Lost in Balboa Park

For 100 years, Balboa Park has been a serendipitous experience of museums, theater, dance, music, exhibitions, living collections, glorious Southern Californian flora and fauna and stunning Spanish Colonial, Mission and Pueblo Revival architecture. Ensuring a serendipitous experience continues for the next 100 years requires we address the realities and expectations of a cultural encounter in the 21st century, where pedigree will be as much about a physical encounter as it will a digital experience. Balboa Park chooses to be a thought-leading space—a destination where digital access and physical encounter unite.

To experience Balboa Park is to have an encyclopedic encounter with culture, tourism and nature. As emerging generations seek out cultural interactions, they also seek to be put in control of their experience: they want to be informed, educated and have a serendipitous interaction on their own terms. This big idea aims to do that, by connecting audiences to art, science, nature and Balboa Park itself. Lost in Balboa Park is creating an experience of the park that can be consumed as a purely digital experience, but more importantly provokes a physical visit to our “jewel,” supported by an all-seeing, all-knowing guide that will expose the hidden treasures, point out the must-sees, and ensure that the experience is unforgettable.

With 27 institutions in the park, think of Lost in Balboa Park as the “28th institution” a unified view of Balboa Park that establishes the digital – as well as the physical – as a destination, a gateway to an encounter with art, culture, science and nature where connections and relationships are doorways into discovery, curiosity, serendipity and experience.


Visitors to Balboa Park


Concept, Design, Development, Programming


The Legler Benbough Foundation, San Diego Arts & Culture Commission, James Irvine Foundation, The Thursday Club, The Parker Foundation, David C. Copley Foundation

MW Session and Paper

Prototype Website

A photo of a white board with writing in various colors depicting the Big Idea Content Ecosystem

Additional Information

The initiative is about the generation and management of content at scale, and has three goals broad goals:

  1. a rigorous information architecture that preserves and sustains Balboa Park’s data and intellectual property
  2. an institutionally-agnostic expression of this content that promotes serendipity and discovery through rich connections
  3. an institutionally-specific expression of content in the form of a way-finding app that translates connections into playlists


Key to the serendipitous discovery of Park content will be the concept of playlists, stolen shamelessly from the music industry. In our context, these will be meaningful connections of collection objects, artists, events, places, and more, that can be experienced on the web or within the Park as tours of the rich physical experience that is Balboa Park – where culture, artistic endeavor, and community collide. Our goal should be to create an experience that helps visitors lose themselves in Balboa Park.

You can see sample playlists at our Lost in Balboa Park portfolio site.

A screenshot of the Costume & Culture playlist with a description and photo of an artwork
A screenshot of the Hidden History of Balboa Park playlist with a description and photo of the Cabrillo bridge
A screenshot of the Halloween playlist with a description and a photo of a fountain in Balboa Park
A screenshot of the 90's Pop playlist with description and a photo of a cassette take at the Organ Pavilion in Balboa Park
A screenshot of Harry Potter, Free Tuesday playlist with a description and photo of a walkway in Balboa Park
A screenshot of the Date Day playlist with description and photo of two people's lower halfs

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