On September 23—and in a the heart of downtown San Diego across Jon Jerde’s famous Horton Plaza—Bosa Development, headed by Nat Bosa, opened for a limited run exhibition entitled Rethink Downtown: Behind San Diego’s Skyline. The show celebrates San Diego’s urban history and asks visitors to ponder downtown’s future: Where it’s going and how architecture, design, amenities, and quality of life enable San Diego to matter on a national scale from millennials to boomers? “San Diego is more livable now and the city should be proud of it.” —Jinsuk Park, Kohn Pedersen Fox The exhibition presents a chronological view of San Diego’s downtown urban process of “rethinking” itself though historic photographs, from the Spanish-Colonial Mission of Junipero Serra to the future development of Pacific Gate, a 41–story residential high-rise by Bossa Development designed by the New York firm of Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates. Vancouver-based design critic and urban commentator Trevor Boddy curated the narrative Rethink; his premise sketches a slice of downtown history. Photos and drawings hang on a series of freestanding walls where visitors can follow the specific historical moments that have made Downtown San Diego a more livable, rethought place. A large-scale model of downtown shows Bossa’s contribution to the city’s skyline through its current and future developments. It is interesting to note that the curator had not visited San Diego for more than 30 years. “When I was here in 1983 San Diego did not have much of a downtown, you came here to go to Tijuana” Boddy said. The exhibit presents San Diego’s boom and bust evolution, yet it overlooked one of the most important documents ever made for the city and the region; “Temporary Paradise” drafted by Kevin Lynch and Donald Appleyard in 1974. The exhibition events will include lectures and presentations and panel discussions related to architecture and urbanism of downtown San Diego, as well as a showroom for Bossa’s future developments in the city that includes a series of residential high rise projects. During the opening event Bossa emphasized that the purpose of the presence of tall buildings in the city has been to “Give San Diego a new generation of residential high rises, more residential [housing] is needed.” According to the Rethink exhibition, the future of San Diego is a vertical paradise. The evening presentation ended with a tour by KPF’s Jinsuk Park through the design stages of the nautilus inspired Pacific Gate Tower. Guests saw the conceptual sketches and models of the tower now under construction near San Diego’s harbor and will sit alongside another residential tower by Bossa and KPF accentuating a gateway gesture to the city. “Residential buildings are the new architecture icons in cities and an important part of downtown revivals” Park exclaimed. Residential high-rises look great on a city's postcard, but are not necessarily what stimulate great urban public spaces. The efficacy of housing in downtown has been due in most part to the diversity in affordable unit design and the ability to activate urban space at a street level. In 1995, Little Italy a neighborhood on the northern edge of downtown was at the forefront of a new type of urban renewal model. The work of local architects (Rob Quigley, Ted Smith, Jonathan Segal, Kathy McCormick, to name a few) began experimenting with the practice model of architect developers focusing on the urban impact that mix-use dense urban living can have on the economic and urban success of a neighborhood. The livability of downtown San Diego has been consequence of pedestrian amenities such as large tree lined sidewalks, accessibility to public transportation and diverse mid-rise housing developments that encourage small shops and restaurants to stay in their community. A walkable density is what the city needs to focus on. The next rethinking of San Diego should include planning strategies that integrate communities such as Golden Hill, North Park, and Barrio Logan, vibrant zones that are catering to a different type of urbanite. It is these spaces that require investment to strengthen their cultural and housing diversity as well as keeping them far from the homogeneity of the glass box tower.
Posts tagged with "Downtown San Diego":
Local real estate and investment company Zephyr has named Joseph Wong of Joseph Wong Design Associates (JWDA) lead architect of their 60,000-square-foot mixed-use development planned for downtown San Diego. The Block, as it is currently known (the developer has yet to select a final name), will be the first high-rise, mixed-use project in the city since the recession. With an estimated cost exceeding $250 million, the development promises to be a major player in the demographic and architectural transformation of San Diego's urban core. Wong's design features two towers, 21 stories and 41 stories, respectively, rising from a residential and retail platform. According to the architect, the towers' siting and massing were influenced primarily by local conditions—including setback requirements and the creation of a sun access envelope for a planned public park to the northeast—as well as a desire to maximize views and daylighting. For the facade, said Wong "we thought about not just the context, site circumstance, its history, and surrounding buildings, but also about the longevity of the project and what it could be." The combination of glass of different transparencies and metal panels in a variety of colors helps distinguish the development from surrounding office buildings, while the clean lines and minimal material palette prevent the towers from feeling bulky. Residential balconies project from the glazing in an alternating pattern that highlights the corners and other points of significance, creating, said Wong, "a rhythm of form and function." While some of The Block's features, including a 25,000-square-foot "amenities deck" designed by Lifescapes International, are reserved for private tenant use, the project's street presence evinces public-mindedness on the part of both developer and architect. "Downtown San Diego is red hot and continuing to get better every day," said Zephyr co-CEO Brad Termini. "We hope to play an important role in providing a link between the Gaslamp Quarter, the financial core, and the emerging East Village." For Wong, the need to mediate between existing high-rise developments and the burgeoning residential fabric was a major factor in the design. "It requires both a visually striking architectural presence in the downtown skyline, and a decidedly pedestrian-friendly approach to its neighbors," he said. At the ground plane, the formal push and pull of the podium, which features two levels of retail on every side, encourages social engagement. Meanwhile, a 15-foot setback along Broadway combines with the 14-foot pedestrian sidewalk to create a south-facing public plaza and eases access to public transit facilities to both north and south. "By creating opportunities such as a public plaza, retail and commercial space, and recreation areas throughout the ground floor, The Block promotes [walkability] for both the community as a whole and the individual user. Its prominent location further encourages accessibility to neighboring sites and vice versa," said Wong. Wong, who describes The Block as a "milestone" development for JWDA, thinks of it as "a project that defines urbanism in every sense." "The design opportunities of this project are many, and ultimately have to do with the future architecture of our cities," he concluded. "We're creating an urban design that contributes to social interaction and addresses the relationship between public and private space."