Flip-flops, sandy beaches, and sunshine are some of the things that come to mind when we think of San Diego, but San Diego also represents the new millennium in many ways. It embraces technology, it cares about the environment, and it is alluring to retirees and young entrepreneurs alike. Sunny San Diego has the draw of a quiet, relaxed community, with the perks of the Southern California weather and natural beauty. From the stunning coastline and the scenic communities to business and scientific innovation, it is no wonder that some of the world’s largest commercial architectural firms have brought their innovative designs to “America’s Finest City.” Although not all of these firms are based in San Diego, each of them has worked extensively in the city and left a powerful and lasting impact on San Diego’s commercial architectural landscape that will continue to benefit both locals and visitors for generations to come.

Top Architects

M.W. Steele Group

Mark W. Steele

APA Planning Firm Award,
NAHB Gold Award,
Gold Nugget Grand Award

1805 Newton Avenue, San Diego, CA 92113

About M.W. Steele Group

M.W. Steele Group has been fostering artistic dialogue about contextual architecture since it was founded in 1983. The award-winning team, led by Mark W. Steele, president and founder, understands that the structures they design are part of something greater than themselves and that careful planning and architecture can work to define and reinforce a concept of community. M.W. Steele Group says, “We provide a humanistic approach to design; viewing our work as a form of ethnography.” The firm is recognized locally and nationally, with a long list of awards, including the 2017 Planning Firm Award (APA) and the 2016 NAHB Gold Award.

Featured Projects

Keeping in line with the boom of mixed-use architecture that mindfully serves communities, M.W. Steele Group is responsible for The Mills at Cortez Hill, an upscale mixed-use development located at the edge of downtown San Diego. A dedicated historic site, the Mills House, located just two blocks from the famous Balboa Park, was originally designed by architects Hebbard and Gill. The M.W. Steele Group designed the addition of a new and improved mixed-use building to include 133 residential apartments and 3,200 square feet of commercial lease space that perfectly serves the community. The firm also brought new commercial and residential space to the historic Mission Hills neighborhood, with the Gold Nugget Grand Award-winning project, “1Mission.” The structure includes 5,300 square feet of multi-functional street-level retail space, 61 beautiful condominiums with partial red brick facades, two levels of subterranean parking, and a public walkway that winds through the project.

Architects Mosher Drew

Bill Magnuson
Ben Meza
Ed Holakiewicz

AIA Excellence Award,
AIA Merit Award

1775 Hancock Street #150, San Diego, CA 92110

About Architects Mosher Drew

Mosher Drew is the longest standing architectural firm in San Diego. It was established in 1946 by Robert Mosher, who was later joined by Roy Drew in 1948. With more than 60 years of experience in the field, the firm has built an impressive list of clients and has offered their services to a great body of architectural design works. All their projects begin with the idea of sustainability in mind, and they apply principles of energy conscious, environmentally sensitive designs. Among many of their awards, they have received the Award of Excellence and the Award of Merit from the San Diego Chapter of the American Institute of Architects.

Featured Projects

Mosher Drew is responsible for San Diego’s iconic NBC building, the 29th tallest building in the city and located in the Horton Plaza district of downtown San Diego. Its modern architectural design was completed in 1975 and includes 22 floors of office space, standing at a height of 339 feet. The building was home to NBC studios station KNSD until 2016. The La Jolla Library located in the city of San Diego is another of the firm’s creations. The design intentionally invites the outdoors in to complement the seaside community. The $4.3M structure, consisting of 25k square feet of space, uses organic materials strategically to reflect the history and context of the area. An oversized glass and steel ceiling in the main seating area invites an abundance of natural light, creating a bright and relaxing space.

Antoine Predock Architect PC

Antoine Predock

Rome Prize,
AIA Gold Medal,
Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum Lifetime Achievement Award

300 12th Street NW, Albuquerque, NM 87102

About Antoine Predock Architect PC

Antoine Predock is an American architect based in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and the principal of Antoine Predock Architect PC. The studio was established in 1967 with architecture and poetry in mind. According to Predock, “Architecture is a poetic encounter with place and client… and deep, and present and future time.” He applies this poetic philosophy to his architectural designs, making for a brilliant blend of structure and form that incorporates the natural world and all that is meaningful around it. The New Mexico-based firm’s philosophy is a perfect match for the beauty of San Diego’s natural locale, which lends itself well to the element of indoor/outdoor designs. A longstanding architect in the field, he was presented with the Rome Prize in 1985. In 1989, he won a Rome Prize. In 2006, he was awarded the AIA Gold Medal, and in 2007 he received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum.

“I stumbled on architecture through an encounter with Don Schlegel, an architect/professor at the University of New Mexico, in a technical drawing class while I was an engineering student. Don Schlegel had contagious energy and love for architecture and I caught it.” – Antoine Predock

Featured Projects

One of Predock’s designs, Petco Park has been home to the San Diego Padres since 2004 and has become one of San Diego’s major landmarks located just a few blocks from the thriving Gaslamp Quarter. Construction broke ground on May 3, 2000, and opened to the public on April 8, 2004, costing a total of $450M with a 40,209 capacity. Seamlessly blending nature, culture, breathtaking views of the bay, the ballpark has been described as a “garden” with open architecture, allowing visitors to experience the game in the midst of the natural world. Even the intentionally chosen colors evoke the sky, sand, and sea. In 2006, the San Diego Union-Tribune honored the ballpark with an Orchid award for its magnificent design. Predock is also credited with the unique design of the Mandell Weiss Forum – La Jolla Playhouse. The theatre consists of a 270-foot-long, 13-foot-high mirrored foreground wall that reflects images of theatergoers passing through a eucalyptus grove as they approach the structure. The mirror is a poetic divide between the reality of the everyday and the magic of the theatre on the other side.

Other projects include the University of California San Diego’s Molli and Arthur Wagner Dance Building.

“Through 50 years of practice I have learned that architecture starts with a poetic encounter with client and then honors the deepest essence of each place where I build no matter where it is in the world.” – Antoine Predock

JCJ Architecture

Peter N. Stevens

AIA Design Awards

750 B Street, Suite 2800, San Diego, CA 92101

About JCJ Architecture

Established in 1936, JCJ Architecture is a diverse planning, architecture, and interior design firm that offers innovative and engaged design services to clients across the globe. Led by Peter N. Stevens, LEED AP, the firm works primarily in the commercial and institutional sectors and excels at bringing value to every project they undertake. Previously maintained as a privately held firm, JCJ took the pivotal step in 2012 to transition to an ESOP (employee stock ownership plan). The move proved instrumental in strengthening a culture of collaboration among its employees and fostered an elevated creativity. In addition to their offices in San Diego, the firm currently has offices in Atlanta, Boston, Hartford, New York City, Phoenix, and Los Angeles.

Featured Projects

In 2000 JCJ Architecture completed the $6.8M construction of the 38k-square-foot Balboa Park Activity Center in San Diego. Balboa Park is the largest urban park in North America and includes a 1,200-acre cultural complex that houses 17 museums, eight major gardens, theaters, and the world-famous San Diego Zoo. JMJ ensured that the Activity Center’s design would hold true to the park’s existing architecture — a classical Beaux Arts symmetry style — while introducing new and exciting concepts of motion and athletics to make the center an integral part of the park experience. Later in 2008, JCJ was commissioned to renovate “The Finest Hotel in America’s Finest City,” Hilton San Diego Bayfront, a 30-story hotel tower with 1,190 guest rooms. The hotel provides access to Petco Park, the Gaslamp Quarter, and the San Diego Convention Center. Improvements included panoramic views to the bay, a new exterior bar and service center, meticulous landscaping, a bay-front promenade, an updated pool and hot tub area, a new fitness center, and a children’s splash zone. The $4.3M project encompassed 53k square feet of renovation and added a fresh, luxurious element to the Hilton experience.

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill

Paul Dana
Michael Mann

AIA COTE Honor Award,
AIA Excellence Award,
AIA Merit Award,
Los Angeles Business Council Grand Prize

333 South Grand Avenue, Suite 3600, Los Angeles, CA 90071

About Skidmore, Owings & Merrill

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill is an American architectural, urban planning, and engineering firm that leads the way in what we’ve come to recognize as the “glass box” skyscraper. They are responsible for several of the tallest buildings in the world, including the second tallest in San Diego: the beautiful Symphony Towers located in the historic Financial District. The firm was formed in Chicago in 1936 by Louis Skidmore and Nathaniel Owings. They were joined by John O. Merrill in 1939 and are now found all over the globe, creating some of the world’s most impressive and iconic structures. Thousands of projects later, it has become one of the largest architectural firms in the world, receiving accolades in 50 countries for high-end structural giants. Although not based in San Diego, the firm continues to have a major impact on San Diego’s architectural world through its innovative designs.

Featured Projects

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill designed the Manchester Grand Hyatt Hotel overlooking the beautiful waters off the San Diego coast on the Marina’s waterfront. The impressive structure is composed of two interconnected towers, the 40-story Harbor Tower built in 1992 and the 33-story Seaport Tower added in 2003. A four-story structure with a rooftop pool connects the two towers. The 40th and top floor is famously known as the “Top of the Hyatt,” housing an upscale bar with panoramic views of San Diego, Coronado Island, and stretching as far as the eye can see into Mexico. The firm is also responsible for another jewel in the San Diego skyline – The Symphony Towers – a 1.2M-square-foot two-tower hotel and office complex situated in the historic Financial District. The towers make up the second tallest building in San Diego standing at 499 feet, only one foot shy of the maximum-allowed height.

CarrierJohnson + Culture

Gordon Carrier
Michael Johnson

Golden Nugget Awards,
Multi-Housing News Gold Excellence Award

1301 Third Ave, San Diego, CA 92101

About CarrierJohnson + Culture

The award-winning design studio CarrierJohnson + Culture (CJ+C) has been distinguished as one of the most important architectural firms located in San Diego. The firm approaches architecture by striking a perfect balance between building and environmental context, exposing the vital connections between the social, physical, historical, and the aesthetic. The resulting space becomes a perfect blend of creativity, art, and social expression that has been recognized by the San Diego community as being instrumental to the betterment of the city. CJ+C won two Golden Nugget Awards in 2016 and a Gold in Best New Development for Student Housing at the 2014 Multi-Housing News Excellence Awards.

Featured Projects

CJ+C completed the award-winning Bridgeworks project for their client S.D. Malin with a 160k-square-foot hotel and 53,400 square feet of retail and office spaces, garnering the ASID Award and the first place Interior Design Specialty Award for a commercial design over 1,500 square feet. The firm has also reimagined and is currently in construction on the forthcoming Ballpark Village project, featuring a 3.5-acre parcel boasting a 37-story mixed-use modern geometric and vibrant tower, 49,000 square feet of high-end retail space, and 711 residential units just steps away from the Bay in the heart of San Diego. CJ+C is also credited with the impressive design of a 39-story tower at 7th & Market for their client Cisterra Development. The tower boasts a glass and steel multi-layered tower that resembles blocks built upon each other, supported by four pillars at the entrance that shimmer like ice.

Miller Hull

David Miller
Robert Hull (+)

AIA Architecture Firm Award,
AIA COTE Top Ten Green Project,
AIA Citation Award,
San Diego Architecture Foundation Orchid & Onions Award,
American Concrete Institute Marine Structure Award

2150 West Washington Street, Suite #113, San Diego, CA 92110

About Miller Hull

David Miller and Robert Hull met as undergraduate students, went on to the Peace Corps together, and then founded Miller Hull in 1977. Their longstanding respect for each other translates into their designs of beautiful and mindful places. In 2003, Miller Hull received the Architecture Firm Award from the American Institute of Architects — the highest industry commendation for architecture firms. Over the years, the firm has earned over 300 local, national, and industry design awards spanning varying project types. The firms is the most consistent winner of AIA Committee on the Environment (COTE) ‘Top Ten Green Project’ awards honoring beautiful, sustainability-designed buildings.

Featured Projects

The Miller Hull team’s design of The Wharf at Point Loma at America’s Cup Harbor won the AIA San Diego 2012 Citation Award, San Diego Architecture Foundation’s 2009 Orchid & Onions Award, and the American Concrete Institute’s 2009 Marine Structure Award. It offers a beautiful waterfront experience with a mindful design that highlights the natural world and offers a functional space for the surrounding working culture. The central promenade is a combined use space with a green park and a vibrant plaza with a fire pit. The structures connect to the water with walkways, offering ample space for visitors to find shade and enjoy the breathtaking views. Miller Hull also completed the 60k-square-foot Mesa Commons for the San Diego Community College District. The minimalist structure serves as a student hub and campus gateway, which includes two cafeterias, a bookstore, a convenience store, a café, culinary arts management labs, lounge spaces, and conference rooms.

John Portman & Associates, Inc.

John Portman

Country from World Luxury Hotel Awards Best New Luxury Hotel,
HA+D Award for Design Excellence

303 Peachtree Center Avenue, NE Suite 575, Atlanta, GA 30303

About John Portman & Associates, Inc.

Portman is a leading global architecture and design firm. Recognized throughout the world for his innovative design, John Portman is not only an architect, but also a successful businessman. At Portman, the philosophy is to design engaging and memorable spaces that serve the people who use them and benefit the community. Their guiding principles are to respect context, environment, culture, and community. They realize their work provides a sensory experience for their patrons, and the goal is always to deliver lasting value. They are winners of countless awards including the Best New Luxury Hotel in the Country from World Luxury Hotel Awards, and the HA+D Award for Design Excellence. The Atlanta based firm continues to leave a lasting mark on San Diego’s beautiful skyline with arguably some of the city’s most important and large-scale commercial designs.

Featured Projects

The firm is responsible for Hilton San Diego – Bayfront, a 1,200-room convention headquarters hotel located strategically to allow guests to take in views of the San Diego Bay. The design includes a significant use of glass on the exterior to reflect the surrounding skyline. The building also includes 106,050 square feet of meeting space, including a grand ballroom and a smaller ballroom; 22 meeting rooms; a business center; retail; a health club, lounge, and café; and the Vela restaurant and Spa Aquazul. An upcoming project, Bric Phase Two, consists of a 400-room, full-service InterContinental hotel, 33,000 square feet of retail space, and 686 parking spaces. This grand design is planned as a continuation of the Lane Field projects and the larger North Embarcadero Visionary Plan. The structure will include parking, various retail spaces, and a grand hotel lobby. The second level will house the hotel conference center, with dual ballrooms and associated smaller meeting rooms. The third level will feature the hotel lobby bar and restaurant and the convergence of the shuttle elevators and room tower elevators. For the top of the tower, the plan includes a public sky bar that will overlook the bay, grounding the project even in the sky to its coastal San Diego locale.


Art Gensler
J. Kevin Heinly
Scott Peterson

ENR #1 Green Building Design Firm in Commercial Offices,
Building Design + Construction Giants #1 Office Sector Architecture Firm

225 Broadway #100, San Diego, CA 92101

About Gensler

Gensler is a world leader in the field of architecture and design. It operates out of 46 cities in 16 countries. Among their 3,500 clients are 40 Fortune 500 companies, the top 10 technology companies in the US, and nine commercial banks. In 2015, for the fifth year in a row, Gensler generated $1.18B in revenue, the most for any architecture firm based in the United States. The firm was founded in 1965 by Art and Drue Gensler and their associate, James Follett. Initially focusing on corporate interiors, they have since expanded to include a vast array of architecture and design forms, such as airports, entertainment complexes, commercial office buildings, and retail centers. Gensler believes in leveraging the power of design to create a better world for all. They say, “For us, design is the means. The starting points are goals, strategies and expectations, but it transcends them to create a new and better reality. Design is transformative.”

Featured Projects

Gensler is responsible for the design behind the $229.4M expansion of Terminal 2 of the San Diego International Airport. The project is set to be completed in 2019 and includes 35k square feet for a new federal inspection station, along with an additional 100k square feet of remodel to reconfigure and accommodate new elevators, escalators, and stairs; add airline club spaces and concessions; and allocate ample space for new administrative offices for airlines. The design will stay true to the indoor-outdoor feel of the San Diego lifestyle, ensuring travelers who enter the arrival hall are flooded with natural light. Gensler is also credited with the design for the University of California, San Diego, Health Sciences and Medical Center. Compared to their other works, the center is a modest structure of roughly 3k square feet of clinical research space and 40k square feet of faculty and administrative office, support, and dry-lab research space designed to accommodate the university medical community.


Helmut Jahn

AIA Ten Most Influential Living American Architects,
AIA Institute Honour Award,
Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Award for Architecture

35 East Wacker Drive, Suite 300, Chicago, IL 60601

About JAHN

Architect Helmut Jahn pushed the limit to the very last available inch when he designed One America Plaza, the tallest building in San Diego. The German-born architect arrived to Chicago in 1966, where he studied under Ludwig Mies van der Rohe at the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT). His career began at CF Murphy Associates, where he worked on several large-scale commercial and governmental projects, including the FBI Headquarters in Washington, DC. Despite a rocky start to his career when the roof of his first major project in Kansas City, Missouri collapsed in 1979, Jahn established himself in 1985 with the State of Illinois Center in Chicago, which dubbed him “Flash Gordon.” In 1981 CF Murphy Associates was renamed Murphy/Jahn. Murphy/Jahn became simply JAHN in 2012 and remains a highly prolific and powerful architectural practice. The firm’s work primarily focused on corporate and high-profile educational projects that span the globe, and the firm has received numerous awards.

Featured Projects

One of JAHN’s masterpieces, San Diego’s One America Plaza is its tallest skyscraper, standing at 500 feet, which meets the US Federal Aviation Administration’s maximum allowed height for a building in downtown San Diego. The top of the 34-story, 623k-square-foot obelisk-shaped tower resembles the end of a Phillips head screwdriver and has become a powerful and prominent fixture in the breathtaking waterfront district of downtown San Diego. Although not based in San Diego, JAHN has made a permanent mark on the city with the tallest tower — never to be surpassed — in the beautiful San Diego skies. Among the firm’s other major works is the Sony Center on the Potsdamer Platz in Berlin, Germany; One Liberty Place in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, previously the tallest building in Philadelphia; and the T3 – Beijing International Airport in Beijing, China.

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