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Arts & Culture

Geisel Library Shows Up (Kind of) in 'Inception'

The Geisel Library as snow fortress? The connection is unconfirmed, but pretty convincing.
The Geisel Library as snow fortress? The connection is unconfirmed, but pretty convincing.

Is it really her? Architecture nerds and UCSD students alike are buzzing about the Geisel Library’s apparent cameo as the snow fortress in Christopher Nolan’s science fiction flick "Inception."

Before we get to the truth - if there can be truth in a post regarding "Inception," I wanted to investigate the Geisel's previous cinematic roles. UCSD maintains a useful "Geisel Library: Urban Legends" page with a surfeit of information regarding the Geisel’s big and small screen career.

For example, there is a persistent myth that the Geisel was in "Attack of the Killer Tomatoes." Rather, her distinctive beauty graced the third installment, "Killer Tomatoes Strike Back."


Confirmed sightings also include an episode of the British TV series "Mission Impossible" and in the introductory sequence of "Simon & Simon" a long running and apparently awesome private investigator series set in San Diego that I'd never heard of.

The Geisel has also starred in a handful of British car ads, German fashion shoots, and a 1999 navy recruitment ad directed by Spike Lee. How that last one ever happened is beyond me: apparently the director of "Malcom X" fought the power by doing a whole fleet of recruitment ads in 1999. (If anyone can find a link to any of these, let us know in the comments!)

Theme to Simon and Simon

It certainly looks to me like the Geisel was on "Inception" production designer Guy Dias’ inspiration board at some point. We sent him an e-mail and haven’t heard back yet.

We do know that the library’s architect, William Pereira, loved science fiction – he was engaged with thinking about the future from his first design job, which was helping to plan for the 1933 Worlds Fair themed “A Century of Progress.”

My guess is Pereira would have enjoyed seeing his library on-screen, as part of a dream within a dream.


“Inception,” in case you didn’t know, is in theaters nationwide. UCSD by Design – a lecture series and Web site celebrating UCSD’s 50th anniversary, opens September 30th. Their guidebook – with information on the Geisel in addition to all of UCSD’s architectural treasures – is available in the UCSD bookstore now.