Muir College is located on the western edge of UC San Diego along North Torrey Pines Road and is the closest of the UC San Diego colleges to the beach. Several of its buildings, including freshman residences Tioga and Tenaya Halls, are the tallest on campus, with views from the upper stories overlooking the Pacific Ocean and Scripps Coastal Reserve. Torrey pines, Monterey pines, and other trees give Muir the sense of being a campus in the forest.
In honor of John Muir, the names of many buildings and gathering places at Muir evoke the landscape of Yosemite National Park, which Muir urged the federal government to establish. These include -- in addition to Tioga and Tenaya Halls – the Tuolumne Apartments for second-year students, Half-Dome Lounge, Redwood Lounge, Clouds Rest student organization offices, and Sierra Summit Dining Commons. The Muir Woods coffee house is named for the Muir Woods National Monument, a protected forest of coastal redwoods located in California’s Marin County.
In 2007, Muir College was awarded a $99,000 Campus Heritage Grant by the prestigious Getty Foundation to draw up a historical resources assessment and preservation plan for the College’s signature ensemble of Modernist buildings. Beginning in the late 1960’s and continuing into the early 1970’s, executive architect Robert Mosher of the firm Mosher and Drew led a team of San Diego-based architects whose work at UC San Diego and beyond helped define architectural Modernism in Southern California as well as in La Jolla proper. (See the Walking Tour for their individual contributions to Muir.)
The coordinated work of these architects resulted in a college campus of striking architectural consistency. The use throughout of board-formed concrete, block-like massing, modular design vocabulary, and the exterior expression of structure and interior spaces all reflect the ideals of mid-century Modernism. The buildings in the campus core are united further by outdoor courtyards, covered walkways, and the surrounding landscape, which was designed originally by San Diego landscape architect Joseph Yamada.
Muir’s founding Provost John L. Stewart wrote in 1965, "I believe buildings have a radical influence upon living and learning. I am thinking not just of their operational efficiency, but of attitudes, what stays in the memory, and the releasing and directing of intellectual and creative energies." The College's distinctive and consistent architecture, human-scaled connecting courtyards and walkways, and inward-turning orientation of the core campus as a whole are elements that create a strong sense of place and make its student, faculty, and staff inhabitants feel that they are part of a cohesive community.
In October 2009, construction began on the first new building to be added to the Muir campus since the early 1970’s. This apartment-style residence for second-year students, located immediately to the east of the Tuolumne Apartments, was designed by the San Diego architectural firm Delawie, Wilkes, Rodrigues, and Barker, in consultation with Robert Mosher and Dale Naegle, designer of Muir’s original residential buildings, to harmonize with the College’s signature Modernist style.
The Stuart Collection is UCSD’s collection of outdoor site-specific art works by some of the leading artists of the 20th and 21st centuries. The Muir campus is home to two of these works: the Sun God by Niki de Saint Phalle, a beloved campus symbol on the lawn in front of the Mandeville Center, and Green Table by Jenny Holzer, adjacent to the Muir Middle Quad. The Green Table has become a favorite meeting place or just a quiet place for lunch or study.