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7 Modern Architecture Wonders

Classically-inspired, Contemporary masterpieces

Clean lines, lots of light, and even one Lorax tree (kind of). These motifs characterize the modern architecture that can be found all over San Diego. From libraries in urban areas and college campuses to stunning private homes, temples, and mixed-use spaces, San Diego has so many angles to appreciate.

By: San Diego Magazine


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UC San Diego’s Geisel Library

9500 Gilman Drive, La Jolla, CA 92093

If the brutalist design of UC San Diego’s Geisel Library reminds you of a Lorax tree, it’s no accident. The school’s main library building is a tribute to Theodor Geisel—better known as Dr. Seuss—and his wife, Audrey. The eight-story building dates to 1970. Built by William L. Pereira & Associates, it houses seven million volumes including personal items, notebooks, and drawings.

Salk Institute for Biological Studies

Salk Institute for Biological Studies

10010 N Torrey Pines Road, La Jolla, CA 92037

Jonas Salk, creator of the first polio vaccine, told architect Louis Kahn that in designing his namesake institute he must “create a facility worthy of a visit by Picasso.” Anyone who visits the 27-acre campus overlooking the Pacific Ocean would likely agree that Kahn succeeded in his mandate. Subtle water features separate concrete buildings accented with teak.

Congregation Beth El

Congregation Beth El

8660 Gilman Drive, La Jolla, CA 92037

Built in 2000 by Stanley Saitowitz and Natoma Architects, this temple is a mixture of American and Eastern European influences. At every turn, light is able to penetrate the skylight, the airy exterior and even into the synagogue itself, which has been described as a “box of light.” Olive trees and a grassy lawn bring even more of a natural feel to this house of worship.

The Q

The Q

750 W Fir Street, San Diego, CA 92101

Built in 2010, this seven-story mixed-use residential, office, and commercial space was able to bring a modern touch to Little Italy while preserving the old. The structure encompasses the oldest home in Little Italy, a Gothic Victorian house from 1889 incongruously but elegantly displayed. Designed by Jonathan Segal FAIA, the building houses 27 apartments and common spaces entirely powered by solar panels on the building’s roof.

UCSD Price Center

UCSD Price Center

UCSD, La Jolla, CA 92093

Adjacent to the Geisel Library, UC San Diego’s student center is almost as much of an eye-catcher. First opened in 1989, the Price Center has undergone expansions that have added immensely to the building’s architectural appeal. Filled with eateries, shops, lounge space, and even a movie theater, the Price Center offers something for just about everyone, not just students.

Torr Kaelan

Torr Kaelan

416 13th St, San Diego, CA 92101

After designing San Diego’s Central Library, architect Rob Quigley decided to put down his own roots just a block away. And in 2015, Quigley and wife Kathleen Hallahan moved into their own East Village abode, which quickly became one of the most notable in all of San Diego. At just 42 feet wide, the five-story home is an excellent use of space wrapped in an inviting white-brick exterior. Though a showpiece, the home is comfortable, too. An outdoor living room is the main space, but can be closed off by enormous glass doors framing views of some of San Diego’s most iconic structures: the Coronado Bridge, San Diego Bay, and of course, the city’s central library Quigley designed.

San Diego Central Library

San Diego Central Library

330 Park Blvd, San Diego, CA 92101

Is it a hat? An umbrella? However you interpret the steel-and-mesh lattice dome topping it, the city’s flagship library is unique, modern, attractive, and distinctive. The nine-story steel and concrete structure, designed by architect Rob Quigley and opened in 2013 is considered a masterpiece in concrete construction. The interior is no less impressive. The massive central space is defined by a gigantic arch, and floating stairway.

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