The stairs at UCLA and why the ones they call the “Awkward Steps” are the only ones that feel right

Let me start by saying that I am 6’2″ (6’3″ if you ask my mom), and more than half of that is my legs. I am what you would call extremely lanky, spider-like, even. If I didn’t love eating ice cream so much, I would make one hell of a long distance runner. With that said, stairs were not designed for someone with my stature. Usually, people walk up stairs one by one, but if I do this my stride is stunted. Taking stairs one by one feels like having to run the mile with your shoe laces tied together. You can never make a full step and your hips start saying things like, “hey, man, extend your legs all the way, we are freaking out down here.” So, I change my stair-climbing technique. I take two stairs at a time so that my legs don’t feel all squished. The downside is that taking two steps at a time means that I sprint up the stairs. Two bad things about sprinting up stairs:

  1. taking corners too fast and either slamming into the wall or into another person
  2. arriving at the top of the stairs completely out of breath and uncomfortably moist

Nevertheless, I continue to take the two-step approach because my talking hips freak me out.

Now usually, this whole thing applies to standard steps. These are the ones you will encounter in your dorm building, beside the Fowler museum, inside Royce, etc etc. But, UCLA does not believe in having exclusively standard stairs and the architects decided to make some pretty wacky stairways on the campus. The two that come to mind immediately would be the famous Janss steps of the original campus and the Covel stairs, colloquially referred to as the “awkward steps” or sometimes by my shorter friends as “ahhhgrrhhrh”. Janss steps, while totally beautiful and equipped with a stunning vantage point, are exceedingly difficult for me to ascend. They are too deep for me to take two at a time without jumping but are still too close together and short for me to easily climb one by one. I usually alternate between stepping one then jumping two, which I’m sure makes me look like I’m playing some sort of diagonal hopscotch.

The Covel steps are another story. They are glorious. I heard that the people who designed them wanted to create a staircase that girls could easily run up. I guess a running girl’s stride is my walking stride because taking Covel steps is absolutely fantastic. I mean, I feel like a gazelle. The same cannot be said for all of my other friends who are quite a bit shorter than I am. My 5’2″ friend takes two steps on each step of the Covel steps (steps step step steps). Basically, I belong to a very small minority of people that find the infamous “awkward steps” should actually be called the “perfect steps”.

There are other fun staircases at UCLA. There are long Harry Potter-esque stairs that jut out high above your head in the CNSI building. There is a cute winding staircase that leads to the botanical gardens. There is a set of steps near the neuroscience building that look like they are leading to an ancient Egyptian hang out spot. Bottom line: UCLA rules the world of stairs, both funky and traditional.