures are just part of what diversifies this brick plaza and causes Students and visitors alike to reflect as they pass through the tree covered islands.
These islands include multiple sculptures unique to Western’s campus, but there are also benches, trees, different types of flowers, shrubbery and paths leading through the islands enhancing the beautiful area to make it even more beautifully profound. This was most likely the intent of the schools designers, to provide an endlessly beautiful and intriguing aesthetic valued piece.
This replica of the San Juan Islands is fairly close to the actual thing, although not exact. Both versions have approximately the same island pattern. The yellow bricks represent the ocean currents flowing through the San Juan Islands. The grey bricks were made to represent the depth of the water and where the water is shallower in the San Juan’s.
The San Juan Island model does a spectacular job of creating a scenic area to admire the beauty, sit, relax, and ponder. I interviewed a first year student named Ronnie, who had all three of his classes in buildings around Haskell Plaza. He said “It’s a nice thing to look at on my way to class.”. This island filled plaza contains several benches, picnic tables, Sculptures, paths through the islands, birds and plants, such as trees, shrubs, grassy knolls, and flowers.
This model of the San Juan Islands has many beautiful features, but could be improved. For instance, although it creates many pathways it obstructs certain pathways that people would have if the islands weren’t there. However, one of the largest flaws is that no one knows what the islands are. In a small survey I conducted standing around the Islands, only 3 out of 10 people I asked knew that the yellow bricks resembled the currents in and around the islands. No one knows that they represent the San Juan Islands because there is no plaque or web page to explain this mystery filled plaza.
Overall this scenic area is a place I would consider walking through often if I had the chance. It serves it purpose as an intriguing aesthetic piece and diversifies the area with a unique group of islands. I love walking through the secluded trail and observing the neat sculptures. As a first year student who knows about this beautiful work of art, I want others to know because these islands are so close and so beautiful. One reason why Bellingham is so spectacular is because we have access to the actual San Juan Islands, which is represented here for students. Professors and visitors to see and remember, new and old.