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UCSD’s New Front Door

Construction of a $67.9 million amphitheater that will be part of a new front door for UC San Diego got a boost with the recent donation of $10 million from Daniel and Phyllis Epstein.

Designed by Safdie Rabines Architects of Mission Hills with BNBuilders based in Seattle with offices in Sorrento Valley as the general contractor, the 2,850-seat amphitheater is due to be finished by the third quarter of 2022, said Jamie Awford, principal of BNBuilders.

The amphitheater that will bear the Epstein name shares a site at the edge of Pepper Canyon with the $42 million, 74,000 square-foot  Design and Innovation building recently completed by BNBuilders and the existing 183,000 square-foot Structural Materials Engineering Building.

A Commitment

Combined with the two adjacent buildings and what the university labeled a “public realm” around the buildings, the amphitheater will be the first thing visitors will see from the new trolley Blue line stop that’s scheduled to open later this year.

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“The stage will face the trolley and the entrance to that portion of the campus with the tiered seating that goes up toward the buildings so when you’re looking down from the adjacent buildings, you’re looking into the amphitheater and stage,” Awford said.

The public realm will include walkways decorated with artwork that lead into the heart of the campus.

“Given our commitments to music and the arts, and in particular to UC San Diego, the chance to contribute to a first-rate amphitheater struck a chord with us,” said Daniel Epstein. “The fact that someone can step off the Blue Line trolley and be at the amphitheater speaks to opening the university to a much more expansive and inclusive set of people, which is exciting.”

Phyllis Epstein said the amphitheater will be a chance to enlarge what the university brings to the community.

“From the day we moved here 36 years ago, I said I would get involved with the university, and it has brought me much joy,” she said. “What I get back is a sense of wonder, learning about things that I never knew existed. I am particularly thrilled about the teaching and learning opportunities the amphitheater will provide to students and the community. To learn, to enjoy, to discover the arts, what better gift can you give?”

In addition to their $10 million gift for the amphitheater, the Epsteins supported an endowed faculty fellowship at the Rady School of Management and research by Department of Urology Chair Christopher Kane.

Flexible Programming

University officials said that the amphitheater would have more than 300 performances a year.

“The Epstein Family Amphitheater brings us one step closer to UC San Diego becoming a destination for arts, entertainment and culture in addition to health care,” said Chancellor Pradeep Khosla.

In programming the amphitheater, university officials said that they will highlight dance, theater and music that appeals to the wide ranging interests of students with performances often free to students.

Auerbach Polloch Friedlander are the theatrical consultants on the project.

“No two amphitheaters are alike and this one in particular is very high-end design,” said Awford of BNBuilders. “It’s got a lot of attention because of its unique location on the campus.”

Ricardo Rabines, co-founder of Safidie-Rabines Architects, said that the amphitheater with a 10,000 square-foot lawn would double as a park.

The amphitheater grounds step down from the top of the canyon to the stage, which is covered by a shell of about 4,000 square feet made of a translucent material that lets light filter through.

At its peak, the shell is about 40 feet tall. The amphitheater also will have two large computerized video screens.

“It’s very unique,” Awford said. “They’re trying to make it as flexible as they can and make it a real gem for the campus.”  

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