Keywords Change this

Brutalism, Forgotten Masterpieces

Project timeline

1968 – 1970



Location Change this

9600 John Jay Hopkins Drive
92093 San Diego, California

Current state


Architect Change this

Geisel Library Change this

San Diego, California, USA
by William Pereira Change this
1 of 10

Description Change this

The Geisel Library, originally simply named the Central Library, was renamed in 1995. It was designed by William Pereira and is an eight story, concrete structure sited at the head of a canyon near the center of the campus of the University of California San Diego. The lower two stories form a pedestal for the six story, stepped tower that has become a visual symbol for the structure. Whatever its metaphorical connotation, its image is preserved and enhanced by the concept for the addition.


The building is named in honor of Audrey and Theodor Seuss Geisel (better known as Dr. Seuss) for the generous contributions they have made to the library and their devotion to improving literacy. The Geisels were long-time residents of La Jolla, where UC San Diego is located.

The building is featured in the UCSD logo and is the most recognizable building on campus. It is located in the center of the campus with Library Walk to its south, Thurgood Marshall College to its West and Earl Warren College to its East.

The library first opened in 1970. It was simply called the Central Library until a renovation was completed in 1993, when it was rededicated as the University Library Building. It was renamed "Geisel Library" in 1995.


The distinctive original building was designed in the late 1960s by William Pereira to sit at the head of a canyon. William Pereira & Associates prepared a detailed report in 1969. Considering the location, Pereira originally conceived of a spherical building resting atop a pedestal, with the structural elements on the inside. After several drafts of this ball-shaped design, the structural elements were deemed as being too space-consuming, and they were moved to the outside of the structure, essentially resulting in the current "lantern" design.

Pereira envisioned that future additions to the original building would form terraced levels around the tower base descending into the canyon. The tower is a prime example of brutalist architecture. It rises 8 stories to a height of 110 ft (33.5 m). The four upper stories of the tower itself house the SSHL and East Asia collections.

A photo of the building taken by Julius Shulman was used as the cover image for James Steele's chronicle of Pereira's career, called simply William Pereira.

The Library Addition, designed by Gunnar Birkerts in the early 1990s, was "deliberately designed to be subordinated to the strong, geometrical form of the existing library." Within its two subterranean levels are the other library sections as well as study spaces and computer labs.



Posted by Guest | Sunday, January 13th, 2013 | 10:36am
It reminds me somehow on the brutal soviet constructivism, they've made grand concrete monsters like this. Although I recognize and appreciate the architectural concept of the lantern, but I would really like to have a look at the original spherical design as well. An other question is the sustainability of this concrete monster, I couldn't picture myself that it's facility management can be economic and sustainable. But it's still a landmark and easy to recognize. Some kind of beauty, some kind of beast:)

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