New Gallery of National Weather Center Photos

The new National Weather Center in Norman is open for business, now housing its full complement of university and governmental weather groups. With a couple decades left ’til retirement, I’m glad to be one active player among many, right from its beginning, in what is hoped will be the worldwide locus for severe weather related research, teaching and prediction. Lest this sound like some cheesy PR script, it’s true there have been some glitches and delays, and some examples of poorly conceived interior layout and design. Overall, however, I’m quite pleased with this place, and as should become obvious shortly, truly inspired at times by its artistic form and scope.

Ever since this edifice was “finished” (is it ever?), and the students and staff all moved in from their scattering of previous offices around town, much has been said about the architectural forms, shapes and peculiarities of the building itself. Most university or governmental buildings around the country seem beholden to a drab, boxy, unimaginative method of architecture straight from the Soviet School of Tenement Design. The Federal Building in Kansas City, where I used to work, was just such an eyesore. Not this place! The NWC is the opposite of unimaginative, and it’s clear the architects had some creative leeway (not to mention some fun) in drawing up the plans.

I’ve seen and appreciated some of the wildest, most unique high-rise architecture imaginable in places like Dallas, Miami, Chicago, Seattle, Houston, Vancouver, Atlanta, Denver and San Francisco. For sheer creativity, this doesn’t top a lot of what’s in those cities, mind you. I. M. Pei was not part of this, as he was for the Dallas City Hall or Fountain Place. No way could OU and NOAA afford that caliber of architect! Still, there’s nothing else that looks quite like the NWC in any of those cities. And in Norman, Oklahoma, the NWC stands out as would a pearl on a pile of pea-gravel. Academic and athletic (!) recruits are being given tours of this facility right off, and it is fast becoming a major selling point for the university and the state in general. And why not?

Since most of the unsightly big equipment, plastic tarps and dirt piles have been removed, I’ve been snapping photos of the NWC, inside and outside, as time and inspiration permit. More are on the way. For now, though, I’ve got enough images to upload a collection of my favorites from so far:


[This is my own personal photography, not anything done for official purposes.]

Yes, I tend to lean heavily toward nighttime shots so far, partly because I’m there quite often after dark and get to notice some curiosities of light, shadow and geometric form that simply don’t manifest themselves the same way in the daytime. There are so many more scenes I’m imagining in various lighting arrangements at different times of the year, and under different weather circumstances, that I haven’t been able to shoot yet. I will, and they will be added to those pages from time to time. So keep checking back every few months for new entries, which I will scatter somewhat randomly through the existing sets for the sake of variety.

Enjoy…and happy new year! May 2007 bring us a true “Feast on the Smorgasbord of Atmospheric Violence.”

[Hopefully none of that will be in the form of giant hail directly on all that exterior roof and atrium glass at NWC…Ouch!]


4 Responses to “New Gallery of National Weather Center Photos”

  1. Gilbert Sebenste on January 3rd, 2007 3:35 pm

    Nice place you have, Roger. 🙂 Ok, seriously…

    How can the NWC have a “traffic accident”? How hard is it to not crash into a building? Hmmm. Oh well…

    And what, exactly, is that spire for? Drop a lit sculpture of a large chunk of hail at midnight on New Year’s Eve? I give the roof windows 3 years before some need to be replaced due to Jim Leonard brand hail comes crashing through them.

  2. Joel Genung on January 3rd, 2007 7:28 pm

    Absolutely wonderful pictures, Roger! It’s nice to see the dollars were well spent and the NWC’s presence on Okiedom soil and in association with OU makes it all that more meaningful. And not a bad place to call work, to boot!

  3. Bill Hark on January 5th, 2007 11:43 pm

    Very nice pictures. Thanks for posting. I hope they allow tours.

  4. tornado on January 8th, 2007 2:05 pm

    Yeah, the NWC has public tours. I don’t remember the times and protocol for arranging them, but Daphne Thompson ( and Keli Tarp ( would.

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