While we don’t have the history that cities like Paris, Rome or Barcelona have, San Diego abounds with unexpected and fascinating architecture. From Churrigueresque to a hyperbolic paraboloid, the county is dotted with entrancing works sure to be spawn a treasure hunt for art lovers, budding architects, and history buffs.
Get your cameras and Instagram accounts ready and head out to these San Diego architectural landmarks.
The architecture: Balboa Park
Location: 2131 Pan American Plaza, San Diego
The scoop: Known for its beautiful, picture-worthy buildings, the park’s structures represent what is known as the Spanish Colonial architectural style. The buildings, including the Casa de Balboa, Spreckels Organ Pavilion, and the breathtaking California Tower and dome were designed during the 1915 Panama-California Exposition. The buildings were originally constructed as temporary wood and plaster structures, but were thankfully reconstructed, which will allow us to enjoy them for generations.
Fun fact: The Casa del Prado, in particular, shows off the tongue-twisting and ornate Churrigueresque style, inspired by the Spanish Baroque period of the late 17th Century. (The Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Spain is a well-known example.)
To see the Architectural Review from 1914, which lays out the incredible blueprints and designs of the buildings, go here.
The architecture: Geisel Library
Location: 9500 Gilman Dr., La Jolla
The scoop: Designed in the “brutalist” style of architecture, the Geisel is the main library of the University of California, San Diego. The 1970 structure is bold, confrontational and unforgiving in its lines and angles. With its counterposed massive concrete bases and windowed top layers, the library sets a tension between weight and levitation and is likened by some observers to a landing alien spaceship. Library architect William Pereira is perhaps most well-known for the Transamerica Pyramid in San Francisco, which was completed in 1972.
The architecture: Salk Institute
Location: 10010 N. Torrey Pines Rd., La Jolla
The scoop: Architect Louis Kahn believed buildings should be both grand in scale and inspirational to the spirit. The Salk Institute, designed in the International Style, was commissioned in 1959 and completed in 1965 for famed scientist Jonas Salk. The structures are comprised of steel, concrete, lead, glass and teak, with a courtyard of travertine marble and a strip of water leading to the Pacific Ocean.
The architecture: Carlton Hills Lutheran Church
Location: 9735 Halberns Blvd., Santee
The scoop: With a curving, wavelike roof forming a “hyperbolic paraboloid,” this striking church was designed by Robert E. DesLauriers and won the Award of Merit from the American Institute of Architects in 1959.
Fun fact: The renowned and prolific architect became known as “Mr. Church,” creating 67 religious projects throughout his career.
The architecture: San Diego Central Library
Location: 330 Park Blvd., downtown
The scoop: The library’s steel dome has become one of the landmarks of downtown San Diego for locals and tourists alike. The nearly 500,000-square-foot building, designed by architect Rob Quigley, incorporates brutalist, postmodernist, and deconstructionist architecture, topped by a striking three-story steel mesh dome, with nearly endless angles to examine and windows to peer from.
Fun fact: The 143-foot-diameter dome is the approximate size of the domes atop the Duomo in Florence and the Pantheon in Rome.