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March 18, 2020

OH! San Diego - a look behind-the-scenes

Once a year OH! San Diego (Open House San Diego) offers a free weekend event that offers Open House tours of buildings that are of architectural significance at various city locations.

New for this year's Open House is Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO).  Although outdoor guided walking tours are available the 2nd Saturday each month, this is the first time some of the buildings are open to the public.

SIO was founded on 177 acres of land in 1903.  From the initial study of the ocean, it has grown into a major contributor in earth/sea/atmosphere sciences.

The tour check-in is at Pawka Green, a public park on the campus.  

Across Pawka Green we toured the George H. Scripps building, the oldest building on the campus.  The Old Scripps Building was completed in 1909 and housed the original public aquarium, research laboratories, offices and the home for the founder William Ritter and his family.

We met Kirk, who is the guide for the outdoor portion of the open house, on the green.  His tour concludes with a walk on the iconic Scripps Pier.
Ocean conditions have been recorded continuously from the pier since 1916.   Providing the most complete and accurate information on the ocean conditions.  And yes – water levels are rising.
The pumphouse at the end of the pier provides a constant source of sea water for study or as needed by the aquarium.

Walking the pier provides views of the cliffs that are not appreciated from the beach.

Scripps Beach is a popular surf spot.

At the foot of the pier is the Center for Coastal Studies.  The concrete base was originally a test facility for converting seawater into fresh water.  The Reverse Osmosis process was developed here.

The building has since been converted into research laboratories with new office space added above.  Nice view from the office window.

The Old Director’s House was completed in 1913 and the Ritter family called it home until his retirement.

The house has since been converted into office space and lounge for visiting scientists.

Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics Laboratory (IGPP) is a long building of redwood and glass housing the office of the professors and research scientists.   A weird building with absolutely awesome sunset views 

and the PGK Dance Project.

Once the campus library and archives the Eckart Building is now used by students in advanced study programs.

It was my favorite, not for any architectural reason, but simply the Coral Reef Garden in front.

The effort to find cactus that would thrive in the coastal environment, must have taken a bit of research.  Then to find them the right color to create the appearance of a coral reef.  And to find them crested!  Yes most of the succulents in the reef are crested cactus!


 OH! San Diego sponsors Open Houses in other locations in La Jolla, Gaslamp, Downtown, Bankers Hill, Balboa Park, Barrio Logan, East Village, Point Loma and Coronado.  

If we do this again I like the idea of taking our bikes on the ferry to Coronado for an educational day.


  1. The reef garden was so cool. Some people have the best imaginations.

    1. I agree!, there must be several dozen succulents there - all carefully selected - most are crested. It's really cool and open to the public.

  2. We spent some time exploring with our son and daughter in law a few years ago....what an interesting place on all levels!

    1. "Levels" for sure, it is a cliff-side! A beautiful and fun campus, glad you had the chance to enjoy it.

  3. Very cool place - and I love the whole idea of the Open Houses! What a great way to create community engagement. I'd be interested in several of the ones you listed. The garden is beautiful and the ocean views are fantastic!

    1. Hi Laura - We did indeed have a perfect day for touring the campus and the open building. The Reef Garden is open to the public everyday, but I'd recommend combining it with the pubic tour - if just to walk the pier.

  4. Thanks for the tour Jeff. An amazing place to visit. I can see why the coral reef is a favorite. At first I thought they were stone or ceramic until you told me they were cactus. That is unique!

    1. We did enjoy the campus, getting to tour the buildings was a special treat. I'd go back just to sit by the coral reef garden, an amazing job of selecting cactus for their color, ability to thrive along the coast and they are mostly crested!


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