U.C. San Diego and Scripps Institution of Oceanography
When Ellen Browning Scripps was born in London on October 18, 1836 the world wasn’t considering global climate change and fewer than 40,000 people lived in San Diego. Years later, in 1903, when The Marine Biological Association of San Diego was formed to create the San Diego Marine Biological Institution, Scripps was among the organization’s key donors. While the early biologists huddled together in a laboratory inside the Hotel del Coronado’s converted boathouse, they longed for a permanent home.
The land the campus now resides on was purchased at the insistence of Edward W. Scripps for $1000 on the steps of San Diego’s City Hall in 1907. A few months later the "little green laboratory at the cove," a wooden building housing the first La Jolla laboratory, was formally dedicated.
The next decade would see a bit of a building boom on the campus later to be named The Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Among the buildings still standing, The George H. Scripps Memorial Marine Biological Laboratory, a two-story reinforced-concrete structure, designed by Irving J. Gill (1870-1936) was completed in 1910 in memory of Ellen B. Scripps’ deceased older brother.. Within three years twelve “temporary” cottages, serving as residences for faculty, staff and visitors, and the Director's Residence were completed.
Other than a “one-story wooden building built to house the Scripps aquarium” being built in 1916, the next major, architectural, milestone on the edge of the Pacific Ocean would be Ritter Hall (1932) by Irving Gill’s nephew Louis Gill. Gill would be noted years later for his design contributions to the San Diego Zoo and the harborside County Admininistration building as well as establishing the San Diego Chapter of the AIA (in 1929).
In the years following World War II, the Scripps campus would enjoy decades of growth in a building boom representing the work of San Diego’s architecture and landscape architecture firms. Among the early post-war buildings were the Marine Physical Laboratory (1946) and the Thomas Wayland Vaughan Aquarium Museum Building (1950). The latter was erected as the Director of the Scripps Institution, Carl Eckart, resigned to devote his full time to his own research work. Roger Revelle became Acting Director in 1951 twenty years after he had come to the institution as a graduate student.
During the 1950s plans for the University of California’s expansion were set in motion and would yield a small building boom on the Scripps campus. And in large part the boom through the 1960s and ‘70s was designed by San Diego’s architects Frank L. Hope, Lloyd Ruocco, Frederick Liebhardt, Eugene Weston III, Russell Forester, Donald Goldman and others.
An 8-project building boom kicked off in 1956 with San Diego’s Frank L. Hope and Associates’ Vaughan Hall (recently replaced by a new structure by Seigel Diamond Architecture). Hope’s firm would swiftly deliver a few more designs to the campus including Experimental Aquarium (1958), Bureau of Commercial Fisheries or the Southwest Fisheries Center (1964), and Scripps Hydraulics Laboratory (1964).
The Los Angeles based firm Risley and Gould, in addition to designs for the UCLA campus and just up the hill for UC San Diego, would add Francis B. Sumner Auditorium, H.U. Sverdrup Hall by 1961 and the Center for Coastal Studies one year later.
Among the most striking examples of local progressive architecture in all of the county, Lloyd Ruocco’s design for the La Jolla laboratory of the Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics was dedicated in 1964. Articulating an array of Ruocco’s design concepts, use of natural materials, and to a point referencing his Design Center (1949) on Fifth Avenue; the building embraces its coastal bluff setting, showcasing Ruocco’s most primal architectural philosophies. Noteworthy for its humanist approach, the project also represents Ruocco’s collaboration with, Judith Munk, Harriet Wimmer and Joseph Yamada. This collaboration is evident in the sensitive siting of the structure allowing for intimate opens spaces punctuated by dramatic ocean views.
The building boom would continue for another decade including Hubbs Hall and the SIO Library both by Liebhardt Weston among many others. While the Scripps Institution’s connection to architecture continues to this day, among the more memorable dates in the campus’ growth timeline was marked by January 19, 1978 when Irving Gill’s George H. Scripps Memorial Marine Biological Laboratory was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Five years later the building was re-dedicated as a National Historical Landmark when restoration was completed in 1983 by San Diego’s John Henderson.
Partial List of Mid-Century Projects at SIO and UCSD
Applied Physics & Mathematics
Argo Hall (1967)
Blake Hall (1967)
Bureau of Commercial
Fisheries (Southwest Fisheries Center) (1964)
Center for Coastal
and Natatorium (1965-67)
& Social Sciences (1969)
Hydraulics Laboratory (1964)
Geophysics and Planetary Physics (1964)
for the Arts (1968-75)
Mayer Hall (1963)
McGill Hall (1969)
Basic Science Building (1968)
Medical Library (1968)
Provost Office (1967)
Residence Halls (1966)
Tenaya Hall (1969)
Vaughan Hall (1956)