Till O&O!

October 26, 2017
Reception & Ceremony
The US Grant
Tickets Available Now!


Small Bridges Makes A Big Difference @ Warren College UCSD

Douglas Hall and its 3 identical sister buildings epitomize the repetitive, institutional, and aging soulless student housing found on many university campus’ that simply lack any “there”, there.  So when a stack of concrete bridges spanning over the main pedestrian/bike path connecting this residence hall to the main campus became structurally compromised, the University seized the opportunity to implement this modest initial refresh as a test case for some exciting new ideas to be implemented as part of the entire Warren College residential neighborhood update already on the books.

The problem:

As a counterpoint to the boxy, beige, and boring six story structure they serve, the replacement bridges and associated landscaped courtyard were reimagined to address the shortcomings of the original tired design, specifically the physical constriction (only 7′-4″ of clearance beneath the bottom bridge), lack of identity, non-existent exterior social spaces, and very poor nighttime lighting a significant safety issue for students coming home at night.

The solution:

The first move was to literally and figuratively open things up and improve sight lines.  A vibrant yellow double height portal was created by eliminating the bottom bridge altogether and adding a new access stair.  To establish identity, the res hall’s namesake (Supreme Court Justice John Douglas) was perforated into the portal side wall along with one of his inspirational quotes.  Speaking to the dynamic and diverse youth culture on campus, the design language is intentionally modern, engaging, and transparent.  Place-making is addressed in a material palette that includes natural Ipe wood decking, colorfully abstract glass guardrails, a crisp white metal skin, and individual seats added to each level encourage residents to stop for a moment in transit to enjoy the views or a conversation.  Once sketchy and foreboding after dark, the bridges, path, and courtyard are completely transformed by an integrated and thoughtful lighting design into something quite extraordinary once the sun sets. Douglas Hall is now easily distinguishable from its 3 drab neighbors.

It is exciting to see the old school dorm model being completely refashioned into dynamic student living environments designed to foster community generating the same excitement as the world class academic education UC San Diego offers.  The future is very bright on this campus, can’t wait to see what else is in store as the place continues to evolve, grow, and mature!


  • Orchid Nominee

  • Project Address:

    9500 Gilman Drive La Jolla, CA 92093-0916

    Project Owner/Developer:

    University of California San Diego

    Owner Contact Name/Email:

    Mark Cunningham mcunningham@ucsd.edu

    Project Architect/Designer:

    Kevin deFreitas Architects with Bowyer


  • Joan

    The graphics and color add a lot of individuality to Douglas Hall. Are the other halls going to get a redo also?

  • OB Dude

    Very nice UCSD, very nice indeed. This is a cool little bridge. The school seems to be in the newspaper almost daily for it amazing research discoveries, great to see that they are creating equally exciting architecture on campus. I haven’t been to the campus in a very long time but the projects nominated for this year’s O&O have inspired me to stop by for a look see.

  • DznMs

    Whoa, student housing with no windows, what architect thought that was a great idea? The before to after transformation is pretty impressive. I really like the evening shots, great lighting.

  • TritonGirl

    Fun bridges, graphics, color and lights, UCSD needs to loosen up a bit and could use more of this.

  • two wheels

    A simple utilitarian project turned into a lively addition to the buildings.. Good Job!!!

  • Nancy Filtz

    Love this modification!!! The glass and colors feel light and open. Upon approaching you immediately get a sense of life within the community.

  • Mikiki

    Absolutely stunning transformation! Especially at night, love the lighting! Hopefully UCSD does more projects like this.

  • Jennie

    I used this path to and from my Warren College dorm (Harlan) and Geisel where I liked to study. Returning home late at night, especially when it was foggy, felt a little sketchy. Improving a sense of safety while also addressing the looks literally makes a night and day difference.

  • Kyle

    Great colors, materials and nice architectural flare to highlight the dorms. The lighting makes it pop and the yellow really draws focus to the confluence of the buildings. Well done.

  • Ben

    Sweet little addition.

  • Chuck

    great addition!

  • Adrian L.

    Orchids are colorful, rich in detail, elegantly slender, and well…..beautiful. I think this aptly describes UCSD’s attempt to update this dated dorm.

  • PB Boy

    Bridges look o’ight’ Landscape looks nice. I wonder who did it?

  • UCSD Alum

    Revelle dorms aren’t what they used to be, and that’s a very good thing. I remember trying to explain to friends how to find my place in the maze of identically buildings with absolutely nothing available as a distinguishing landmark. It was just easier to go out and get them. The bridges and landscaping are excellent starts, UCSD needs to keep going to improve the rest of the dorms, hopefully possible without doubling room and board costs again!

  • R. Bentley

    Perhaps size doesn’t actually matter? This little baby has some soul.

  • Madeira

    Beautifully done!!! Brings a new sense of life and color to the old, mundane dorm buildings

  • Margaret Sabatini

    Beautiful project; stunning at night! Nice work!

  • Elizabeth Foerster Whitelock

    This is exquisite!

  • Rick Kennedy


  • Benjamin

    Simply, clever, cool.

  • Manny D

    Amazing little insertion into a part of campus that could use a jolt of bold energy. Well done KDA and Bowyer!

  • Ronald

    It’s amazing how much of a difference something so simple has made. The gathering space near the bridge is now in use at all hours, and the heavily trafficked path below it feels significantly safer at night. It’s become a focal point for Warren College and I look forward to UCSD following through on installing similar bridges on Brennan, Goldberg, and Black, as well as getting rid of the ridiculous mid-eighties comic strips by the four buildings’ elevators.

Contact Us

Contact Us



P.O. Box 122228
San Diego, CA 92112-2228
Federal Tax ID: 95-3513927

Sign Up

Stay on top of your Architectural news

Orchids & Onions is an educational and fundraising program of the San Diego Architectural Foundation, a 501(c)3, nonprofit organization dedicated to education and the promotion of outstanding architecture, planning and urban design throughout the San Diego region.

Get in the Mix