UA Journey

Elvey Building

Fairbanks Campus

Description: 903 Koyukuk Drive

The seven-story C. T. Elvey Building on West Ridge was built in 1970 to house the expanding Geophysical Institute. The institute had outgrown the Chapman Building over the 20 years since it was built. The 85,000-square-foot building cost $4.1 million to construct. The building's architect was Linn Forrest of Juneau and the contractor was Peter Kiewit Sons of Nebraska and Fairbanks. As the GI continued to expand over the years, the Elvey Building became quite overcrowded until the completion of the Akasofu Building next door in 1998.

The red pieces of the artwork on the front of the building near the entrance, Geo-Odyssey by Alaska artist Keith Appel, represent volcanic eruption, and the blue pieces represent emerging water. The sun and moon depict gravitational forces.

The building houses the Alaska Satellite Facility, a joint project between the Geophysical Institute and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. NASA owns the facility and contracts with the GI to run it. The satellite-tracking dish antenna installed in 1987 on top of the institute is 30 feet (10 meters) in diameter. Another satellite dish 36 feet (11 meters) in diameter is located in the woods to the west of Elvey, next to UAF’s trail system. The polar-orbiting Synthetic Aperture Radar satellites generate their own radio signals, can “see” through clouds and darkness, and can be used under any weather conditions. The facility is one of only a few places in the U.S. that can receive and process SAR data. Some current research projects include mapping the Antarctic continent and the Amazon rain forest, providing near real-time data about arctic ice conditions for research vessels in the region, as well as monitoring disasters such as forest fires, floods, volcanic eruptions and oil spills.

In addition, one automatic weather and radiation monitoring satellite dish is on top of Elvey, and another is installed in the hills nearby. They are part of a collaboration among UAF, Los Alamos National Laboratory and the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation to gather meteorological data and assess levels of gamma radiation.

GI also operates Poker Flat Research Range and the Poker Flat Optical Observatory, the only university-owned sounding rocket range in the world. Institute staff provide summer tours of the Geophysical Institute.

Sources

“C.T. Elvey Building Dedication Program,” Special Events 1966-72 (A12.D5); “Geophysical Institute,” Special Events Groundbreakings, Dedications, Banquets, U of A Days, etc. 1915-65, (A12.D5), all from UAF Alaska and Polar Regions Archives; 1991 Master Plan; University Relations Tour Script 2002; “The Cornerstone on College Hill,” by Terrence Cole: “The Lunar Republic,” Web site, www.lunarrepublic.com/gazetteer/crater_e.shtml


Notable People: Christian T. Elvey