OH! San Diego 2019
Celebrating architecture, urban design & the built environment
One weekend. Free access. Iconic architecture. The doors are open for you to explore.


The largest cultural complex west of the Mississippi, Balboa Park is sometimes called “Smithsonian of the West” for the impressive concentration of cultural institutions within its boundaries. Originally built for temporary use during the 1915-16 Panama-California Exposition, the buildings here are beautiful enough to be considered attractions in themselves. The real draw is the culture, history, science and arts held within their walls. Highlights include eight gardens, 15 museums, a Tony Award-winning theater and the San Diego Zoo.


1500 El Prado, Balboa Park
John Mock, 1965

This iconic building is considered to be one of the most important examples of mid-century southern California modernism and the International Style in the United States. Constructed of travertine, bronze and glass, the museum is known for the quality of the natural light illuminating its six intimately scaled galleries. In contrast to other Balboa Park structures, this building embraces the park beyond its walls by creating a light and airy ‘see-through’ museum that blurs the boundaries between interior and exterior.

SAT & SUN 10AM – 4PM / Self-guided tour / Guided tour at 12PM & 1PM


1450 El Prado, Balboa Park
William Templeton Johnson, 1925 / Robert Mosher, 1966

SDMA is the largest and oldest art museum in the region. Local business and civic leader, Appleton S. Bridges, funded the construction. The building was inspired by sixteenth-century Spanish Renaissance buildings in the plateresque style, which means ‘in the manner of a silversmith’. Forty years later, the west wing was completed and features the May S. Marcy Sculpture Garden and the library, which holds more than 30,000 volumes spanning centuries and topics.

Guided archive/library tour SAT & SUN at 11AM & 2PM, meet at Border Crossing sculpture at west side of Plaza de Panama / Reservation required / SATURDAY TOURS / SUNDAY TOURS

Guided architecture tour SAT & SUN at 12PM & 1PM, meet at The Watchers sculpture at west side of Plaza de Panama / Reservation required / SATURDAY TOURS / SUNDAY TOURS


1770 Village Place
Richard Requa, 1935

These quaint buildings and courtyards were originally built as gift shops and restaurants for the 1935 California Pacific International Exposition, inspired by charming villages in Spain. Two years later, a group of artists reopened Spanish Village as an art destination, only to lose it to U.S. Army barracks during World War II. In 1947, the artists reclaimed and restored the Village, which today continues to be a thriving community of over 200 independently juried local artists.

SAT & SUN 10AM – 4PM / Guided tour every hour / Meet at kiosk at entry


2080 Pan American Plaza

The Palisades area, developed for the 1935 California Pacific International Exposition and featuring art deco themes, is anchored by the Ford Building, now the San Diego Air & Space Museum. The area has long been neglected in comparison to other areas of the park and an effort has been launched to restore its original charm and revitalize this area. Learn more from dedicated volunteers about upcoming projects, including the Comic Con Museum in the Federal Building, restoration of four murals on the façade of the Automotive Museum and the restoration of the Starlight Bowl outdoor performance space.

SAT 10AM – 4PM / SUN 10AM– 1PM / Self–guided tour / Start outside the Automotive Museum




1549 El Prado
Carleton Winslow, 1915

This “must–see” San Diego destination was built for the Panama California Exposition and was one of only four Balboa Park structures intended to be permanent. The unique domed lath structure is at present the largest of its’ type in the world and houses more than 2,100 exotic plants. Plans are in the works to restore this important monument back to its original splendor and enhance the visitor experience. San Diego Floral Association will host the tours of the building.

SAT & SUN 11AM & 1PM / Guided tour / Meet at south end of the lily pond


2215 Pan American Road E.
RNT Architects, 2015

Inamori Pavilion is a backdrop to the Japanese Friendship Garden’s breathtaking lower canyon and the focal point for visitors seeking a peaceful, meditative retreat. Completed as part of the Garden’s third phase, the Pavilion’s “Sukiya Style” architecture, representing sophistication and simplicity, complements the garden’s serene landscape and integrates the natural topography of the lower canyon. The design is also influenced by the ancient concept of “wabi-sabi,” recognizing beauty in imperfection and celebrating natural changes observed over time.

SAT 10AM & 11:30AM / Guided tour / Reservation required


2125 Pan American Road E.
Harrison Albright, 1914

The Spreckels Organ and Pavilion were a gift from legendary “Sugar Princes” John and Adolph Spreckels. For the 1915 Panama-California Exposition, the architect worked with park designers and the Austin Brothers Organ Company of Hartford, Connecticut to design a building that would house a significant pipe organ designed specifically to play for outdoor audiences. The imposing central structure with its grand arch and decorative botanical motifs, houses the organ’s 5019 pipes and acts as a giant sounding board. Delicate “arm-wrap” colonnades extend on each side and embrace the audience. The Spreckels Organ is the largest outdoor organ in the world and continues to offer free music to San Diegans, just as its founders intended.

SAT 10AM – 4PM / SUN 1PM– 4PM / Guided tour every 30 min / Meet on the terrace at the back of the Organ Pavilion


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San Diego Architectural Foundation



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

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San Diego Architectural Foundation is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to education and promotion of outstanding architecture, planning and urban design throughout the San Diego region.

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