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The Back Story: Building In Motion

Why the Bigelow Physics Building has a swooping roofline and an apple tree.

UNLV History  |  Apr 9, 2012  |  By Cate Weeks

The Robert L. Bigelow Physics Building incorporates principles of science in its design. (Aaron Mayes / UNLV Photo Services)

The architects behind Robert L. Bigelow Physics Building must have had a fondness for science (or perhaps were crafty pitchmen who knew how to appeal to professors). The building's swooping roofline and landscape features weren't mere flourishes; they represent principles of science.

A glass wall facing the courtyard offers both filtered daylight and an homage to a sine wave. An apple tree pays tribute to Newton's theory of gravity while the roofline over the labs mimics the Quonset huts in which the developers of the atomic bomb worked during World War II. The light spectrum is represented in colorful banners hanging inside and the Big Bang theory in the concentric circles radiating out from where the building's two wings meet.

The building is named for the father of donor Robert T. Bigelow, owner of Budget Suites of America and Bigelow Aerospace. The other Bigelow building on campus -- Health Sciences -- was named for his son, Rod Lee, who died at age 25.