ORIGINALLY BUILT to house 650,000 volumes , the Library had to stretch its walls to accommodate the 1.3 million volumes that had accumulated by the time Dorothy Gregor was named university librarian in 1985 . In fact , the Library had already begun to warehouse books offsite due to these space constraints . In 1987 , architects Gunnar Birkerts and Buss Silvers Hughes & Associates were hired to design a much-needed addition , one that would essentially double the existing space .
The initial solution included a glass reading room on the outdoor forum level . While the concept made significant use of the austere flat concrete , it was vigorously opposed by faculty members , who argued that the building ’ s silhouette was sacred and not to be obscured in any way . Ultimately , Chancellor Richard Atkinson intervened , sending the architects back to the drawing board .
“ We understood and respected the decision ,” says architect Gordon Carrier , a close associate of Gunnar Birkerts at the time . “ I was really amazed ; I had never had a client that was so respectful and protective of the work of a previous
RAISE THE ROOF The high price of steel during the Library ' s construction prompted the decision to use concrete instead — 386,500 linear feet of it . That ' s enough concrete to pour a four-foot wide , three-and-a-half-inch thick walkway from Oceanside , Calif . to the Mexican border . architect . The challenge then was to create a reverse understory some 35 feet below the earth , while still bringing in natural light . Conceptually , the subterranean addition was a metaphor for the seismic stratum of California . The jagged skylights popping up were symbols of the earth shoving up .”
Boone Hellman , the university ’ s campus architect at the time , remembers his concern about how the campus would react to the construction : “ The good news was that we were moving forward with an ingenious design that would protect the original building . But we would be creating the biggest hole in the ground this campus had ever seen , while removing about 200 eucalyptus trees . The visual impact was going to be shocking .”
By 1993 , it was done . Many of the trees were replanted , and a plaza fronted the Library entry with shrubs , benches , and paths all around . The dramatic Stuart Collection “ Snake Path ” installation by Alexis Smith wound up the east hill , while native vegetation covered the north side to blend in with the designated canyon parkland running through campus .
Library at Home
Some of the Library ’ s most interesting holdings are just a few clicks away . Here ’ s what you can access right now in the Digital Collections .
A Triton magazine favorite — UC San Diego history ! View campus newspapers , historical photographs , and extensive records from the Stuart Collection and more : lib . ucsd . edu / ucsd-history
The nearly 100 historic cookbooks , manuscripts , and pamphlets from the American Institute of Wine & Food Culinary Collection reflect the assimilation of ethnic cuisine into California ’ s food culture . lib . ucsd . edu / aiwf
Alice Notley Artworks feature almost 100 colorful collages , masks , and fans by the noted American poet and visual artist . lib . ucsd . edu / notley
The Baja California Collection has more than 8,000 images of landscapes , missions , rock art , ranch life , and the border . Many of the photographs were taken by longtime La Jollan , Harry Crosby . lib . ucsd . edu / baja
Travel through Oceania in the 1920s and ’ 30s via Sylvester Lambert ’ s 1,300 photographs of social gatherings , village life , and indigenous and colonial architecture . lib . ucsd . edu / oceania-lambert