LOOKING AHEAD Freshman Valerie Spiess Lipiniski and Chancellor John S . Galbraith study an early model of the soon-to-be built Central University Library at UC San Diego . Photos this spread : Robert Glasheen Photograph Collection . MSS 154 . Special Collections & Archives , UC San Diego
Now , 50 years later , our beloved Brutalist architectural masterpiece continues to symbolize the campus ethos . It is especially remarkable that a building designed in the mid-1960s looks as futuristic and otherworldly today as it did then . This speaks volumes about William Pereira , the fearless and visionary architect who conceived it , and the bold and unconventional campus leaders who lobbied to make it a reality .
As we kick off the 50th anniversary celebration of Geisel Library , we explore the milestones of the past , shining a light on those actions and experiences that have shaped our revered campus icon . Clearly , Geisel Library has served us well as both an intellectual and cultural hub for the campus community and a catalyst for continuing change and innovation . But , is the past prologue ? Its future success as a library has made an auspicious beginning with the 2015 Geisel Library Revitalization Initiative , but it is this last phase of the project that will be critical for accelerated student research and learning .
ONLY A FEW years after Mel Voigt was appointed UC San Diego ’ s first university librarian in 1960 , several library departments at Scripps Institution of Oceanography had moved up to the main campus . Library space issues were already apparent , and Voigt made his concerns known . He would soon have a powerful advocate for a new central library building in John Galbraith , who was named the university ’ s second chancellor in 1964 .
Galbraith was determined to build an extraordinary central library , what he referred to as a “ third great UC Library ,” one that would , in time , stand shoulder to shoulder with the stellar libraries at the Berkeley and UCLA campuses . Galbraith believed emphatically that an exceptional research library was a non-negotiable requirement for attracting the top-tier faculty members envisioned by founding father Roger Revelle . He also knew — as a historian — that this was especially critical in attracting humanists to a new university , especially one that was already dominant in the sciences .
Enter architect William Pereira , who graced the cover of Time magazine in 1963 for his space-age designs , notably the Theme Building at LAX airport and , later , San Francisco ’ s Transamerica Pyramid . His vision for UC San Diego ’ s Library was one of the architect ’ s most radical — a structure that did not always translate as a building , especially in the early days when it was encircled by eucalyptus trees . When the fog rolled in , the building would appear like a spaceship hovering above the grade , revealing angles and odd forms , then disappearing behind low-lying clouds .
The building was initially envisioned in steel and glass , but the high price of steel at the time led to the substitution for concrete . Conceptually , Pereira was aiming for a flattened spherical shape and a spatial organization that would ensure that all patrons of the library would be equidistant from a physical source of knowledge . Along with anodized aluminum windows and heat-resistant walls , the 110-foot tall structure was formed from 386,500 linear feet of reinforced concrete , with an exterior finish of rough form board in a horizontal , texturized pattern .