Watching the dramatic transformation of the outmoded 25-story office building in downtown San Diego into this sleek, modern tower sheathed in glass and metal has been both engaging and inspiring. While the pre-renovated building has been “Class-A” in terms of location, occupying a prime, highly visible corner on Broadway, it was hampered by its unappreciated 1960s facade, tired common areas and lack of robust amenity spaces. The rebranded building – “Tower 180” – a name reflective of its remarkable 180 degree turnaround, is intended to represent the working lifestyle redefined. Both the relocation of its main entrance from a side street to the main thoroughfare on Broadway and its address change to “180 Broadway” signify its new identity and its greater role in the community. Tower 180 seeks to reflect the vitality and sophistication of San Diego as a regional / international economic hub and also aims to contribute to the viability of the urban commercial core and add to the vibrancy of the overall downtown experience.
The new tower design embraces the notion of preserving the best characteristics of the original building – its unique architectural elements reflective of the Mid-Century and International styles that were popular at the time – while creating a progressive forward-thinking design. Built in 1963, the original building offered the design team a rich palette of evocative architectural elements from which to craft its post millennial manifestation, including strong vertical lines, expressed white columns and a curtain wall layered with striated vertical mullions.
The design team decided to maintain the existing lines of the building to serve as a foundational element, reflecting its strong ties to the building’s history. The expressed white columns are clad in a tapered metal fin design that further enhance the verticality and sleek proportions of the tower. The metal fins are now the building’s most prominent design feature. Projected from the face of glass, the fins extend from the base of the building all the way to the roof, crowning the building’s top with a skyward gesture. These metal fins also house a series of LED lighting elements that animate the building’s profile at night.
Another nod to the past is the updated curtainwall – the newly installed high-performance unitized system that preserves the original building’s look and feel while offering the levels of energy efficiency, seismic performance and wind load protection expected of today’s modern office buildings. The addition of expressed vertical mullions add to the layered effect: from the curtain wall, to the mullions, to the metal fins.
For the ground plane, transparency is key to showcasing the life within the building and connecting with street life. The commercial spaces lining Broadway, downtown’s main street, come alive with this indoor/outdoor experience. Outside patio seating spaces add to the activation along the street, feeling participatory and inclusive in the daily life of downtown.
The design team also brought the indoor/outdoor experience that began at street level aloft throughout the tower building through a series of architectural interventions. While the street level connection is primarily visual and expressed through transparency and proximity, the tower also features literal connective elements such as the addition of exterior balcony bridges stitched between the two structures that form the tower to draw attention upward, reinforcing the positive affinity between inside/outside, tower/street and private/public. These same elements, cantilevering above Broadway, also announce the building’s main entrance to the lobby.
An articulated vertical metal wall that travels through the balconies, grounds itself and angles in towards the building’s main lobby. This gesture that connects the outside to the inside is a manifestation of the holistic approach between the building’s exterior and interior architectural design intent. This statement is further punctuated by the artfully sculptured building signage incorporated into the angled edge of the metal wall, which serves to draw attention from the street upward and inwards.
Technical Challenges Encountered Along the Way