The Port of San Diego is being redesigned with entertainment—and resiliency—in mind. The $1.5 billion, 70-acre waterside development, officially dubbed Seaport San Diego, will transform a hodgepodge of tourist spots, parking lots, and a fish processing plant into a mixed-use entertainment destination crowned by a 500-foot-tall observation tower, The Spire, whose metal-clad central column looms over the surrounding cityscape in conceptual renderings. Gondolas will surround The Spire's core, and a VR program will take visitors back a millennium to experience the San Diego area pre-European arrival. The innovations are below ground, too. Scientists predict that sea levels will rise one to 3.4 feet by 2100, but some project the Pacific Ocean to rise as much as ten feet—a change that would devastate a coastline that's home to three-quarters of California's 39 million-plus residents. Consequently, Seaport San Diego's engineers are building the development in what is essentially a bathtub: Parking will be sited 20 or 30 feet underground, and design features from entrances to the electric system will be conceived with an eye towards sea level rise. The site also sits near a newly-discovered earthquake fault, so engineers are building seismic precautions into the development as well. The development team will break ground in 2021, and construction should wrap in 2024 or 2025. The development, which includes bustling the Seaport Village site, will also include a marine-focused charter school and a 178,000-square-foot aquarium designed by Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG). This is not the only major development afoot in or near California's second-largest city. In October, Populous unveiled its design for a modular 10,000-seat North American Soccer League (NASL) professional soccer stadium for northern San Diego County. Nearby, cement company Lehigh Hanson is converting a disused gravel mine into a Millennial-focused housing development.
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Inspired by a military camouflage technique dating back nearly 100 years, DAZZLE is a permanent public artwork commissioned by San Diego County Regional Airport Authority for San Diego International Airport’s Rental Car Center. The project, delivered by art team Ueberall International (Nikolaus Hafermaas, David Delgado, Dan Goods, and Jeano Erforth), was made possible through a public art fund after a highly competitive open artist RFQ selection process. Experimenting with different ways to execute a geometric camouflage pattern, the artists turned to “electronic paper” technology as a facade applique. Individual e-paper tiles are articulated in a parallelogram shape and arranged in algorithmic distances to each other, to create a dynamic visual effect, even when still. The graphic patterns are animated by a library of short loops evoking water ripples, moving traffic, dancing snowflakes, and shifting geometries. The physical components of Ueberall’s installation include 2,100 autonomous tiles approximately 12 by 24 inches, strategically placed wireless transmitters, and a host computer. Each tile is outfitted with a photovoltaic solar cell for power, electronics for operation, and wireless communication for programmed control. The tiles are individually coded with distinct addresses to enable precise programming of visual facade patterns. The host computer stores and coordinates all animations (about 15 to 30) designed by the artists. Information can be transmitted from the host computer through Ethernet wiring to wireless transmitters that face the building. These wireless transmitters then forward the information to clusters of tiles which further forward data to other tiles. The end result is a tile that can transform from solid black to solid white based on the information it receives. In this way, each tile represents one pixel in a field of thousands, which is individually controlled through a pre-programmed “playlist” of synchronized effects. The tiles are lightweight, bendable, and energy efficient, and can be cut as long as a continuous path from end to end exists for electrical current. “E Ink” does not emit light, and has a matte appearance, like paper, utilizing pigments for coloration. Energy usage only occurs when the material “switches,” which means a static pattern does not use electricity. In the case of DAZZLE, the tiles were outfitted with specific coatings to allow the parking garage’s precast concrete facade to be power washed. Interestingly, no penetrations through the existing facade system of the building were required. The tiles were adhered to the precast concrete facade. The manufacturer, E Ink, said the tiles can be installed in numerous ways, dependent on site conditions and project requirement. Other options include track systems, tensile cable structures, and sandwiched assemblies. The tiles at DAZZLE were outfitted with solar cells, helping to offset what amounted to very little operational energy. The overall power consumption, including all support hardware (PC, communication transmitters, etc.) was less than two flat panel TVs. The installation was completed in phases, with the tiles ultimately being installed in under two weeks. Each individual tile was coded, scanned, and GPS-located on the facade for pattern synchronization. This level of scrutiny required careful upfront design consideration. For instance, manufacturers worked to design the tiles with unique addresses and barcodes to track, inventory, and ultimately sort each piece. The e-paper manufacturer, E Ink, is the world’s leading innovator of e-ink technology through products like eReaders, electronic shelf labels, digital signage, and architectural materials. For DAZZLE, E Ink utilized their “Prism” line, which is specifically made for the architectural market. This project represents their first major installation of the product. The material is manufactured in large roll quantities that allows for the capability of very large scale installations. Future possibilities for electronic paper technology could be incorporation in light pollution sensitive environments, where the more natural paint-like look of electronic paper is valued over harsh LED light. E Ink said the material can be easily integrated with traditional materials to produce a more dynamic experiential space. "This is the next greatest thing, but it feels more natural and less futuristic, which in its own way is really cool."
Kansas City–based architecture firm Populous has unveiled plans to bring a modular 10,000-seat North American Soccer League (NASL) professional soccer stadium to the north San Diego County city of Oceanside. The new $15 million stadium is being designed for San Diego 1904 F.C., a proposed NASL team that is scheduled to make its major league debut with the 2018 season. The proposed stadium is billed as an expansion to the existing SoCal Sports Complex (SCSC), a 22-field youth soccer facility known for hosting large summer tournaments. The new stadium will occupy a parking lot site where SCSC has erected temporary grandstands for international youth tournaments in the past, San Diego Union Tribune reports. Portions of the site were previously used as a sand mine. A rendering of the prefab construction complex depicts seating bleachers wrapped in decorative, ocean-inspired cladding surrounding the soccer pitch. The complex is depicted with an undulating steel canopy shading the seats overhead. An access ramp, permanent concession stands, and bathroom facilities will be included in the development as well. The latter elements will be designed for use by the youth leagues even when the professional stadium is not in operation, as the SCSC complex currently lacks permanent bathrooms and concessions stands. GL Events, a foreign firm responsible for several of the temporary venues erected in conjunction with the 2012 Olympics in London, England, is also on board the project. GL Events and Populous aim to begin construction on the stadium in September 2018. Because of the prefabricated nature of the development, construction is expected to only take four months. The complex will add to the region’s growing list of soccer venues, as competing ballot initiative–fueled plans for new stadia in the Downtown San Diego area ramp up ahead of proposed 2018 elections, 10 News reports. Populous is also designing one of those proposals, which consists of a joint proposal with a Major League Soccer team and San Diego State University. The future of those two projects will be decided at the ballot box next year.
Cement company Lehigh Hanson is converting a defunct gravel mine into an 1,800-unit, millennial-focused mixed-use and residential community. The development, called 3roots San Diego, will be located in northern San Diego County. If built, the project would be constructed over what remains of the Carroll Canyon mine, a concrete aggregate and gravel mine that ceased operations in 2016. The development, according to Brian Meyers, a consultant for Lehigh Hanson, represents an “alternative” to prototypical urban environments for millennial individuals looking to start a family. Meyers told the San Diego Union Tribune that the development aims to provide some of the “urban lifestyle amenities” like walkability and density of use that make traditional urban areas desirable, but will do so in a more family-oriented environment. The barren 412-acre site is sandwiched between a series of suburban-style residential communities, other mining operations, and an industrial district. 3roots San Diego aims to convert the site into an interlocking network of mixed-use and residential areas bisected by parkland and hiking trails. The project was originally envisioned in 1994 to include a 50-acre industrial district, but a recently-updated plan has scrapped that component in favor of more park space. The development is to be laid out with a mixed-use "innovation district" at its core that will maintain transit connections to a forthcoming extension of San Diego’s light rail system. The so-called Village Core area will feature 749 apartments, 120,000 square feet of retail spaces, and 20,000 square feet of creative office. Renderings for the project depict two parallel rows of warehouse-style structures surrounding a generous pedestrian courtyard. Other scattered mixed-use buildings will fill out the remainder of development’s main node with apartments, and the developer will gradually add attached and detached single family homes up and down the hilly site. A series of parks will wrap the site's edges to allow for connections to existing and new public streets and trails. Overall, 3roots San Diego will have 201 acres of open space overall, including 40 acres of publicly-accessible parks and hiking trails. Residential areas for the project will be laid out according to density, with the project’s 310 attached single-family homes sandwiched between the more dense Village Core and a zone containing 746 detached single-family homes. Renderings depict manicured rows of apartments, townhouses, and detached homes amid lush, hilly landscapes. Public meetings and and environmental reviews for the project are scheduled to completed in 2018. The developers aim to complete the first homes for the project in 2021 with final buildout by 2025. See the 3roots San Diego site for more information.
A team consisting of HKS Architects, Safdie Rabines Architects, and landscape architects OJB was recently selected by the University of California, San Diego to design the university’s new Living and Learning Neighborhood at North Torrey Pines, a forthcoming campus expansion modeled after traditional mixed-use urban forms. The project will provide housing for 2,000 undergraduate students as well as new educational spaces and administrative offices, among other uses. The campus extension will consist of seven new structures ranging between two and ten stories in height. Those new buildings, according to renderings released for the project, will feature blocky, articulated massing with various building geometries clad in traditional materials, including brick and wood panels. A pair of the structures will be 10-stories tall and joined at the midsection by a series of multi-level skybridges. Other structures will be composed of similarly hybridized masses, with traditional housing blocks stacked above office and educational podium structures. The buildings feature a relatively high ratio of exterior glazing, with large swaths of glass curtain walls and punched openings populating each expanse. The buildings will also feature multi-story cutouts and loggia spaces along their facades. Lorcan O’Herlihy Architects, SOM, Kevin Daly Architects, and Kieran Timberlake are currently at work on a multi-phase housing expansion at California State University, Santa Barbara while Chicago-based Studio Gang Architects are working to overhaul and expand the Moore Turnbull Page-designed Kresge College housing complex at University of California, Santa Cruz. University of California, Davis is also planning a large-scale campus expansion. The project at UC San Diego is currently preparing to enter construction this summer and is expected to be completed sometime in 2020.
Open House San Diego (OSD), an organization that aims to make San Diego's architectural heritage free and accessible to the public, has announced its full line-up of open house sites for this year’s festivities. San Diego is one of three American cities—including New York City and Chicago—to be designated as a Open House Worldwide City, a program started in London in 1992. The festivities, headed this year by chair Maxine Ward, director of the San Diego Architectural Foundation (SDAF), and honorary co-chairs Gordon Carrier of Carrier Johnson + CULTURE and Mary Lydon of Lydon and Associates, will hold open house events across several of the city’s neighborhoods this year, including Bankers Hill, Barrio Logan, Downtown San Diego, and Balboa Park the weekend of March 25 to 26. Ward, in a press release announcing OSD’s program for the year, said, "This is an exceptional lineup of new sites and outstanding architecture that will attract record participation, including attendees and volunteers." Carrier, in the same press release, added, "Each of the Open House locations contributes in a unique way to the fabric of our city, with special significance in architectural, historic and cultural value. The innovation behind our city is truly showcased in this big spring weekend." OSD has shared a list of this year’s open house sites with The Architect’s Newspaper exclusively: Bankers Hill: 1 First Presbyterian Church of San Diego 2 Hollander Design Group @ The Design Center 3 St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral 4 First Church of Christ, Scientist 5 Marston House Museum & Gardens 6 The Barcelona 7 House of Hospitality 8 Botanical Building 9 Hubbell & Hubbell ArchitectsDsign Group 10 The Abbey on Fifth Avenue Downtown San Diego: 11 Copley Symphony Hall 12 Santa Fe Train Depot 13 Hotel Churchill 14 SDSU Downtown Gallery @ Electra 15 Fire Station No. 2 Bayside 16 Carrier Johnson + Culture 17 American Institute of Architects San Diego 18 Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego Gaslamp Quarter: 19 The US Grant Hotel 20 Courtyard by Marriott San Diego Downtown 21 The Keating Hotel 22 The New Children’s Museum 23 San Diego Chinese Historical Museum 24 Gaslamp Museum @ the Davis–Horton House 25 Sparks Gallery 26 Roesling Nakamura Terada Architects East Village: 27 Mitra 28 Basile Studio 29 BNIM 30 IDEA1group 31 e3 Civic High 32 SMARTS Farm 33 Mission Brewery 34 Makers Quarter 35 Baker Nowicki Design Studio 36 San Diego Central Library 37 Urban Discovery Academy Barrio Logan: 38 La Esquina 39 Chicano Park 40 San Diego Opera Scenic Studio 41 Tecture 42 Ergo Architecture 43 Woodbury University School of Architecture 44 The National 45 LPA Inc. 46 Public Architecture @ Bread & Salt 47 Villa Montezuma Museum For more information, see the SDAF website.
San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, and Las Vegas National Football League (NFL) teams are playing a game of musical chairs, as a new generation of stadium-centered mega-developments attempt to lure established franchises to and from the West’s largest cities. NFL teams are notorious for holding their host cities hostage when it comes to demands over new stadium construction, and the current team swap going on across the region is no exception. Reuters reported earlier this year that when the Rams, formerly of Saint Louis, left the Gateway City for Los Angeles at the start of the 2016–2017 season, they also left behind a staggering $144 million debt resulting from the 1995 construction of the HOK Sport (now Populous)–designed Edward Jones Dome that the municipality must pay off on its own. All this for a structure used to host eight games during the normal football season. The Rams were lured back to Los Angeles in the same way they were lured away from it: with promises of a brand-new, state-of-the-art sports temple. In the most recent case, however, the altar in question will be entirely privately funded by Rams owner Stan Kroenke who is a billionaire. It will also be smack dab in the middle of the new City of Champions mega-development, a 238-acre neighborhood being built atop the site of the former Hollywood Park racetrack in Inglewood. Overall, the City of Champions project is due to cost $2.5 billion and will include 3,000 housing units, 620,000 square feet of commercial space, as well as a new casino and hotel. The stadium component, designed by global architecture firm HKS, features a sail-like, triangular ETFE super-roof supported by thick columns that caps the stadium and also shelters a large, outdoor “champions plaza” to be used as a communal gathering spot for spectators. The 80,000-seat stadium will be able to hold up to 100,000 fans for concerts and is being designed to accommodate two football teams. Simultaneously, Kansas City–based MANICA Architecture had proposed a competing stadium for the nearby city of Carson, California, in an attempt to lure the Rams and, potentially, the San Diego Chargers to a new stadium there. After the HKS proposal for the Rams became a reality, MANICA’s proposal resurfaced in Las Vegas as a potential new home for the Oakland Raiders, a team that itself went from Oakland to Los Angeles and then back again during the late 1980s and early 1990s over unmet stadium-upgrade demands. MANICA recycled its nearly $2 billion Carson proposal for Sin City, trading in an open-air proposal for an air-conditioned scheme featuring a retractable roof. The project was approved in November of this year after much political wrangling that included raising special taxes to fund the stadium’s construction and a $650 million cash infusion from billionaire Sheldon Adelson. While the Raiders’ move to Las Vegas has not been finalized, the team’s current bout with wanderlust began after a deal to share the recently completed, $1.2 billion HNTB-designed Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California, fell through. That stadium was designed to accommodate two teams, hold between 68,500 and 70,000 spectators during sporting events, and be the first ground-up LEED Gold–certified NFL stadium in the country. In December, officials in the Bay Area announced yet another plan to try and keep the Raiders in Oakland by putting forth the plans for a new $1.25 billion, 55,000-seat football stadium to replace the existing Oakland–Alameda Coliseum. The last time the Oakland Coliseum received major upgrades was back in 1995 when a $25.5 million renovation brought luxury suites to the stadium. The new plans include space for a new Oakland A’s baseball team ballpark, while also including a sizeable commercial component, and even a “Grand Central Station-like” transit connection to the regional Bay Area Rapid Transit system to connect the new sports complex with the metropolitan region. Although the Raiders are working toward moving to Las Vegas, and the Rams are settling into their new home in Los Angeles awaiting the 2019 completion of the City of Champions complex, the future of the San Diego Chargers remains in doubt, as well. A ballot initiative in support of their newly proposed stadium was a casualty of this year’s November elections, paving the way for the Chargers to potentially take up residence in Los Angeles if they can’t figure out a new approach. That ballot initiative would have raised area hotel tax rates to help fund a new stadium. Both teams have until January 15th to vet bids from their respective cities before they can begin to formally consider other offers. Either way, things don’t look great for the prospects of either team to stay in their respective cities. The Los Angeles Times recently quoted NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell as saying,“We have not made great progress in Oakland and San Diego. There is not a stadium proposal on the table that we think addresses the long-term issues of the clubs and the communities. So we need to continue to work at it.”
A new public art installation by Jaume Plensa, the artist behind the Crown Fountain in Chicago’s Millennium Park, has been commissioned to adorn a plaza at the foot of the Kohn Pedersen Fox Architects (KPF)-designed Pacific Gate development in San Diego. The sculpture, made with stylized characters from the Latin, Hebrew, Greek, Cyrillic, Arabic, Japanese, Chinese, and Hindi alphabets and inspired by the roots of rainforest trees, will stand about 25-feet tall. It takes the shape of a seated individual looking out over the Pacific Ocean. The sculpture was commissioned by Bosa Development, the firm behind the project, specifically to compliment the new tower. It will adorn the public plaza beneath the so-called “Super Prime,” 41-story high-end condo tower. Residences in the development are being priced between $1.1 million and $2.8 million for two-bedroom and three-bedroom units, respectively. The 215 units contained within the tower will run between 1,240-square feet and 2,608-square feet in size and will feature interior design by Hirsch Bedner Associates (HBA), a group known mostly for high-end hotel interiors. Overall designs for the tower echo the form of a sea shell, with the facade of the tower taking the shape of a pair of conjoined, nested-curve-shaped towers designed to maximize outward views from each unit. The residences are to be located above a three-story parking and retail podium that will house 16,000 square feet of retail space and 460 parking stalls. Interiors will feature automated climate, lighting, and window treatments that can be controlled via smartphone or tablet. The units will also feature custom-designed kitchens by HBA, with cabinets made from “grain-matched cathedral veneer hewn from single lengths of wood,” as well as custom kitchen hardware, also by HBA, as well as quartz countertops and appliances by Wolf, Sub-Zero, and Miele. The project’s master bathrooms will contain polished stone floors and stone mosaic walls. Vancouver, Canada—based Chris Dikeakos Architects acted as architect-of-record for the project. The Pacific Gate development is expected to finish construction toward the end of 2017.
The San Diego Museum of Art will showcase the works of Louis Kahn this fall as it holds a series of exhibitions and events revolving around the renowned architect’s iconic works, including the famed Salk Institute in nearby La Jolla, California. Louis Kahn: The Power of Architecture, opening November 5th, looks to bring 200 objects related to Kahn’s life and building projects into focus, including the first public showing of the Philadelphia architect’s watercolor, pastel, and charcoal sketches created over the course his extensive travels. The exhibition aims to be all-encompassing, discussing the architect’s biography alongside his most famous works. It will also point an eye toward the rigor of his architectural practice, with the artistic prowess embodied by the sketches being supplemented by personal documents, drawings, study models, and archival images of his iconic architectural works. Kahn's oeuvre ranges from American-bound projects like Salk in California and the Library at Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire to his work in Dhaka, Bangladesh, where Kahn designed the then newly-independent nation's National Assembly building in 1982. In a press release for the exhibition, Roxana Velásquez, the Maruja Baldwin executive director of The San Diego Museum of Art, praised the architect’s local work, referring to the Salk Institute as “a San Diego landmark regarded as one of the most inspirational works of architecture in the world.” Another exhibition, Shape, Shadow, and Space: Photographs of the Salk Institute, will showcase architectural photography by design students of the Woodbury University School of Architecture and run alongside The Power of Architecture. The museum also aims to hold a symposium featuring scholars of the architect’s life and works on the opening day of the exhibition; the museum will also screen the film My Architect, A Son’s Journey, in conjunction with the panel. The film is to be presented by its director, Nathaniel Kahn, son of Louis Kahn. The exhibition will run through January 31, 2017, capping off a banner season for San Diego–area architecture enthusiasts that will also see a constellation of local museums showcasing the work local architectural hero Irving J. Gill concurrently.
Eleven San Diego and Southern California cultural organizations are joining forces this fall to celebrate the life and works of Irving J. Gill. Gill, a famously overlooked San Diego architect who was responsible for introducing the beginnings of modernism to Southern California in the early 1900s. An uneducated migrant from upstate New York, Gill would eventually find himself working in the Chicago offices of Adler & Sullivan, where he worked on the firm’s designs for the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition. Gill left the White City for Southern California in 1893, going on to a prolific career at the helm of the firm Hebbard & Gill. A firm believer in the positive social impacts of proper architecture, Gill took on a variety of clients, providing design services for wealthy, white gentry as well as for several Native American reservations, an African American religious congregation, and the families of migrant Mexican workers. While well-known—if not more renowned—as contemporaries such as Greene and Greene during his lifetime, Gill’s reputation fell off the radar quickly after his death. With a blockbuster lineup of coordinated exhibitions, San Diego institutions are re-elevating Gill as their city’s patron saint of architecture. The San Diego History Center is leading the effort with their exhibition, Irving J. Gill: New Architecture for a Great Country, a survey of Gill’s greatest San Diego works, including many of his influential house designs as well as the La Jolla Women’s Club from 1914, considered to be the first tilt-slab construction building in Southern California. Among other institutions showcasing Gill’s work, The La Jolla Historical Society and Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego will team up to showcase an exhibition focused on Gill’s orthographic and perspectival drawings, sketches, and watercolor renderings on loan from Gill archives at University of California, Santa Barbara and the San Diego History Center. The Oceanside Museum of Art, housed in a Gill-designed structure originally used as the town’s City Hall from 1934 to 1994, will present a historical overview of the 5,000 square foot structure. In conjunction, the museum will also showcase the work by Frederick Fisher and Partners, who completed a large expansion to the structure in 2008. Lastly, the Save Our Heritage Organisation will present two exhibitions at the Gill-designed National Historic Landmark, Marston House Museum and Gardens. One, Irving J. Gill: Photographer, will showcase Gill’s previously-unknown architectural photographs as well as pictures of his buildings by other photographers. The second, Gill & the Decorative Arts, will dissect Gill’s interior and garden design philosophies through the lens of regional sustainability. The exhibitions open September 24th and run through March 31, 2017.
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.
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."