I recently went hiking and exploring in the stunning and indescribably beautiful Yosemite National Park. We went during glorious crisp Autumn weather, the sky a crystal clear blue, the oaks and poplars bursting into gloden light, and the glacier pools reflecting perfect mirror images of the awesome domes and cliffs. The crowds were light, and we managed many hikes, such as to the top of Sentinal Dome, without any others around.
If you've never been to this place, its natural beauty will blow you away. It is similar in scale to the Grand Canyon, but this valley is lush, and forested, not dry, red and dusty. The High country is forested and filled with glacial boulders and alpine lakes, eagles and hawks soaring overhead, and twisting Jefferey Pines clinging to the rocks. The air smells as clean as the inside of a dry redwood chest filled with ice.
There is in the valley a small concession village, allowed by the Parks Department, featuring a small museum and the Ansel Adams Gallery (his former home/studio).
I was quite surprised to find some beautiful stained glass there amidst the valley. It was found in the famous Ahwhanee Lodge, a brilliantly designed, historic lodge building, whose architecture combined elements of Craftsman, Japanese, Native American, (and I personally intuited a Byzantine element) design. It was designed by architect Gilbert Stanley Underwood, and the interiors were done by the husband and wife team of Dr. Phyllis Ackerman and Professor Arthur Upham , that time's most respected Persian Art scholars. The style of architecture is officially known as National Parks Service Rustic. and similar structures are located in the Grand Canyon and other parks.
Educated at Yale and Harvard, Gilbert Stanley Underwood (1890-1960) was already a respected architect when commissioned to design the Ahwahnee in 1925.
Although he developed several Park Service buildings, the Ahwahnee remains his greatest work in the rustic style, which Underwood helped to define.
The architect was greatly influenced by the early California arts and crafts movement, applying its basic concepts to his Ahwahnee design and choice of material. The monolithic structure parallels the scale of the setting, but never competes with it. Even the asymmetrical tiers and irregular rooflines were carefully planned to provide shadows and textures that merge with the environment. the outer redwood timbers are actually stained and moulded concrete, made to look like wood, but prevent fire damage.
The hotel allows visitors to stroll around and enjoy themselves there, even those who are not guests.
The interior is decorated with beautiful Turkish kilim rugs and Navajo rug fragments as wall hangings, as well as painted murals, and decorative paintings in similar geometric motifs. The whole sense of integrated vision and design is wonderful, and even though some of the art comes from different time periods, it all is unified in its love of natural materials and similar geometric forms.
(apologies for blurriness in these pics- no tripod that day)
Pope and Ackerman also selected the Ahwahnee's kelim and soumak rugs. The last-minute addition of stained glass windows was the work of resident artist Jeannette Dyer Spencer. (Born in Cleveland, OH on Nov. 4, 1892. Dyer graduated from Western Reserve University in Cleveland before coming to UC Berkeley in 1915 to study architecture. She received her M.A. degree in 1920 and in that year wed Eldredge Spencer. After studying at Columbia University, she traveled to Paris for stained glass study at Ecole du Louvre. Upon returning to California in 1925, she settled in San Francisco and worked as an interior designer for Yosemite Nat'l Park for many years, and designed the fireplace mural, and their famous logo based on Native american motifs)
A good link to some Ahwahnee history: http://www.rugreview.com
The leading was clean, and seemed to be in good shape, and the intricate designs were perfect for the architecture and decoration, and are no doubt dated to the late 1920's when she worked there.
The stained glass is beautiful unique compositions in the Native American style, and tops the long windows located in the central hall. Each is composed of earthy colors, and adheres to what we might consider the Organic palate (with the exception of the strong reds in a few) in glass design.
Of course the real power in Yosemite is the trails, the granite domes, the play of light and shadow, and the magnificent waterfalls, however here was a surprising treat for lovers of organic, natural architecture and the glaziers art, a pocket of Man's craft amidst Nature's splendor.