Marine biologist William Emerson Ritter established this institution as the Marine Biological Association of San Diego in the boathouse of the Hotel del Coronado in 1903. The research organization relocated to La Jolla Cove Park in 1905 before finally settling on its current location, a 170-acre tract along the Pacific Coast south of the Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve, in 1907. In 1912 the association was incorporated into the University of California and was renamed the Scripps Institution of Biological Research to honor its benefactors, Edward Willis Scripps and his sister Ellen. Originally consisting of a pier, laboratory, and director’s house, the Scripps Institution of Oceanography (as renamed in 1925) was expanded during the 1960s, with a new entrance designed by the landscape architecture firm Wimmer Yamada & Associates.
To preserve the surrounding viewshed of the Pacific Ocean, Joseph Yamada lowered the grade of the parking lot at the southernmost entrance below a lawn with gently rolling turf mounds, a feature that would become a signature element of his later designs. As the campus expanded northwards in the 1960s with further work by Yamada, grading became an increasingly critical part of the linear, half-mile-long, cliffside site. The gradually sloping terrain edged by an approximately fifteen-foot-high planted embankment south of the pier gives way to a more than 200-foot-high bluff at the site’s northern edge. Responding to the site conditions, campus buildings are situated at various angles and levels. A suspension bridge spans the two-lane La Jolla Shore Drive to connect the east campus, developed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill in the 1980s on a comparatively undeveloped mesa hillside surrounded by eucalyptus groves. As with the lower campus, the buildings are accompanied by rolling lawns and embellished with succulent gardens.