A History: The People Behind the Ayala Science Library
Out of the multiple libraries available on UCI’s campus, I always saw myself going towards the Ayala Science Library over all others. I’m not really sure why, exactly. It could have been because most of my classes were closer to Ayala than the other libraries, but even in situations in which that was not the case, I would take the long walk on Ring Road rather than go to a closer library such as Langson.
Maybe the building itself just looks more attractive than the others. It could just be that I seem to prefer the interior and exterior of Ayala over anything else. Frankly, the entire architecture is much more interesting overall with the circular design and bright orange colors, and the constant rumors floating around about how the plaza and the library subtly portray sexual reproduction at the cellular level. Anyway, the Ayala Science Library had a lot more mystery and mischief to it than I was led to believe; or maybe those were just figments of my own curiosity.
I figured it was time I find out more about why this building is the way it is. Who built it? Why is the architecture like this? When was it established? How has it changed? Are the rumors true? It was time to do some research, and what better way than to search the school’s libraries?
I wasn’t expecting too much, but I surprisingly discovered that Langson Library had Ayala’s architectural plans hidden in its special archive collection. I decided to pay a visit.
The archive collection was on the 5th floor and I needed permission to actually look through the archives. I was having a bit of fun with this. I felt like a special agent going through history.
It turns out the foundations for building the library began in 1988, as this was the earliest date noted in the archives, and it was fully established by 1994.
According to the architectural plans, the UCI Science Library’s (before it was renamed the Francisco J. Ayala Science Library) lead architects were two men named James Stirling and Michael Wilford.
James Stirling was essentially the hipster of architecture during the second half of the 20th century. He questioned a lot of concepts and traditional styles during his time, and as such, was a rebel among the conformity of preconceptions shared by his peers. Now, he’s known as one of the most influential people in architecture. Heck, there’s even an award named after him.
Michael Wilford was objectively not as influential. However, he joined a practice with Stirling, forming the Stirling/Wilford partnership which continued until Stirling’s death in 1992, two years before the Science Library was fully built.
These two men were world-renowned architects. To know that they built the Science Library is fascinating enough, but there was one more significant person in its history.
The Science Library was renamed the Francisco J. Ayala Science Library in 2010 — only five years ago. This turned out to be an obscure fact, despite it happening so recently. I didn’t even know about this, and only discovered it when I noticed that the architectural plans only referred to the building as the “Science Library”. So when I started wondering, it was back to the shelves to find out about who this Ayala was.
Francisco J. Ayala is a professor here who has taught both biology as well as philosophy. Once a priest, he has become a man with a vast amount of knowledge and ideas regarding the compatibility between religion and evolutionary biology. An expert in both the humanities as well as the sciences, you won’t meet many people quite like Ayala.
As for the sexy rumors regarding the design of the building, I couldn’t really find anything. However, the biological sciences plaza, designed by architect Gerald Ohta, was apparently inspired by mitosis, although it looks more like meiosis to me.
After all this information-gathering, I figured somewhat why I preferred the Ayala Science Library over the others on campus; it’s just a lot more new-aged. Designed by a partnership of two architects with one who was once known as unconventional, and named after an intellectual who combines the concepts of the humanities and sciences together (when most choose one over the other), the Ayala Science Library has this refreshing feeling to it. I can’t really explain it, but the building is like a representation of breaking the mold.
How else can a world advance if it doesn’t accept changes like Stirling’s style or Ayala’s studies? I don’t know. Maybe I just like being a rebel.