Holding Up a Stack of Books: A Look at La Jolla’s Brutalist Library

The Geisel Library is the main library building at the University of California San Diego in La Jolla, California and opened in 1970. The distinctive original building was designed in the late 1960s by William Pereira to sit at the head of a canyon. The building's arches, in combination with the design of the individual floors, are intended to look like hands holding up a stack of books. Pereira originally conceived a steel-framed building, but this was changed to reinforced concrete to save on construction and maintenance costs. This change of material presented an opportunity for a more sculptural design. It was envisioned that future additions to the original building would form terraced levels around the tower base descending into the canyon. In keeping with the original master plan, these are "deliberately designed to be subordinated to the strong, geometrical form of the existing library."

The tower is a prime example of brutalist architecture, rising eight stories to a height of 110 ft. The five upper stories of the tower house collections, individual study space, and group study rooms. One unusual feature of the library is that the lower levels are numbered 1 and 2, and the upper floors numbered 4 through 8. This has given rise to several fanciful explanations for why the third floor is apparently sealed off and not accessible from elevators or steps. In reality, the "missing" third floor is actually the open/outside forum. There is no other third floor, blocked off or otherwise. It is simply reinforced concrete and an emergency exit that helps students from the 4-8 floors get out without having to go to the second floor.

In 1995, La Jolla resident Audrey Geisel donated $20 million to the UCSD Library, supplementing her 1991 donation of $2.3 million worth of her husband Theodor Geisel's (Dr. Seuss) original works. In exchange, the library was renamed Geisel Library.


source: wikipedia, ucsd