Odd Architecture of UCSD’s Geisel Library Lends Itself to Popular Culture


Is it an alien spaceship headquarters? What about a snow fortress? Why not all of the above? What’s undeniable is the fact that this main library of UCSD, is so unique in its use of angular architecture. This eight-story high building was constructed by William L. Pereira & Associates. It first opened its doors in 1970 and is constructed of reinforced concrete and glass.

Geisel Library has been called a ‘lantern-like library held aloft on concrete fingers’ (Britton, AIA). I’ve also heard a religious myth weaved into the story of its visual representation from an aerial view. Apparently, one interpretation of its architecture calls for Geisel as representative of an apple from above, reminiscent of the Garden of Eden from Genesis. The mosaic snake path on the east side of the library metaphorically represents temptation.


Regardless of one’s personal interpretation of Geisel’s external architecture, it’s popped up commonly in mainstream media. UCSD students have most commonly seen the Snow Fortress of the popular 2010 film, Inception based upon none other than our home library at UCSD. But Geisel Library and Warren Mall have also made an appearance in the once-popular television show, Veronica Mars. It’s also been seen in some more popular films such as Mission Impossible, as well as some lesser-known works, such as Simon & Simon, The Citadel, Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, Funky Monkey, The Proud American, and Kaboom.

Most of us UCSD students take the Geisel Library’s architecture for granted – we study in this place for hours on end during midterms and finals week. We groan when we have to wait a few agonizing minutes for its two elevators to creak up and down the six floors of the Geisel Library tower. This building is definitely one of the most unique I’ve seen in recent years, and is widely known. But when it’s seen in popular culture, perhaps no one gets as excited to see it than the students of UCSD, who generally take our home library for granted.


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