As midday approached yesterday, the white marble slabs in the four Friedman Study Center courtyards were flooded with light in a peculiar symmetry. In each atrium, areas covered with white marble slabs were completely illuminated with sunlight, while mulched areas remained in the shadows. The illumination marked the vernal equinox when the length of night and day are nearly equal. The equinox occurs every March 20 or 21 and signals the official start of spring.
Not many people know that these marble patterns actually have a deeper meaning, said Steven Lavallee, head of the Friedman Study Center. When the center was renovated in 2006, the architects at the Architecture Research Office marked areas illuminated by sunlight at midday on the vernal equinox with white marble stones. The marble forms different shapes in each atrium to reflect the varying patterns of sun and shade.
"They really were more scholarly than the average architects," Lavallee said. "There was some intention to reflect that Brown is a very different place."
The marble areas in all four atria were fully illuminated Tuesday from 12:45 to 12:55 p.m. The moment passed quickly and was unnoticed by most students in the center. Lisa Khanna '12 said she did not know about the significance of the courtyard designs but thought it was "kind of cool."
"It (is) a little, kind of fun fact that was on its way to being totally forgotten by everyone," Lavallee said.