San Diego is best known for its beaches, parks and warm climate. Its museums, cultural hubs, and artists’ studios make it a wonderful place to live and visit. Several impressive commercial structures also serve the area. We’ve listed 15 of its best and leading architects behind some of the city’s most recognizable tenant improvements. These firms were chosen based for their unique portfolios, their varied backgrounds, and their diverse teams.
Studio E Architects
2258 First Avenue, San Diego, CA 92101
Studio E Architects is composed of a talented team of over 24 experienced and talented professionals. The firm operates out of its office in San Diego; it has had the opportunity to work across the Southwestern United States. The firm’s portfolio showcases a wide range of project types—everything from private residences to affordable housing, and mixed-use, civic, and urban planning projects. It is also the proud recipient of countless accolades, including three National American Institute of Architects Honor Awards. Its work has also been featured in publications like San Diego Home/Garden, Residential Architect, and Building Design + Construction.
The project showcased here is the firm’s on 1660 India in San Diego. Located in the heart of San Diego’s Little Italy neighborhood, this project spans over 9,500 square feet and entailed having to strip the entire project back to its shell. Its new details include new entrances, lobbies, signage, and lighting, as well as new exterior finishes.
1515 Morena Boulevard, San Diego, CA 92110
Delawie Architects offers its clients a complete range of architecture services and is also regarded for its interior design, master planning, and sustainable design. The firm has been in business since 1961 and extends its services throughout San Diego. Throughout its years in the industry, the firm has had the opportunity to work in some of its most sought-after communities. The firm’s portfolio includes an excellent range of technological, hospitality, educational, government, and specialty spaces.
Designed for The Hotel at Kirkwood Center, the firm’s team worked on the featured project’s interior design and extensive renovation. It is a four-story building that houses 71 contemporary rooms, common areas, and a lobby. It also worked on its restaurant and bar, in addition to the installation of several custom wall decals.
Carrier Johnson + CULTURE
185 WF Street, Suite #500, San Diego, CA 92101
Carrier Johnson + CULTURE works in and around some of San Diego’s most impressive commercial districts. It offers prospective clients stellar architecture and interior design work and can take on any project regardless of size or scale. The firm makes use of a highly collaborative approach that brings together both the technical and conceptual aspects of any process. Its portfolio features an excellent portfolio composed of landscapes, healthcare, residential, and mixed-use projects. It has also contributed to several workplaces, including education, science, government, and library spaces.
The featured project is an excellent example of the firm’s talent and expertise. Designed for NBC 7 in San Diego, this project entailed having to work on its programming, space planning, and architectural renovation. The structure is LEED Silver accredited and spans over 52,000 square feet.
Safdie Rabines Architects
925 Fort Stockton Drive, San Diego, CA 92103
Safdie Rabines Architects is a full-service firm that specializes in architecture and interior design. The firm has been in business since 1993 and is overseen by husband-and-wife duo Ricardo Rabines and Taal Safdie. Together they lead a team of over 50 designers, architects, interior designers, and support staff. They make use of a highly collaborative approach, which has consistently resulted in timeless work. he firm is known for a variety of residential typologies, including mixed-use communities, student housing, affordable housing, and single-family homes, as well as for civic, institutional, and infrastructure projects.
This project showcases the firm’s design for Crystal Flats, located in Bentonville, Arkansas. This project is a mixed-use development and serves as the brand’s contribution to the area’s ongoing revitalization of its downtown area. The initial scope of work for the Crystal Flats development involved a conceptual master plan for the entire 26-acre site.
Symphony Towers: 750 B Street, Suite #2800, San Diego, CA 92101
JCJ Architecture operates out of several offices in Boston, Hartford, Las Vegas, New York, Phoenix, Tulsa, and, of course, San Diego. The firm has been in business since 1936, making it one of the oldest companies on this list. It is composed of over 50 talented and experienced architects, 25 of whom are LEED Accredited Professionals. The firm is a diverse planning, architecture, and interior design practice that works on both projects from both the public and private sectors. Its portfolio of experience encompasses gaming, entertainment, hospitality, hotel, retail, workplace, higher education, civic, community, culture, and public safety spaces
The chosen project above is a great example of its expertise. Spanning over 103,000 square feet, this project was completed in 1996 for the North American headquarters of LEGO. JCJ partnered with Danish architect Soren Norgaard Laundsen in order to provide full architecture and interior design services.
The Miller Hull Partnership
Point Loma Marina, 4980 North Harbor Drive, Suite #100, San Diego, CA 92106
In business since 1977, The Miller Hull Partnership is the product of the vision of its founding partners, David Miller and Robert Hull. They first met as undergraduate architecture students at Washington State University. The two were heavily influenced by their experience in the Peace Corps in Brazil and Afghanistan. Under their leadership, the company makes use of passive solar, super insulation, and earth-sheltered design and construction. In 2021, it launched EMission Zero, an initiative targeting the elimination of greenhouse gas emissions in buildings.
This project won the firm several accolades, including the 2019 Orchid Award for Architecture from the San Diego Architecture Foundation and the 2020 Sustainable Tenant Improvement from the USGBC San Diego. Spanning over 4,600 square feet, this space was completed for the Miller Hull Studio. It features an open office setting and modern touches.
3605 Fifth Avenue, San Diego, CA 92103
In business since 1979, RDC is a full-service architectural firm headquartered in Los Angeles with offices in Washington, D.C., and Arkansas. It also operates overseas from an office in Shanghai. Its staff is composed of over 160 experienced and seasoned professionals who take a comprehensive approach when designing spaces. The firm is a forerunner in the commercial industry market and specializes in retail, hospitality, and entertainment venue projects. Its portfolio also showcases various corporate interiors, mixed-use, grocery, and wellness spaces. The firm’s experience covers all consumer experiences, rendering it equipped to manage any task. The RDC team takes a comprehensive look at each of its projects’ space, and from there, methodically employs an approach that is an infusion of architecture, planning, and interior design. From conceptual design, entitlement, and site planning to construction documentation and administration, the firm’s team is there to assist throughout the entire process.
The firm is the recipient of a multitude of awards, including the LA Business Council Award, the AIA Long Beach/South Bay Citation Award, and a FRAME Design Social Award. Showcased above is one of the firm’s most impressive projects. Located in San Diego, this project spans over 26,700 square feet and features a collection of interconnected restaurants in one space.
H2 Hawkins + Hawkins Architects, Inc.
726 9th Avenue, Suite #1, San Diego, CA 92101
H2 Architects is an award-winning firm that operates out of two offices in San Diego and Gig Harbor, Washington. It focuses on infusing various sustainability and green methods into its projects, assuring its homeowners of the high efficiency of its work. The firm has been in business since 1998 and is the brainchild of brothers David and Steven Hawkins. Under their supervision, the firm has also become known for its outstanding commercial, cultural, residential, and mixed-use architectural designs. The firm takes a highly client-focused approach and thus assists homeowners throughout the entire process. That process includes site planning, programming, feasibility studies, master planning, and space planning. The firm’s work adheres to LEED standards.
The featured project showcases the firm’s work for the Caffe Pan Bon. It spans over 10,400 square feet and is located in the Little Italy district of San Diego. The main dining area of the space houses a two-story area with a 4,000-square-foot mezzanine and a balcony lounge area.
M.W. Steele Group
1805 Newton Avenue, Suite A, San Diego, CA 92113
The M.W. Steele Group extends its services throughout San Diego and is among its best and leading award-winning architecture firms. It draws inspiration from over three decades of industry experience and credits its success to both its talented team and its long-term artistic collaborations with some of the area’s most outstanding subcontractors and professionals. Since its establishment, the firm has won numerous impressive distinctions, including Merit Awards from the San Diego American Planning Association and the National Association of Home Builders.
This photo showcases the firm’s work on JAI by Wolfgang Puck. It is a tenant improvement for an all-new 4,700-square-foot restaurant within the Theatre District on the campus of the University of California San Diego. The restaurant is an Asian fusion-inspired space that features indoor and outdoor dining spaces, a full bar, and a state-of-the-art catering kitchen.
Ferguson Pape Baldwin Architects
4499 Ruffin Road, Suite #300 San Diego, CA 92123
Ferguson Pape Baldwin Architects is composed of a talented and experienced team of design professionals. It extends its services throughout San Diego and has worked on some of its most noteworthy commercial structures. Since its inception, the firm has been the proud recipient of countless impressive accolades. These include several Build San Diego Awards from the Associated General Contractors San Diego as well as several mentions on the Engineering News-Record. Depicted below is one of the firm’s best projects.
Located in San Diego, this project spans over 186,000 square feet. The firm’s team was tasked with its full redevelopment. It now features a flexible lab and office spaces. Some other great details include collaborative workstations, lounges, and break rooms.
2419 El Cajon Boulevard, San Diego, CA 92104
obrARCHITECTURE specializes in working on civic, commercial, educational, and residential spaces. It has had the opportunity to work in some of San Diego’s most sought-after neighborhoods. It can take on projects regardless of size or scale. At the firm’s helm are its principals, Garrick Oliver, Christopher Bittner, and Anney Rosenthal-Hall. Oliver graduated from San Diego State University in 1999: he has been a licensed architect since 2007. He is also a LEED-certified professional and a lecturer of interior architecture at San Diego State University. On the other hand, Bittner has practiced since 2002 and holds a degree from San Diego’s New School of Architecture. Lastly, Rosenthal-Hall graduated from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo in 1999 after spending a year abroad in Florence, Italy. She is also a LEED accredited professional. Under their collective vision and leadership, obrARCHITECTURE has generated a stellar portfolio and clientele list for itself.
Showcased above is one of the firm’s best. Located in Oceanside, this project was completed back in 2019 for Camp Coffee. On this project, the firm’s team was tasked with having to work on its service layout, the interior design, and the sidewalk café patio.
2039 National Avenue, San Diego, CA 92113
With over three decades of industry experience, Ergo Architecture specializes in commercial, residential, multifamily, and restaurant projects. The firm’s portfolio also showcases several impressive bars, clubs, assisted living, and urban infill projects. Since the firm’s inception, it has worked on over 187 projects and has won countless impressive accolades, including the Young Architect of the Year Award from the AIA San Diego and a Public Service Award from the same organization.
Completed for Cafe Chloe, this beautiful featured project came with a very strong design concept from its owners. The primary challenge was to split its kitchen into two small spaces. Note its old-world details and cozy touches.
1955 Bacon Street, San Diego, CA 92107
Architects HGW offers a complete and comprehensive range of architecture, site, and interior design services. The firm specializes in civic, commercial residential, and medical office projects. It is also highly respected for its recreation, master planning, and sustainability efforts. In terms of design, it can take on any project regardless of scale or complexity.
Located in San Diego, this photo showcases the firm’s work on the MedImpact Corporate headquarters. It is LEED Gold Certified and spans over six stories. Some of its best elements include its natural stone, low iron glass, and integrated metals.
4080 Centre Street, San Diego, CA 92103
Baker Architecture is a four-person collaborative firm that extends its services throughout San Diego. It offers its clients a complete range of architecture and planning services. This encompasses preliminary site planning, zoning research, space planning, schematic design, and construction administration. It specializes in tenant improvements and ground-up construction for restaurants, retail, residential and commercial spaces.
The chosen project above is one of the firm’s best. Completed for Amini and Co. Fine Jewelry, this project is located in Westfield. It spans 858 square feet and was completed in collaboration with the professionals at Ellis Contracting and Dodd & Associates.
Matalon Architecture & Planning
888 Prospect Street, Suite #200, La Jolla, CA 92037
Founded in 1994, Matalon offers its clients a great range of architecture and planning work. It has worked in some of the best areas across San Diego and is particularly well-known for its site planning, interior design, programming, master planning, and building design. The firm services both the public and private sectors, and it has had the opportunity to work with countless noteworthy clients. Those clients include AECOM, Wells Fargo, UnionBank, and San Diego State University.
The chosen project showcases the firm’s work for Wells Fargo. It spans around 5,500 square feet and features an excellent rustic theme. It includes seven teller stations, twelve platform desks, a conference room, a cash vault, and a self-serve safe deposit vault.