Has the sight of a building ever stopped you in your tracks? Put a smile on your face? Made you wonder? Whether you're an expert or just curious, you can find many different architectural styles throughout Balboa Park. Follow the stops below for a structural safari!
Start out your tour at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion, designed for the 1915 Panama-California Exposition by self-taught Los Angeles architect Harrison Albright, who was also responsible for downtown's U.S. Grant Hotel. The Pavilion has an Italian-Renaissance style, featuring semi-circular colonnades and intricate leaf cluster and shell designs.
The San Diego Air and Space Museum's building was constructed for the 1935 California Pacific International Exposition by Ford to show off its cars. Inside, you'll find the 20-foot-high, 450-foot-long Transportation Mural. It circles the building's interior and shows the history of transportation, from feet and carts, to jets and space shuttles.
The Veterans Museum at Balboa Park has a fitting location; its housed in the former Old Balboa Naval Hospital Chapel. Once a place for worship and ceremony, the spacious building now hosts exhibits, activities, and services that honor and perpetuate the memories of those who served in the United States Armed Forces and Wartime Merchant Marine.
If you appreciate cleverly repurposed structures, stop by the World Beat Center and the Centro Cultural de la Raza. Both inhabit renovated million gallon water towers enhanced by lively murals.
Stroll over to the Spanish Village Arts Center and visit the charming cottages housing artist studios and galleries. The Village was built to represent a picturesque Spanish town for the 1935 Exposition. Artists saw the value of the space and began using the space just two years later in 1937.
Walking along El Prado, look up to see caryatids, or weight-bearing features carved as human figures, on the Casa de Balboa. It appears these figures are using their arms to hold up the building's eaves. In reality, concealed beams projecting from the walls do the heavy lifting.
Architects must be able to imagine things small and scale them up. Learn more about scale at the San Diego Model Railroad Museum, where builders see the world around them and scale things down to create worlds in miniature.
Visit the Balboa Park Botanical Building, constructed for the 1915 Exposition. Made with lath, or thin, narrow strips of straight-grained wood, this is one of the largest lath structures in the world.
The Timken Museum of Art offers an architectural experience unlike any other in Balboa Park. The Mid-Century Modern building relies on symmetry and unique materials, like travertine and bronze and complements both the surrounding San Diego landscape and the art inside.
Pick up refreshments at Prado Perk and enjoy them in the House of Hospitality's courtyard. Look around to discover the intricacies of Spanish-Renaissance, or Plateresque, style of the building. See how the light plays with the surrounding arches.
Across the Plaza de Panama, you'll find the House of Charm, home to the Mingei International Museum, (currently undergoing renovation), and the Institute of Contemporary Art, San Diego (Formerly San Diego Art Institute). The facade facing the Plaza is in the Spanish-Colonial style and is based on the Sanctuary of Guadalupe in Guadalajara, Mexico. Does it remind you of any other buildings you know?
More Spanish-style design can be found at the Alcazar Garden. This Balboa Park garden is based on the Moorish-style grounds of the Alcazar Castle in Seville, Spain.
In Shakespeare's day, his plays were performed at the round and open air Globe Theatre in London. Theatres around the world, including San Diego's Old Globe Theatre, have sought to replicate the building and capture the spirit of the original theatre.
While you're at the Old Globe, consider taking in a show. Stop by the concessions stand, Lady Carolyn's Pub, for soups, salads, coffee, wine, and more.
The California Building, home to the Museum of Us is mentioned more than any other San Diego structure in architecture books. The hybrid design, mixing Plateresque, Baroque, Churrigueresque, and Rococo, Gothic, and Spanish-Colonial, creates a totally unique building.
End your architecture survey with a walk across the Cabrillo Bridge, which spans 450 feet above a canyon 120 feet below. The Bridge employs a multi-arched cantilever structure and was the first of its kind in California.
Hope you enjoyed the tour and got to take a closer look at the world around you. When you leave the Park, keep your eyes peeled. You never know when a building could surprise, delight, or inspire you!
Check individual websites for hours and pricing. Get more out of your visits with an Explorer Pass