The University of California at San Diego (UCSD) is one of the premier public universities in the country. It is also a tourist attraction in its own right. UCSD occupies a prime 2,000 acres of land in La Jolla, overlooking the ocean. It is home base to many of our hikes. One of our favorite walks is through the Stuart Collection. As of 2018, the Stuart Collection consists of 19 works of art spread across the central campus. This is a guide to our 5-mile walk through The Stuart Collection at UCSD.
This walk can be as short as 3 miles, but our version is a 5-mile version. Either way be sure and download a map to find the actual art locations. The main challenge from this point is parking. You can pay for parking on campus, but there is plenty of free parking right by the campus.
We like to take advantage of the free parking at the Torrey Pines Glider Park. This is also a great place to visit, but it is about a mile from the start of the actual walk. You need to walk down the glider park road (Torrey Pines Scenic Dr) and turn right on Torrey Pines Road. The official hike starts when you get to Muir College Drive.
If you want to get closer, another option is to park on La Jolla Farms Road. This is near the Scripps Coastal Reserve. Once again this is a nice place to visit as a quick side trip. If you do this, you can go down to the LDS Institute at 9527 La Jolla Farms and find a small walking path that takes you to Torrey Pines Road where you cross the street to get to the UCSD campus.
Either way the first attraction is number 12 on the map, the Green Table. Note the numbers refer to the order the exhibits were placed and have nothing to do with the walking order.
Also note that as an active campus there is a great deal of construction going on. On our last visit, the trail from the Red Shoe to the La Jolla Vista View was blocked off.
The Stuart Collection
Green Table (1992): Jenny Holzer
This is a large granite table located in the center of the Muir College quad. It is a gathering place for students. Holzer is famous for her one-line text sayings and the table is filled with them.
Sun God (1983): Niki de Saint Phalle
This was the first work in the Stuart Collection. This large statue is near the center of campus and is considered a landmark. Students will often dress up the Sun God and the school hosts an annual Sun God Festival of arts and music each spring.
Two Running Violet V Forms (1983): Robert Irwin
Right by the Sun God is the second installation in the Stuart Collection. This is a more abstract work consisting of fence like structures between eucalyptus trees. The fences form a V like shape, hence the name.
Terrace (1991): Jackie Ferrara
This one is a little tricky to find because it is an open space within the School of Medicine buildings. It consists of several terraces and does not stand out as a separate artwork. What you mainly notice is the green, red and black tiles. This was designed in conjunction with the architects building the Cellular and Molecular Medicine Facility.
La Jolla Project (1984): Richard Fleischner
The La Jolla Project is another early piece in the Stuart Collection. You can’t miss this large collection of 71 granite blocks. They are arranged in configurations common to architecture such as windows, posts, columns, arches, doorways and thresholds.
Wind Garden (2017): Richard Luther Adams
This is one you will find with your ears. It is a wooded section located right next to the La Jolla Playhouse. The Wind Garden is the natural sound of the wind through the trees amplified by 32 hidden loudspeakers. You are guaranteed never to get the same experience twice.
Red Shoe (1996): Elizabeth Murray
This piece is self-explanatory. It is a big Red Shoe, partially hidden in the woods. If you look hard you can see it from Torrey Pines Road. It is right by the Wind Garden in front of the La Jolla Playhouse.
La Jolla Vista View (1988): William Wegman
This one can be a little tricky to find. By the side of the La Jolla Playhouse there is a narrow trail that takes you up a hill and along a short wooden path. It ends in a terrace with a view of the UTC area of La Jolla. There is a viewing telescope and a large bronze map. Of course, the area has completely changed since the map was drawn in 1987. The point is to highlight how rapidly the world changes.
Note that on our last visit the trail up to La Jolla Vista View was blocked with construction. Getting there required going around the other side of the La Jolla Playhouse and going to the end of Mandall Weiss Lane. This construction also impacted Red Shoe and Wind Garden. Also, the information center referred to on the map is permanently closed with major construction in that area.
Standing (1998): Kiki Smith
Standing is a life size statute of a nude female on a pedestal. The pedestal is actually a dead tree cast in concrete. The figure is pierced with star fished shaped pins. Water flows from here hands to a pond below. Its location in the School of Medicine is obviously significant.
Untitled (1991): Michael Asher
We missed this one our first time through because we didn’t know what we were looking for. Well, actually, I knew it was a water fountain but there are a lot of water fountains around the center of campus. This one is located right in the center of a grassy area in the front of the Price Center. When one leans down to drink from the fountain and looks west, the flagpole serves as a line to a rock with a plaque that commemorates Camp Matthews. Camp Matthews was a World War II military base located on what is now UCSD.
Another (2008) Barbara Kruger
Another is another one you need to know what you are looking for. This is a large display right in the Price Center East food court. It is directly across from the Burger King. It consists of a mural of two large clocks with sayings like Another Dollar, Another Idea, Another Song etc. There are ticker tape LED displays showing the latest news.
Vices and Virtues (1988): Bruce Naumann
Right outside the Price Center is the Charles Lee Powell Structural Systems Laboratory. Vices and Virtues consists of large 7-foot high neon words that surround the top of this 6-story building. These words consist of the seven vices and virtues superimposed over each other. So you have Fortitude with Anger, Hope with Envy, Faith with Lust and so on. This display is one best seen at night, when the neon turns on, and the lights flash through several different cycles.
Bear (2006): Tim Hawkinson
Bear is one you will not miss. This is a massive bear statute constructed out of 8 granite stones found in the San Diego area. This was actually a major engineering project. The biggest rock, the torso, weighed over 100 tons. The bear stands nearly 24 feet high and weighs 180 tons. Perhaps most amazing is how they got all those boulders to stay together.
Fallen Star (2012): Do Ho Suh
Surprisingly Bear is only the second most notable piece in the Stuart Collection. Fallen Star is a fully furnished house that is placed on top of the 7-story high Jacobs Hall. The house is placed at an angle, so it looks like it fell from the sky and landed on the building. You can actually tour this building on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons.
Snake Path (1992): Alexis Smith
From Fallen Star look straight ahead to the large, diamond shape Theodore Geisel Library. The path up to the library twists and turns up the hill. This is Snake Path and it consists of a 560-foot long, 10-foot wide walkway in the form of a snake. The scales are represented by colored slate tiles. The path coils around a small garden designed to represent the garden of Eden. It ends at the library concourse (or starts considering this is the snake’s head).
Theodore Geisel Library
Theodore Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss, was a famous San Diego resident. There are many sites associated with Dr. Seuss in the La Jolla area and his namesake library includes many Dr Seuss exhibits. For the next stop on the tour you need to head down the stairs to the library entrance, but first you may want to enjoy the Dr. Seuss statutes at the end of the Snake Path. For more info see our guide to Dr Seuss’ San Diego.
READ/WRITE/THINK/DREAM (2001): John Baldessari
This exhibit is the front entrance to the Theodore Geisel Library. The sliding entry doors are glass panels in primary colors. AS they slide open and close they mix to create new colors. The words READ/WRITE/THINK/DREAM are written above the doorway. On the side panel there are various images of UCSD students.
Trees (1986): Terry Allen
You need to know what you are looking for because there are lots of trees in this area. When some eucalyptus trees were cut down for new campus buildings, three of the trees were saved. Artist Terry Allen encased the trees in lead and mixed two of them in with an existing eucalyptus grove. The third tree was placed in front of the library entrance and is easy to spot. Once you find that tree you can look for the other two in the nearby grove.
Something Pacific (1986): Nam June Paik
Something Pacific is a piece I have not seen in full. It consists of some outdoor pieces and also includes the lobby of the Media Center. The Media Center consists of a bank of TVs showing videos that are updated on an ongoing basis. The outdoor sculpture is best described as a video graveyard with broken down TVs and other electronic devices.
UNDA (1987): Ian Hamilton Finlay
UNDA consists of five large stone blocks carved with the letters UNDA. They are in various combinations, but there is an S sign that indicates how you are supposed to transpose the letters to spell UNDA. UNDA is Latin for wave and the sculpture is set high on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The carving and flow of the letters represents the movement of waves.
This walk takes you full loop. From UNDA you head down the hill to Torrey Pines Road. If you parked at the Glider Port you head right to Torrey Pines Scenic Drive. La Jolla Farms Rd is a short walk across Torrey Pines Road and to the left. Simply take the short path by the LDS Institute.
The Stuart Collection is a fun walk for kids. It is also great to combine with either the Gliderport or Scripps Coastal Reserve.