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.
Antoine Predock Architect PC
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, Antoine was presented with the Rome Prize in 1985. In 1989, he won a New Mexico Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts. 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.
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 theater-goers passing through a eucalyptus grove as they approach the structure. The mirror is a poetic divide between the reality of every day and the magic of the theatre on the other side.
Architects Mosher Drew
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 its 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. The firm is credited for some of San Diego’s iconic architecture that has stood the test of time such as the Coronado Bridge and the Aztec Center at San Diego State University. They have received, among many awards, the Award of Excellence and the Award of Merit from the San Diego Chapter of the American Institute of Architects.
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 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.
Carrier Johnson + Culture
185 W F St., Suite 500, San Diego, CA 92101
About Carrier Johnson + Culture
Carrier Johnson + Culture is an international architecture, interiors, and strategic branding practice that has shaped the San Diego skyline and the region’s building footprint. It has provided design solutions for residential, hospitality, retail, mixed-use, corporate, education, healthcare/science, and technology markets. Established in 1987, the firm employs more than 100 staff professionals in its headquarters in San Diego, in addition to satellite studios in Orange County, Los Angeles, and Shanghai. The award-winning local firm was started by Gordon Carrier and Michael Johnson. The dynamic duo has ties to some San Diego’s most recognizable projects including the downtown courthouse and Park 12, the high-rise apartment complex overlooking Petco Park.
Carrier Johnson + Culture designed the Science Center (Sator Hall and Latter Hall) of Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego. Known for its rigorous science programs, the design team translated the school’s dialogue between scientific progress and biblical teachings into an award-winning structure. Labs and classrooms are wrapped in insulating-glass and smooth-concrete while a feathered curve of perforated metal panels fills the southern side. Conceived for shade, this “environmental-screen” is laser-cut with symbols of religious and scientific allusion. The project earned a Best of Design Award for Building of the Year from The Architect’s Newspaper and an Honorable Mention in Architectural Design / Educational Buildings from the Architecture Masterprize. It also won a Citation Award from the AIA San Diego.
J. Kevin Heinly
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
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, including 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, the 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.”
Gensler is responsible for the design behind the $229.4M expansion of Terminal 2 of the San Diego International Airport. The firm completed 55,000-square-feet of new construction and 70,000 square feet of renovated space for the Federal Inspection Services (FIS) Facility and a three-story, 3,000-space parking plaza. The LEED Gold-certified FIS Facility was designed “inside-out” to stay true to the indoor-outdoor feel of the San Diego lifestyle. Natural light and views of San Diego’s impressive skylines greet passengers as they step off the plane while the facility itself is fitted with the latest advances and biometric screening from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection. The Terminal 2 Parking Plaza also boasts state-of-the-art sustainable features, significantly reducing energy consumption but still sophisticated parking technology through sensors and lightwells. The project won a National Merit Award for Aviation from the Design-Build Institute of America in 2019.
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
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 in 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. 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.
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.
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.
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.
LPA Design Studios
1600 National Avenue, San Diego, CA 92113
About LPA Design Studios
One of the top architecture firms in the region, according to ENR California, LPA, Inc. pulled in over $42M of design revenue in 2018. Its team of more than 350 architects, engineers, and interior designers has earned over 100 design awards. Leason Pomeroy established LPA, Inc. in Orange County in 1965. The firm took its first AIA design award in 1971 for 44 Plaza Square. The Irvine office opened in 1989, one year before current CEO Robert Kupper assumed his post. Originally focused entirely on architectural design, the firm added engineering in 2007. The firm’s designs for the Michelle Obama Branch Library earned a 2017 AIACC Award of Honor while its design for the Environmental Nature Center and Preschool in Newport Beach earned a 2019 national AIA COTE Top Ten award.
LPA collaborated with Pei Cobb Freed & Partners in the architectural work on One La Jolla Center, completing one of the largest superblocks in the University Community Plan Area of San Diego. The building’s articulation of base, middle, and top created a symmetrically balanced proportion that is further defined by the large offsets that frame the building. The vertical community is wrapped in linen-finished stainless steel and floor-to-ceiling Viracon glass. Sustainability is also at its core — it is Certified LEED® Gold by U.S. Green Building Council & ENERGY STAR® by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Striking architecture and highly sought-after amenities make 701B an attractive, progressive space that appeals to tenants in tech, finance, and commerce. LPA worked on its architecture, engineering, interior design, and landscape design. Stretching across a city block in Downtown San Diego, the 24 story office building is marked with a striking, sculptural shade trellis, inspired by the manta ray moving through the ocean. A dramatic 65-foot, high-glazing glass wall and calming water feature—the largest vertical water feature in the area—serves as the backdrop for the sculpture. It was named Office Project of the Year by the San Diego Business Journal in 2019 and a national IES Illumination Award of Merit in the Energy and Environment category.
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 has been recognized locally and nationally, with a long list of awards, including the 2017 Planning Firm Award (APA) and the 2016 NAHB Gold Award.
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 façades, two levels of subterranean parking, and a public walkway that winds through the project.
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.
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.
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 Portman Architects
Portman Architects is a leading global architecture and design firm. Recognized throughout the world for his innovative design, John Portman is an architect; he’s 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.
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 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 in the sky.
Skidmore, Owings & Merrill
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.
Skidmore, Owings & Merrill designed the Manchester Grand Hyatt Hotel overlooking the beautiful waters off the San Diego coast on 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 the 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.