The Auditorium at TSRI


A Cultural Convent

        A stone’s throw from the pristine greens of Torrey Pines and the grand cliffs overlooking the pacific ocean, The Auditorium at The Scripps Research Institute stands as a hidden gem amid the research and development activity that defines the immediate area. Co-designed and built in 1995 as part of the new Neurosciences Institute project by architectural studio Tod Williams Billie Tsien & Associates of New York City and Joseph Wong Design Associates of San Diego, the institute was conceived as an intellectual retreat, or rather an intricate yet quiet “scientific monastery”¹. The iconic Salk Institute nearby stands as a perfect neighbor in its similar aesthetic pursuit.
        The entrance leading to the Auditorium is prominent in the secluded, yet spacious plaza burying into the surrounding landscape. Those familiar with the current main courtyard of The Getty Villa would sense something pleasantly familiar here. Cool, grounded concrete both planar and curved simultaneously hide and play with the senses, producing a changing view with each new turn and step. Moving into the cavernous lobby, glass framed in warm California redwood comprise lofty doors that beckon you immediately inside to the top end row of the auditorium.
        Noted acoustician Cyril Harris was brought on to collaborate with the architects, yielding a unique and acoustically intimate experience. An original system of faceted, origami-like plaster panels line the walls and ceiling channeling superior, unamplified sound to each one of the 325 seats. All senses are wrapped in a complete and considered experience. Winner of American Institute of Architects’ National Honor Award and an SDG&E’s Savings by Design Energy Efficiency Integration Award, The Auditorium and surrounding campus at TSRI can be enjoyed today with the various music, lectures, and art events occurring throughout the year².

The building conveys a philosophical outlook in architectural terms. It makes no appeal to the external authority of theory. In the unfolding of its imagery and spaces, in its ethereal use of materials, the building invites us to appreciate the simultaneous separateness and connectedness of things — minds and bodies, objects and ideas, people and their environments. This is a magnificent piece of work.