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San Diego's own Mystery Spot: 'Fallen Star'

"Fallen Star," an art piece by Do Ho Suh atop UCSD's engineering school, expresses the artist's disorientation upon arriving in the U.S. from Korea. CNET Road Trip 2012 takes a look.

'Fallen Star,' by Korean artist Do Ho Suh, hangs out over the edge of the top of the Jacobs Engineering School building at UCSD.
Daniel Terdiman/CNET

LA JOLLA, Calif.--Cottages shouldn't stick out way over the edge of buildings, but when they've been picked up by mysterious forces and dropped out of the sky, that's exactly what can happen.

Welcome to Korean artist Do Ho Suh's "Fallen Star," a small, New England-style house that was unveiled in June atop -- and well out beyond the roof of -- the Jacobs Engineering School building at the University of California at San Diego here.

I've come to explore "Fallen Star" as part of Road Trip 2012, and though I've heard a little about the project, which was commissioned by and funded by the Stuart Collection, an organization that funds art at UCSD, there's nothing that could have prepared me for just how out of kilter I felt when I walked through the front door of the art installation.

Daniel Terdiman

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And no wonder. As Stuart Collection director Mary Beebe explained to me, "Fallen Star" was meant to "create the way that Do Hu felt when he got to this country -- he was very disoriented."

Indeed. The cottage doesn't just jut out from the edge of the engineering school. It's also canted well to one side, and tilted upward as it goes out into open space. That means from the moment you enter, you are dealing with disorientation in multiple dimensions. A chandelier hanging at a sharp angle from the ceiling may be the only pure visual cue that something is wrong, but your inner gyroscope is also screaming at you that something's not right.

Suh, Beebe explained, is fascinated by the idea of home, and much of his work has focused on the concept. So "Fallen Star" was very much about expressing the sense of disorientation and displacement the artist experienced when he arrived from Korea at the Rhode Island School of Design, where he studied.

Yet, there's much about the cottage -- both the interior and the exterior -- that feels normal, yet out of place. In fact, the building is very much in the New England style, and the little garden out in front has many of the kinds of flowers and plants that one might find in Rhode Island. "It's a space that seems very familiar," Beebe said. "But it's not. It's flown in from somewhere."