Breaking News
More () »

The reason this science lab resembles Colorado's most ancient structures

NCAR's Mesa Lab was designed to honor Colorado's native land and connect scientists with its visitors. It just reopened for the first time since the COVID shutdown.

BOULDER, Colo. — The Mesa Lab in Boulder is home to the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR). The unique architecture of the building is almost as synonymous with the city of Boulder as the Flatirons that sit as a backdrop.

The lab is also an icon in the atmospheric science community across the globe.

“The scientists who work here are the best of the best," said Tim Barnes, a science education specialist with NCAR. "And they come here to do what can’t be done in any other circumstances – and that’s always been the case.”

Barnes said that great science requires great inspiration, and at NCAR that often comes from public visitors. He said that's why the hallways at the Mesa Lab were designed to be a museum, connecting the public to the scientists.

“The mixture of the two provides what some scientists say they need in order to get through an impediment, a break, a block,” he said. "It can be a compliment from someone, or even a question from a 12-year-old kid that makes all the difference."

The exhibits just reopened in December after a two and a half year COVID shutdown. The staff said they can already feel the renewed creative energy.  

The lab is open seven days a week, and the admission is completely free. There is even a one-hour public tour every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at noon. 

The Mesa Lab was also designed to connect the scientists to the nature of Colorado.

Architect I.M. Pei used materials from the nearby Flatirons to construct the laboratory in the 1960s. He was inspired by Colorado’s original builders, the ancestral Puebloans that built the Cliff Palace at Mesa Verde.

Pei’s vision was to improve scientific thought by interconnecting scientists with the things they are trying to help – nature and people. That balance has finally been restored with the public reopening. 

“That collaborative effort has taken genius, brilliant ideas, and moved them to the point where they have made a difference in society,” said Barnes.

Mesa Lab in Hollywood

The unique architecture of the Mesa Lab has also caught the eye of Hollywood producers. Its big cameo came in the 1973 sci-fi comedy Sleeper. A picture in the NCAR's archives shows the film's star, Woody Allen dangling from the walls of the building.

Of course, the famous building in Genesee that is now known locally as the Sleeper House had a more prominent role in the film. 

And scenes from another Hollywood film were just shot a few months ago at the Mesa Lab. Watch for the upcoming film titled Elevation which is being described as a post-apocalyptic movie set in the Colorado Rocky Mountains. The star of the movie is slated to be Anthony Mackie. 

SUGGESTED VIDEOS: Colorado Climate 


Before You Leave, Check This Out