Q. What is it supposed to be on the show?
A. The University
of California at Berkeley (otherwise known as U.C. Berkeley).
Q. Where is it supposed to be on the show?
A. In Berkeley,
in Northern California (near San Francisco).
Q. When did we see it on the show?
We first see the Berkeley campus in Episode 22 (of the third season) "The College Try", when Ryan goes there for a pre-frosh event.
We see him meet his "Freshman Buddy" (Wes) outside in the rain.
Then, we see Ryan as he seems to be making friends inside a cafeteria, when in walks Marissa. (They are apart at this point in their relationship, so it is awkward.)
Ryan's visit to the campus is cut short when Kirsten calls to tell him that Theresa might have had his baby (a false alarm), and he hurries home to talk to her.
We see later
Marissa learn this from Wes, as they walk across campus.
Q. What is it actually in real life?
A. A real University
campus - but not near Berkley.
Q. Where can I find it in real life?
A. Although they do throw in an occasional establishing shot of the real Berkeley campus, most of the Berkeley shots were really filmed on the campus of UCLA (the University of California, Los Angeles), in Westwood Village.
Most of the early scenes were shot on the east/middle side of the UCLA campus (east of Royce Hall & Powell Library, but west of the Murphy Hall) in an area called Dickson Court, which consists of two large, square, sunken, park-like areas. Take a look at the top photo on this page. We are looking south across Dickson Court, and the large building we see is the Schoenberg Music Building at UCLA. To try to make it look more like Berkeley, they have draped a yellow "Welcome to Berkeley" banner across the Schoenberg building, and have set up 'Golden Bears' tables in the southernmost of the two sunken park areas. Throw in a few umbrellas and some wet pavement (to make it look like northern California weather), and the picture is complete. It's there that Ryan meets Wes, his "Freshman Buddy". They shake hands and walk north across a wet Dickson Court.
The scene where Marissa meets up with Wes, talks to him as they walk on campus, and she learns that Ryan has gone home, was shot just outside (west of) Luvalle Commons, a food court & student store, located next to the UCLA Law School. In fact, the scene opens with a close-up of the brick exterior of the law school, then pans down to focus on Marissa and Wes walking away from Luvalle Commons.
The earlier scene in the cafe, where Ryan is talking with his new Berkeley friends, when Marissa walks in, was shot in the same area, at the tables just inside Luvalle Commons. (You'll find it northeast of the northern side of Dickson Court.)
UCLA is located in the Westwood Village section of Los Angeles (east of Beverly Hills, at the north end of Westwood Blvd, north of Wilshire Blvd). It's an enormous campus, like a small city in itself. The formal address is 405 Hilgard Avenue.
Here is a map link to the school's exact location. Here is an aerial shot of the campus (with pins marking Dickson Court & Luvalle Commons) from Live Local. And here is a great map of the UCLA campus, with all of the buildings identified (if you click on them).
The UCLA campus
is open to the public, so feel free to drop by for a visit (but be aware
that parking can be difficult).
For the short flashback scene in Episode 13 (Season 4), where Kirstin recalls how she first met Sandy at Berkeley, while he was campaigning for Mondale/Ferraro, they used a completely different location (in Santa Monica).
[ As O.C. fans know, when Ryan opted to go to UC Berkeley., Seth & Summer headed for Brown University. Well, as you might expect, the Brown scenes weren't really shot at Brown, either. They were shot at UCLA's cross-town rival: USC. ]
Q. How the heck did you figure out where it was?
A. This was an easy one. I graduated from UCLA, so I immediately recognized it.
location, for the final episode, was listed on the City of Pasadena's shoot-sheet
a month before the final episode aired.)
O.C. screenshots from the show and all related characters & elements
are trademarks of and © Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.