Saturday, November 9, 2013

Muir College: A Concrete Jungle… errr… Forest

Muir College buildings by Robert Mosher (1969). Photo ©Darren Bradley

The design of Muir College was inspired by Yosemite and the great redwood forests of northern California. Frankly, I don't really see it. But I still think it's a pretty interesting place. 

Photo ©Darren Bradley

One of six colleges that make up the University of California, San Diego, Muir College was established in 1967. The school is named for celebrated naturalist John Muir. The buildings bear the names of areas of Yosemite National Park, which Muir helped to establish. These include Tioga and Tenaya Halls,  Tuolumne Apartments, Half-Dome Lounge, Redwood Lounge, Clouds Rest, etc. There's also a coffee house called Muir Woods, named after the redwood forest just north of San Francisco that also bears his name.

Biology Building
Biology Building by Liebhardt & Weston (1969). Photo ©Darren Bradley
The initial concept for this campus was conceived by consulting architects Robert Alexander and A. Quincy Jones. But by 1965, local La Jolla architect Robert Mosher was brought on as executive architect. He shelved their master plans, but retained some of the concepts that Alexander and Jones had proposed. (As you can imagine, there was a fair amount of political in-fighting that took place as this was happening, which I won't get into. See Keith York's excellent write up on the history if you want all the gossipy details).

Applied Physics & Mathematics Building (AKA Electrophysics Research Building) (1969) by Robert Mosher. Photo ©Darren Bradley

Mosher led a team of San Diego-based architects who produced one of the most cohesive and striking works of modern brutalist architecture in the world.

Applied Physics & Mathematics Building (AKA Electrophysics Research Building)
Looking up at the Applied Physics & Math Building by Mosher. Photo ©Darren Bradley

Photo ©Darren Bradley

The list of local architects includes Frank L. Hope, Liebhardt & Weston, Richard George Wheeler, and Dale Naegle.

Humanities and Social Sciences
The Humanities and Social Sciences building by Richard George Wheeler (1969). Photo ©Darren Bradley

Tenaya Hall by Dale Naegle (1968). Photo ©Darren Bradley

Board-formed concrete, block-like massing and patterns, and modular designs form multiple outdoor courtyard and covered walkways.

Muir College
Photo ©Darren Bradley

Photo ©Darren Bradley

The landscaping was designed by landscape architect Joseph Yamada of Wimmer Yamada, and was meant to evoke the natural landscape of Yosemite and Muir woods through the use of pines and other vegetation found there.

Muir College
Photo ©Darren Bradley
Although brutalism has largely fallen out of favor, and is criticized for being dehumanizing and cold, the combined result of this collection of buildings is one of cohesiveness and harmony, in an intimate and human scale that even conveys warmth and community spirit.

Stewart Commons by Dale Naegle (1969). Photo ©Darren Bradley
Natatorium by Liebhardt & Weston (1965). Photo ©Darren Bradley
UCSD Natatorium
Natatorium by Liebhardt & Weston (1965). Photo ©Darren Bradley

Muir’s founding Provost John L. Stewart wrote in 1965, "I believe buildings have a radical influence upon living and learning. I am thinking not just of their operational efficiency, but of attitudes, what stays in the memory, and the releasing and directing of intellectual and creative energies."

Gymnasium by Liebhardt & Weston (1965). Photo ©Darren Bradley

I wonder what role the architecture of this campus has had in the releasing and directing of intellectual and creative energies…

Photo ©Darren Bradley
For other blog posts and photos that I've taken of UCSD campus, look here, here, here, and here.

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