The freeways, highways, and exchanges in San Diego are notably punctuated with prominently sited structures. These buildings bracket and define the visual experience along the automobile corridors circumscribing our neighborhoods, and keeping growth within due bounds. Unwitting monuments, they often have their prominent backside on display to tens of thousands of motorists daily. The value of this exposure creates an exaggerated opportunity to focus on the function of form and aesthetic relative to this unique, urban situation. This was the stage that was set at 3666 Kearny Villa Road, perched atop the complex exchange of not only Interstate 805 and California State Route 163, but also caught in a tangled web between Kearny Villa Road, Aero Drive, Linda Vista Road, Convoy Street, and Kearny Mesa Road. All the while, we have not mentioned the tiny roads and pathways filling what is left of the interstice.
The building sited on Kearny Villa Road stood atop the freeways as a prime example of 70s styled, developer driven, class A office space that was ripe for adaptive reuse and urban renewal. With its beautiful bones, designed originally by Brian Paul Architect, both the owner and current architect agreed to honor its siting, massing, and geometry. The goals, which ultimately resonated with this unique gem of a structure, grew out of the site criteria itself and embraced classic modernist tenets : 1) Embolden the geometry of the existing concrete structure and ‘Pilotis’ 2) Free the ground plane through the use of dark material, linear accent lighting and dark glazing, while allow the building to float above, 3) Free the facade with the patterning of over nine colors of glass, which also demanded more advance sound and energy conscious systems, relevant to this location and orientation, 4) Accentuate the horizontal windows which light the spaces and activity within, while utilizing three levels of transparency and mirroring, and finally, 5) Rather than providing a roof garden, give back to the street level a landscaped, community and civic space on the more protected side of the ground plane to engage the transit hub, but also simultaneously shield occupants and visitors with board-formed, concrete curves.
The building now fully represents its new mandate: a diamond solitaire set in beautiful rings of asphalt. For the owner and occupants alike, all of the design goals have been met and exceeded, while the newly adapted building has a civic presence that betrays its location. The repurposed building can stand proud in this corridor of commerce for many more years to come while serving the County and community members of San Diego at-large. By embracing the site constraints and timeless Modernism, this is a positive, relevant, re-imagining of space at the intersection of commercial and civil architecture. Even within this hostile environment, this redevelopment asserts that no buildings are left behind, and commercial architecture should shine, especially if it is seemingly in a solitaire setting.