The campus is primarily composed of 1960s Modernist/Brutalist buildings set in
a circle around a large central park. Satellite parking lots lie in another circle outside the main circle of buildings. The park
is completely encircled by a pedestrian walkway known as Ring Road. Each school at UCI is located on its own segment of the ring
(except for the School of the Arts and the Medical School). Starting from the Main Library and Administration building and going
clockwise, Ring Road passes through Social Sciences, Engineering, Physical
Sciences, Biological Sciences, and Humanities. Due to this unconventional circular design, there are plenty of stories about tourists and new
students who unknowingly walk several times around Ring Road before realizing that they were going in circles.Popular legend holds that the campus was designed in an era of student protest,
and the campus's circular design was meant to discourage student contact and congregation, and thus minimize protests and
rioting. Students were meant to drive into a building's parking lot, walk to class, then later walk back to their cars and drive
home. Therefore, most social contact would be with others studying in the same major.
Adding to this legend is the existence of underground tunnels linking the buildings, supposedly for the emergency evacuation of
faculty and administrators and to facilitate the movement of police. (In reality, the tunnels simply contain steam and utility
lines.) Most likely, the design of the campus is simply representative of mid-60s urban design, favoring large open spaces and decentralized facilities over the dense layout of older
campuses.Irvine itself is one of the largest planned communities in the United States.
Local residents are stereotyped as upper-income, conservative professionals, who stay at home and raise families. The housing
market is extremely expensive. On campus, however, there is residence
hall space for about only 3,200 undergraduates, and some on-campus apartment housing. There is also a trailer park that permit students to live in small travel trailers, however this is currently facing closure due to parking lot expansion. The local
economy is vibrant, and provides jobs in all ranges of skills and earnings, from unskilled service work to skilled professions.
Although Christian denominations predominate, religious organizations of
all types exist on-campus, in Irvine, and in the surrounding communities.Public transit consists of on-campus shuttle buses, campus bikeways, and free use of OCTA buses via the U-Pass program. Most
students do not need a car, and university parking is difficult despite large parking structures. Traffic jams on the local
freeways are commonplace. Since the climate is warm, many students find a motorcycle
or motorscooter convenient.Despite the suburban environment, a variety of wildlife inhabits the University's central park and wetlands. The university
had wolves up until 1985, and still has hawks, rabbits, raccoons, owls, skunks and coyotes.