Eye-catching outdoor sculptures around San Diego

People come to San Diego's Tuna Harbor Park to watch the sunset at the "Unconditional Surrender" statue. (Misael Virgen)
(Misael Virgen / San Diego Union-Tribune)

As we return to fairer days, sunnier skies, and uplifting temperatures, San Diegans are itching to get outside and explore their city with new vigor. Eye-catching sculptures dot the county’s landscape - from the harbor to university libraries - and give locals pause to spark their intellect, revive childhood memories, and sometimes just provide a smile.

Here are some of the top must-see sculptures in San Diego.

Fallen Star, Do Ho Suh

This inventive sculpture seems to teeter on the edge of the Jacobs School of Engineering at University of California, San Diego. Installed in 2011 as part of the university’s Stuart Collection, the house brings up thoughts of the Wizard of Oz gone awry, and our own precarious society today. Public visitation hours are 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays. To see a video of its installation, visit

UCSD Jacobs School of Engineering, 9500 Gilman Dr., La Jolla,

Coming Together, Niki de Saint Phalle

Welcoming people of all colors, shapes, sizes and personalities, the 28-foot mosaic face rises near the San Diego Convention Center with an eye-catching disposition. One side depicts light and dark sides of a personality versus a vibrant and colorful contrasting side; the sculpture confronts reality while showing the beauty that is possible from within.

San Diego Convention Center, 111 Harbor Dr., downtown

Unconditional Surrender, J. Seward Johnson

Towering 25 feet above harbor visitors, this iconic sculpture depicts a World War II-era sailor and nurse in a passionate embrace and kiss. The original sculpture was on loan from 2007 to 2012 by the Sculpture Foundation in Santa Monica. After its removal, the public raised over $1 million to fund a permanent replica, which was unveiled in 2013. While local art critics might lament its installation, there is no doubt it is a tourist and local favorite.

Tuna Harbor Park, 55 Tuna Lane, downtown

Dr. Seuss & Cat in the Hat, Lark Grey Dimond-Cates

View a bronze version of this legendary writer near the Geisel Library at UCSD La Jolla. A life-size Theodor Geisel (aka Dr. Seuss) relaxes at a drawing desk with knee pulled up, while the 7.5 foot Cat in the Hat stands with a friendly tip of his iconic hat. Double up the art experience on this trip by checking out the Geisel Library; one of the top architectural features in San Diego.

UCSD campus, 9500 Gilman Dr., La Jolla

The Cardiff Kook, Matthew Antichevich

Installed in 2007, this surfing sculpture located on Coast Highway 101 has been one of the most talked about art pieces in the county. Technically named “Magic Carpet Ride” by sculptor Matthew Antichevich, the Kook (as locals call it) has been dressed up, decorated and celebrated for birthdays and holidays year round. There’s even an annual Cardiff Kook fun run where people dress in costume.

S. Coast Highway 101 at Chesterfield Drive, Cardiff-by-the-Sea

San Diego Botanic Garden sculpture collection

With a whopping 42 sculptures set among the idyllic property, the garden is one of the largest sculpture collections in the county. Featuring a variety of artists, mediums, and subject matter, from the abstract to the figurative, the sculptures make a stroll through the gardens a time for reflection, examination, and relaxation.

230 Quail Gardens Dr., Encinitas, 760.436.3036,

May S. Marcy Sculpture Court

The newly renovated sculpture garden includes 19th and 20th century works by renowned artists David Smith, Alexander Liberman, and Barbara Hepworth. Look for Balboa Park’s other sculpture exhibit entitled “Art of the Open Air,” with stunning works by Tony Rosenthal, Joan Miro, and Auguste Rodin.

San Diego Museum of Art, 1450 El Prado, Balboa Park,

Laurie Delk is an avid art historian, holding a master’s degree in Art History, with concentrations in the Modern and Postmodern movements. She has taught classes at Tulane University, and has been published with several art publications including Sculpture Magazine and New Orleans Art Review. Send ideas for art stories to