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Campus Currents May 2007: Volume 4, Number 2

From Barracks to Biotech

A new Campus Architecture Guide

In the beginning, there were Quonset huts and Marine barracks, remnants of the military bases that first occupied UCSD’s 1200 acres of coastal woodlands. But, within the University’s first decade, the low-profile barracks had given way to high-rise dorms and austere concrete academic buildings in the modernist style. By 1975, many of the campus’ distinctive structures, including the iconic Geisel Library, had been built, setting the stage for future growth that was bold and out-of-the box.

UCSD’s architecture is the subject of a newly published campus guide: University of California, San Diego: An Architectural Tour, by Dirk Sutro, publicity manager in the Music Department. The guidebook coincides with a year-long lecture series (see calendar page 8) —“UCSD by Design: Art, Architecture, and Urbanism in the Campus Context”—sponsored by the Division of Arts & Humanities, in collaboration with Boone Hellman, UCSD’s campus architect, the Stuart Collection and the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego. Sutro, who was an architecture critic for the Los Angeles Times and the San Diego Tribune, was commissioned by Hellman and Princeton Architectural Press to write the campus guide for UCSD’s 50th anniversary.

“Two prime forces have shaped the campus’ layout and its architecture: the topography,” Sutro, wrote in his introduction, “a coastal sandstone bluff covered with scrubby native plants and stands of old eucalyptus trees—and the University’s ceaseless quest for innovation.” He cites numerous examples of the synergy between science and architecture that is shaping a new generation of “green” buildings—incorporating cutting-edge technology, and designed to foster creativity and collaboration.

The guide includes 10 “neighborhood” walks, and traces the evolution of this thoroughly modern campus, examining the work of acclaimed architects like William Pereira, Moshe Safdie, Robert Mosher, Irving Gill, Rob Quigley and Antoine Predock, who have hewed almost exclusively to a modernist aesthetic. Notably, writes Sutro, UCSD’s campus is devoid of the historical-revival styles that dominate other UC campuses and San Diego universities.

For more information about the campus architecture guide and UCSD by Design lecture series visit the website.

—Dolores Davies