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Wednesday, July 29, 2015


Most significant work of San Diego architecture?  The panel of architects in 2002
selected Salk Institute in La Jolla by Louis I. Kahn (constructed 1959-1966)

Editor’s note: An abridged version of this article appeared in the January, 2002 edition of San Diego Magazine.

PANEL OF EXPERTS:  R. Gary Allen, Robert Mosher, Hal G. Sadler, Homer T. Delawie, Ward Deems, John Henderson and Michael Stepner.
Text By Thomas Shess
THE PREMISE: Large local architectural firms, who met the challenges of a rapidly growing city, dominated the 50s, 60s and 70s.  During the six months of research in preparation for this roundtable, the following names kept reappearing as being significant to their era.  It is from the following list that we selected many of our panelists: 50s: Lloyd Ruocco; 60's: Mosher, Drew, Watson, Ferguson;  Tucker, Sadler, Bennett; Delawie, Macy & Henderson;  Deems, Martin and  the 70's: Frank Hope & Associates.

Of course, there were many others that played an important role, therefore we also asked a leading professor of architecture and a respected historian/architect to assist in identifying issues and personalities of that marvelous mid century of growth.  All invited panelists are Fellows of the American Institute of Architects FAIA.

THE PARTICIPANTS: R. Gary Allen, a practicing architect from Del Mar, who made his mark with Frank Hope & Associates when he was the lead designer on San Diego Stadium (1967). He is now in private practice in Del Mar.   Robert Mosher, who in 1948 with Roy Drew founded an architectural, practice that is currently operating as Architects Mosher Drew Watson and Ferguson.  He is now in private practice in La Jolla.  Hal G. Sadler, founded Tucker, Sadler & Associates, Inc. (now Tucker Sadler Noble Castro Architects) in 1956. During the past four-and-a-half decades, he has designed many of San Diego’s landmarks that currently shape our city’s skyline. Sadler’s current focus includes maintaining client relationships and cultivating the firm’s design endeavors.

                           John Henderson, now retired, has been involved in the planning and design on many of San Diego’s governmental, institutional, commercial, religious, and recreational facilities and has developed a specialty in the field of historic preservation. His accomplishments include compiling two guidebooks on the Architecture of San Diego for the San Diego Chapter, AIA; development
and implementation of the California State Historic Building Code. 

Michael J. Stepner is director of land use and housing for the
San Diego Regional Economic Development Corp.; principal
Stepner Design Group and adjunct professor, Urban Design and Planning
NewSchool of Architecture & Design, San Diego.

In the late 50s, Homer T. Delawie partnered with Lloyd Ruocco to design many projects, including the Children’s Zoo.  Later, he formed Delawie, Macy & Henderson, a firm that today is called Architects Delawie, Wilkes, Rodrigues, Barker.  Delawie is now semi-retired but his roots to this day remain firmly planted in local architecture, planning and historic preservation. His career spans the gamut of achievement from commercial to modern residential houses. 

Ward Deems, who founded the firm Deems Martin in the early 60s, is also retired, but somehow seems more active today than ever before.  As a consultant to current Salk Institute expansion plans, he commutes from his home and office in Bend, Oregon.  The firm he founded operates today as Deems Lewis McKinley remains in practice in the San Francisco area specializing in primary and secondary school architecture.

Part One/Mid Century
Q: Describe some of the significant forces in play during the 50s, 60s and 70s that impacted San Diego architecture?
Consensus:  To quote Charles Dickens—it was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Ward Deems, however, echoed the general mood of the era.  He said, “Architectural design during those years often struggled to achieve excellence, some of which was due in part to clients' reluctance to reach higher and to some architects reticence to push hard for exceptional solutions.”

Michael Stepner: The 1950's and 1960's were times of mixed architectural quality. Civic architecture as represented by the County Courthouse and the San Diego
Community Concourse are perfect examples of the design disasters of the
period. On the plus side, there are many smaller works done by local architects of that era that are outstanding examples of that period. Such designers represent this work as Bob Mosher, Hal Sadler, Ward Deems, Homer Delewie, the office of Frank Hope, Sim Bruce Richards and Lloyd Ruocco.  At that time corporate interests usually went to out of town big firms for their buildings. But the locals established a body of work and firms that were the training ground for many of today's practitioners.

Robert Mosher: Thanks to San Diego Magazine for asking us to discuss the early formation of so many of the architectural firms in town.  Recalling those days and what they led to has been fun.  During the period 1960 through 1980, placed concrete and steel continued to dominate the construction of large projects, and concrete, as in the case of the Salk Institute, has set new standards of excellence.

Ward Deems: The 60s and 70s were special times. The planning for a viable and re- energized downtown began to emerge through the dedicated efforts of the business / financial communities and organizations (San Diegan's Inc., Chamber of Commerce, Economic Development Corp, etc.) and political revitalization (Mayors Frank Curran, Pete Wilson). The scope of activity and financial commitment was significant and included such projects as a major new shopping experiences (Horton Plaza), high rise commercial buildings (Union Bank, Security Pacific, San Diego Federal, etc.), initiation of plans for a primary convention center, a new civic center, development of the Port lands into attractive public spaces and tourist attractions ('B' Street Pier, Harbor Drive Improvement, Lindbergh International) and revitalization of the Centre City environment ('C' Street Pedestrian Mall, Gaslamp Quarter and many other actions and events.

In addition, the suburban community began to develop with multiple housing tracts, regional shopping centers (Mission/Fashion Valley, UTC0), the start of UCSD and USD as major educational facilities, recreational facilities (golf courses, San Diego Stadium) and, of course, multiple freeways. (San Diego is now paying the price for some of this unmanaged growth).

Homer Delawie: There were opportunities to do interesting work, and to explore new horizons. Education - schools and universities - and the Navy), for instance, which for years had been very mundane work, constituted many of our projects during those years. A number won design awards. We architects were challenged to come up with new techniques & design, and space utilization. The Navy then was one of the largest clients in San Diego. Our new Navy mid-rise housing at North Island was copied throughout the Naval system - I was proud of that.

In education, we could also be innovative. Buildings had been introverted because of vandalism, and most of the architecture for schools was mundane linear in form. At Scripps Ranch Elementary, for instance, we built lofts with portable partitions using central cores to provide interaction between the various classes. This “cluster concept” - unknown until then oriented classrooms around an interior media center, which was the heart of the school.

Unique clients also dominated the 70’s: penguins and sharks at the Sea World enclosures, and elephants and giraffes at the San Diego Zoo! These were very challenging projects, requiring extensive research and engineering expertise, along with architectural design. I think all animals are still thriving!

Q:  What style best describes the period?

Consensus:  Modernism to fading Modernism.
John Henderson: Bauhaus/International School.

Deems: This was the period when disciplines of the modernist movement began to wane and the more opportunistic (arbitrary?) styles of post-modernism emerge and therein complicated the abilities to judge quality architecture. While I recognize the spiritual values of experimental architecture, when observing the often now ignored contextual importance and ego driven nature of design of the built environment, I do regret the absence of discipline and simplicity which I believe are the hall marks of great architecture.

Mosher: The 50s, 60s and 70s, the “Post-Modern” movement had not yet corrupted architectural thinking, and the technical advances in construction and the improvement in building materials, made since WWII enabled architects to build superior projects while refining their understanding of the principles of “Modern Design.” 

Q:  What was it like for a young architect to work during the 50s, 60s & 70s?
R. Gary Allen: The 60s era was a dynamic time to be a young architect.  The city was beginning to feel its oats.  San Diegans believed that we could create something important here instead of perennially being a suburb of Los Angeles.  San Diego into the 70s and 80s was an even better place to practice architecture.  In many ways, then and now, it remains a hard place to do great architecture, but certainly it is a place conducive to create palatable architecture for the public.

J. Henderson: . San Diego's unprecedented continuous growth (1960's-1990's) gave opportunities for many younger architects to start their own firms, develop client base and establish their practice for long term growth.

Mosher: That was a period of great advancement in architectural expression that a modernist such as I could take pride in.  Roy Drew and I were drawn to the Humanist point of view because of our California background and having grown up in the presence of the work of Charles and Henry Green, Frank Lloyd Wright, Irving Gill and Bernard Maybeck.  It was in this cultural climate that we started our firm in 1900.  Other young architects began working in San Diego including Lloyd Ruocco, Sim Bruce Richards, Frederick Liebhardt, Eugene Weston, III, Homer Delawie and Russell Forester.  Back then we all found increasing opportunity to express our belief in the new architecture.  We all pursued our practices with vigor, in competition with one another, but drawn together by our mutual dedication to Modernism.  A very real feeling of comradeship existed between all of us, which continues to this day.

Delawie: It was great! “Trust” was the word then. We trusted those we did business with ... litigation was not the order of the day. Your word was your bond. Other architects respected your work, and you respected theirs. We were friendly even when competing hard with one another. Clients were eager for and embraced new ideas. Today, clients are afraid of the legal ramifications of projects that don’t fall into conventional design. Some of my best friends today were clients from that period.

Deems: The opportunities for architects and engineers to participate in this process of growth was extraordinary. There were only four or five firms in the early 60s who were experienced in major project planning and design and they were very active. While these firms were competitive with one another, the emergence of the San Diego Chapter/American Institute of Architects as a recognized contributor to the process of building a new city (professionally and politically) provided a base for professional respect and cooperation and from this other firms grew to prominence. There were hard times too. The early 60s and 70s saw severe economic recessions and this factor acted as a brake to development for several periods of time.
Q:  Was it easy to work with local government then? Did it get better or worse?
  Easier then than now.  For better or worse, elected officials are influenced more by the districts they represent, therefore they take the safest route to arriving at architectural decisions, especially in San Diego where the City Council also acts and votes as the planning agency.  Ward Deems answer was consistent with the majority: “It was seldom easy to work with government agencies then but it got worse. The advantage of that era was that the scope of regulations had far less impact on planning and architecture than is now the case. The overwhelming proliferation of regulatory codes and issues now insert a huge number of agencies, groups and individuals into the process which permits others, often without portfolio, to plan and design projects other than the design professional. In addition, the cost and time required in seeing the process to completion has become excessive.”

Q:  Name the most significant project built in the last 40 years “not” by your firm?
Consensus:  Salk Institute of Biological Studies, La Jolla by Louis I. Kahn, architect, Philadelphia.

J. Henderson:  Here are in no particular order the top local concepts/projects of the last half of the 20th century: San Diego Coronado Bay Bridge; Mission Bay Park, including Sea World, Vacation Village and Islandia Hotel; San Diego Zoo Expansion & Development, including Wild Animal Park; University of California San Diego campus; Salk Institute; Harbor projects, including Shelter Island, Harbor Island and San Diego International Airport Terminal; Balboa Park redevelopment and Downtown redevelopment, Horton Plaza, Gaslamp Quarter and Convention Center.

Deems: The Salk Institute is without exception, the most significant work of architecture in San Diego County. The exceptional client-architect relationship between Kahn and Jonas Salk created one Kahn's most important works and is one of the best examples of Kahn's commitment to the use of natural light and exciting geometry with the use of concrete. A proud achievement of architectural excellence that demonstrates how buildings can both offer beauty and function. The San Diego Stadium by Frank L. Hope & Associates (R. Gary Allen, lead architect) is one of the most successful stadiums in the country, both functionally and aesthetically, it presents an outstanding example of the use of concrete as a fluid, dynamic material and is especially well suited to the San Diego environment. Despite opinions to the contrary, it is quite acceptable for both football and baseball with ample parking and infrastructure to support its functions.
Sadler: San Diego Stadium was an unusual opportunity to provide a new sports entertainment center that has proven itself significant to the community.  It has stadium has simple forms and structure. Phase one San Diego Convention Center [Arthur Erickson, Ward Deems et al] has become an icon that relates to the city with its bay front view and nautical architectural elements, such as tent forms mimicking the sails of boats, and segmented barrel-vault skylights that look like ocean waves.

Mosher: One by an out of town architect and one by a local.  First, and clearly, the Salk Institute designed by Louis I. Kahn is the most significant architectural project in San Diego.  However, the Design Center on the 3600 block of Fifth Avenue, designed by the late Lloyd Ruocco, although on a much smaller scale, is, in our mind, a close second. 

Delawie: San Diego Stadium. It won a national AIA Design Award, and was very creative in its form and way ahead of its time. Unfortunately, it has been remodeled.

Allen: One with huge impact on the community is Jon Jerde’s Horton Plaza.  The Jerde Partnership brought the magic to downtown and it delivered good mall design to an urban setting. Other out of town architects that left big foot prints are Louis Kahn, who built the exquisite Salk Institute and the UCSD Central Library by William Peirera, who came close to giving the UCSD campus one remarkable architectural landmark.

Henderson:  I believe what different architects have built at the University of California San Diego, the various projects.

Q:  What were some of mid-century’s top technical breakthroughs?
Delawie: Pre - cast concrete in both floor and exterior wall panels was the greatest innovation. It allowed better window area and picked up the pace of construction. Also new were pre-cast beams, slabs and wall panels, in both high and mid-rise buildings.

Henderson: Pre-cast concrete; post-tensioned concrete; thin-shell concrete techniques; high-rise masonry bearing wall design and  high-strength steel framing.

Sadler: Where to start?  It was a remarkable era.  Here are some bullet points to demonstrate.
* All steel structure - Reduced weight enabling buildings to rise taller.
* Curtain Walls - Gaining broad exposure nationally from the Lever House by Gordon Bunshaft and the Seagram Building by architects Mies Van Der Rohe and Philip Johnson, curtain walls draped over steel structure have transformed large building design
* Colored and reflective glass have provided an ever increasing palette for architects.
* Insulated/Reflective Glass - Providing improved energy performance and interior comfort. Also helping allow, in combination with improved HVAC, the construction of more efficient large commercial buildings in the hotter, inland areas of San Diego.
* Improvements in light gauge and heavy steel structural materials
* GFRC, Glass Fiber Reinforced Concrete, which is low volume and very light, was first introduced in the late seventies, (B of A Building). Low weight means lower structural costs and easier erection.
* Pre-cast concrete forming and other manufacturing method improvement have helped provide lower cost structures.
* Mechanical Systems were improved significantly during this period lowering costs and making many larger building feasible which would not have been before
* More energy efficient Electrical lighting

Q:  OK, you’ve been modest and discussed other architect’s work, now focus on three major projects of the 50s, 60s & 70s that you wish to be remembered for and will stand the test of time?

Homer Delawie: The James R. Mills Building on 13th & Imperial (Trolley Tower) that was. designed with partners Mike Wilkes and Andrew Rodrigues. It has won several awards including a National Urban Land Institute Design Award  It’s the transportation hub of the local transit/trolley system. It has become a visually exciting landmark. Coronado Public Library. We saved the original 1906 Spreckels Library by surrounding it with a new facility oriented around two interior gardens; Plaza de Balboa, with which we created an eastern terminus to the historic Prado area in Balboa Park. It’s a gathering place for pedestrians and visitors - the 80-foot fountain is the focal point. What I love best is seeing kids splashing around in the pool! That’s what we intended to happen there!  Remember me for that plaza.
Allen: San Diego Stadium.  It won a national AIA award.  And, it is still a beautiful and functional stadium today.  I also must add to the list the Cashman Stadium and Convention Center project in Las Vegas and I consider one of the significant highlights of my career to be able to work with Qualcomm founder Irwin Jacobs, when he was with Linkabit. “I’ve never had a such a dynamic client as Jacobs.  I’m still proud of the Linkabit project—now at 3033 Science Park Drive in north city.

Sadler: The firm, originally founded in 1957 as Tucker Sadler Bennett, designed in its early years a number of post and beam small commercial projects and residences, including the Degroot Residence, Larsen Residence, Sadler Residence, and Peterson Residence. These homes initiated a trend in contemporary residential.
            The Downtown skyline has been defined by some of the firm’s most prominent high-rise structures which include the First National Bank (now the Union Bank Building), Security Pacific Bank and Bank of America.

Mosher:  The West and East Wings of the San Diego Museum of Art.  This was the first building to be built in the Prado area of Balboa Park after WWII.  It broke the pattern for recreating the Spanish Renaissance architecture originally chosen for the park’s exhibitions of 1915-16. The design evolved as a result of seeking a vocabulary that would complement the centerpiece: Templeton Johnson’s San Diego Fine Arts Gallery.  Subsequent acceptance by both the public and critics has justified the choice of architectural expression and has added greatly to the museum’s ability to exhibit major art in an appropriate environment.  Also, The Aztec Center, the student union building at San Diego State University and the NBC Tower (2nd & Broadway).  Originally, the central Federal Bldg., it was the first major structure to be built in the south of Broadway redevelopment area.  The high rise sets a standard for style and quality design, although it met an extremely low budget.

Deems: UCSD Humanities Library, Revelle College is the first project in San Diego to use pre-cast, post tensioned concrete beam and shells forming a clear span sky lighted atrium. It remains a graceful architectural centerpiece for the First College. This building became the center for the Revelle College student-gathering place and was the central library for the campus until the William Pereira designed central library building in the 80s.
            Torrey Pines High School/Del MarThis school set a standard for the planning and design of Sr. High Schools in San Diego County. It was designed as a secure "enclosed campus" during times of unrest but did not appear to be a "prison". It also pioneered the concept of open study spaces in circulation areas immediately adjacent to classrooms, as well as outdoor study areas. The new concept of a centralized Media Center was introduced with this design. This project won several awards as well as being built under the then current State cost standards.  San Diego Federal Tower/6th and 'B' Street.  The first downtown high rise office structure which was designed with extensive setbacks from its street property lines thereby creating a public gathering place (Plaza) for retail and entertainment activities. It also pioneered the concept of curb lane access to the subterranean parking structure thus overcoming the inefficient ancient (Alonzo) Horton Block dimensions and separating the vehicles from pedestrians. Furthermore, the exterior cladding was the first to use lightweight cemesto panels with epoxy- applied exposed aggregate in lieu of concrete therein significantly reducing the amount of structural framing steel required.

Part Two/Issues Today (2002)

Q: Your thoughts on the new downtown ball park?
Sadler: From an urban design perspective, the ballpark is a generator of significant development opportunities for the East Village. Such a highly used and visible landmark will intensify the activities in the area, and draw in commercial, residential retail and other uses into the area. Coupled with the Convention Center Expansion, future developments on adjacent Port properties, the New Downtown Library and other planned developments, the ballpark will provide a center for this "district" of the city.

Allen:  You know, I have no problem with the design of the new ballpark.  I like it. I think it will be good for the City.  I just wish we could have been a trendsetter and designed something new and dramatic.  Here we followed the current architectural fashion that major league baseball has embraced and that is creating new ballparks that look like older ones.  When it comes to adventurous stadium design, I find what is being built in Asia and Europe very exciting.  In America, we seen stuck in the past--retro designs of stadiums past.

J. Henderson: Very important if surrounding redevelopment is accomplished at the same time or very soon thereafter.
Deems: There are several aspects regarding the proposed new San Diego Ballpark, other than the financing strategies and taxpayer issues, that deserve concern. These are:

Location--I believe there are serious questions about locating a major traffic/parking generator into an already busy and often congested urban area rather than at the edge of the downtown core . While the expanded Convention Center is intended to draw large convention/trade shows with minimum traffic demand, the increase in consumer shows and other 'community events' will create significant demand, especially during the summer months and in conflict with the ballpark season. This will become a very difficult matter to mitigate and could have a negative effect on the visual impact of the park. 

Planning --The latest, historically nostalgic criteria for creating an "intimate" ball park environment…seems to succeed as related to public spaces, retail (cash) generators, sight lines, etc.. The urban design setting, while unique and may create new opportunities, has resulted in a very crowded siting. This project needs far more open space around than it is getting.

Architecture-Once again it seems as if San Diego has missed the boat when it comes to permitting/expecting a world renown architect (out of towner) to express his design philosophy and hopefully create world class architecture for us. The faux "Mediterranean" style that has been imposed on this project (and on San Diego generally) evades the truth that San Diego is a desert environment.  The selected design architect on that project has a national reputation of successful, elegant projects.  But do they specifically respond to this condition? This may be the result of the architectural golden rule--He who has the gold rules.

QSpeaking of controversy, do you like the new downtown library design?
Allen: I find Rob Wellington Quigley’s proposed design first rate.  In fact, he should have had much more work by now, especially capturing some of the projects at our top universities that went to out of town firms.

Delawie: The last “dome” design I saw by Rob Quigley appeared to be interesting and reminiscent of the dome of the California Tower. It appeared to be a contemporary design picking up on SD history. It should be built in an inner city location. And, I like the 12th & K proposed location.

Mosher:  San Diego’s need is for a strong branch-library system that would include an appropriate downtown branch and a distribution center, not a Main Library, the only purpose of which, is symbolic.

J. Henderson: Very important for civic pride and credulity.

Deems: Interesting spatial concept. I have not had the opportunity to review the planning of the project as a functional library, so cannot comment as to its qualities of function, which will, in the end, determine its excellence. Rob Quigley has matured in many of his conceptual offerings and, hopefully, this project (if it ever gets built!) will see his design skills maintain an order of simplicity, which will serve San Diego well.

Sadler: Here’s our view, but note Rob Quigley is our joint-venture partner for the New Library.  Rob, as the design architect, in close collaboration with our group, has been changing the design to accommodate different site options and changes in the user’s needs.  This collaborative process has enhanced the current design, making it more powerful and highly functional. 
As the program requirements for the library are complex, it has been quite an effort to make all the areas fit in the right places, and be arranged so that unforeseen future needs and uses will not be limited.  While the current design is well laid out, it is still evolving and will take some more work to perfect.
The form and general aesthetic of the building is a very bold, with a number of innovative shapes.  There likely will be very creative uses of materials inside and out. The form addresses a number of key urban design issues, including view corridors, grand public spaces and promenades.  The building will be a landmark on San Diego’s skyline, a tremendous presence in the East Village, and a great asset to the community.

QComment on Little Italy and Cortez Hill residential boom?
Mosher:  At first glance, on the positive side, it is evident that current development is bringing life and new business into an area that was much in need of redevelopment.  However…this brings to mind, future evaluation may show that it was a mistake not

Allen: I like what I see in much of the new downtown residential work done by younger architects working in condos, lofts and townhouses.  “I think Jonathan Segal is doing fine work, for example, in Little Italy.

Delawie: Little Italy is now well established. The idea of creating higher density and new inner city neighborhoods is good ... El Cortez hill is in the right direction - but may be TOO dense. Even so, that’s fine, if some open, public areas, transit connections are included.

J. Henderson:  OK -- it all helps create a vital, livable community.

Sadler: It is great to see the revival of these areas.  Downtown has so much for people to see and experience.  Why have to drive in from elsewhere to enjoy it?  The residential development is spawning extraordinary retail activity, and I think the architecture is varied, and generally interesting.  It is, however, important that these areas keep their human scale and public use.  It would be nice if Little Italy and Cortez Hill could be places where families with children might want to be.  Great cities usually have families living in their midst.  Why not San Diego?

Deems: It is wonderful to see the revitalization of residential development to the edges of downtown. While not having studied the planning and design of all projects, some concern arises as to the amount of density in relationship to the amount of open space that is essential for creating responsible living environments. This includes setbacks, mini parks and FAR to heights ratios. The retail components are essential and offer both entertainment and economic viability to the area.

Q: This roundtable is fortunate to have designers (Deems and Sadler) who worked on both phases of the San Diego Convention Center.  Gentlemen, your thoughts on the recently completed addition?

Sadler: The recently completed San Diego Convention Center Expansion, which Tucker Sadler Noble Castro Architects designed in collaboration with Los Angeles-bases HNTB Architects, will become a distinguished work of architecture for the firm.
            This expansion will further establish the San Diego Convention Center as one of the premier exhibit and meeting venues in the world, as well as help solidify our great city as the ultimate tourist destination. This expansion has made the convention center a truly remarkable facility on many levels. It’s sure to become an icon for the region.

Deems:  I offer this with an admitted, but earned, bias. The original design and plan of the San Diego Convention Center is exceptional in its light and airy feeling, both inside and out. The argument about building on the waterfront is now moot and every effort was made to allow easy access to the waters edge without compromising the essential functions of the facility. The new addition does not succeed in this requirement nor does it meld easily with the existing facility. It appears as a bulky, cumbersome extension and lacks the graceful lines of the exposed structure. Hopefully it will function, as it must. I regret that, as for as I know, neither the design team or the Port District saw fit to involve the designers of the first phase, which included Arthur Erickson, George Loschky, or Ward Deems in offering a critique of the project during its early stages of design.

Delawie:  Regarding phase two of the convention center more space and see-through area should have been provided for the public. As it is and as we feared, the bay has been walled off from downtown.

Q:  What is the architectural period of today what are your thoughts?
Consensus: Post modernism--for better or worse today.
Henderson: As for where we are today, I don't have any idea -- time will tell and the architectural historians will sort it all out.
Mosher: As I said earlier, the 50s, 50s, 70s produced a fine body of work. Post Modernism” had not yet thrown its ugly shadow over either the architectural schools or the practicing architects

QName a young architect or firm or project you admire.
Mosher: Torrey Pines Science Park’s Neurosciences Institute designed by Tod Williams and Billie Tsien. 

J. Henderson: Carrier Johnson & Austin Veum Robbins Pershalle

Allen:  Downtown condos by Jonathan Segal and the Central Library by Rob Wellington Quigley et al (when built).

Sadler:  Quigley

Deems: Mark Steele and Ron Ronchetti

Delawie: Andrew Rodrigues AIA (the Qualcomm Center); Batter Kay’s residential work on the beach; Studio E, with their excellent low-income housing design; Matt Wells - this may be pretty self-serving, but he does the kind of work I did 25 years ago!

Q: Overrated architects?
Consensus:  The panel split voting Rob Wellington Quigley as “most admired” young architect and “most overrated.”

Deems: Architects I do not admire are those whose approach to design and architecture have the heavy-hand of "look at me" and seem driven by ego need rather than simple solutions and elegant architecture. While I believe that the avant garde approach to art and architecture can and does produce ideas and approaches of lasting value, many of those who follow the chic and trendy styles of the moment lose sight of the opportunities (and responsibilities!) inherent in offering architecture of lasting meaning and importance.

Part Three/Looking Ahead

Q:  What will San Diego citizens need to do to encourage quality architecture in the future.
Sadler: Just that -- encourage quality architecture.  In other words, encourage invention and new ideas.  Encourage support for architectural creativity.  Architects are (generally) well-trained professionals who investigate the key issues of any project and generally, provide carefully developed designs.  Many a good design has been watered down and/or butchered due to lack of respect for the architect’s vision.  Perhaps design competitions with design professional juries would help generate new and interesting architecture.  It is important that San Diegans realize that most great cities in this country, and the world, are recognizing the value of allowing the creativity of architects to be expressed in their own back yards.

Deems: I am not certain that citizens can significantly affect the creation of quality architecture. The source of motivation are developers who recognize the long-term economic benefits of design excellence and who hire architects who have the talent to produce it, and the financing community who have the desire to demand it are probably fundamental. Hopefully educated citizens who take an active interest and offer constructive input regarding the benefits of quality architecture to those who are involved can be very useful. Design strikes won't do it!

Mosher:  It is the responsibility of all of us.  The architects the educators, and the local press, need to make a greater effort to bring to the public’s attention the very best architectural work in the community, as well as that throughout the country, and they need to explain the reasons why the work is good and why it has value to the community.  We are all in this together and each of us needs to accept our contingent responsibilities.

Delawie: Citizens should encourage government to provide adequate funds - don’t always demand the bottom dollar, or cut to the bone on costs. We should be using local architects; we don’t need to bring in the supposed “big” names. We have the talent here for both public and private buildings, provided we have the public and government support for good design.
In the future I’d like to see a new airport. and a series of high density housing around transit nodes to alleviate parking in urban areas.

Q:  Who wants the last word?
Sadler:  San Diego is a very exciting place to be now.  I have never seen a more dynamic building boom.  Developers, architects and government agencies are working on extraordinary projects that will have a great impact on our lives for a long time to come.  If we are adventurous, yet careful, we will make San Diego even greater.

Mosher:  Today, architects are rediscovering architectural heroes of the recent past, such as Alvar Aalto, Louis Kahn and Frank Lloyd Wright.  A significant amount of great work is being produced, both here in the USA and in Europe and Asia.

Deems:  In visiting the new downtown of San Diego, particularly south of Broadway, it is easy to see the renewed vitalization which has emerged over the last two decades and about which the community can be proud.  Also, I have a few general concerns: (a) The lack of natural light and air penetrations into certain sections resulting from large projects on small sites. Development standards issuing from the Centre City Development Corporation regarding this factor need to be implemented or enforced. (b) The Gaslamp Quarter has turned out to be splendid but does need more to easing of vehicular traffic and emphasizing ease of pedestrian movement. (c) The design quality (lack thereof) of suburban housing tracts is another issue and deserves a separate look.

 Delawie: All in all, the city had to provide for the massive influx of people that came to San Diego in those years. It was a period of great population explosion, and new communities and development came fast; it had to. It brought about the desire for downtown and the creation of center city redevelopment, and created markets for new commercial structures and residential projects there.  This growth also demanded additional educational facilities; the kids of the baby boomers from WW II had to go somewhere - and then, how to get ‘em there? The new freeways and ultimately the trolley system have been very successful.


The writer wishes to thank the following persons. Organizations and sources for valuable assistance in the research, development and writing of this roundtable: AIA San Diego, Dawn Quisenberry, Communications and Programs Director; San Diego Public Library staff in the California Room, main library; John Durant Photography; San Diego Historical Society, photographic archives and San Diego Magazine archives 1948 to present.

EXTRA Questions:
Q:  Name most underrated architects of the latter half of the 20th century?
Consensus: Lloyd Ruocco (commercial) and Leonard Veitzer (residential).

Delawie: I was in partnership with Lloyd Ruocco in the 50s, and realized that we were competing internally for the same projects. I wanted to do my own thing - and to take full design responsibility for my work. I learned so much from him and we remained good friends and colleagues. Later I sponsored his receiving his fellowship from the American Institute of Architects.

Q:  Many of you have your names on the letterhead after you’ve retired.  What are your thoughts on being retired and what new projects by your new firms do you like?

Mosher: Cathedral High School, the new Catholic Diosese school east of Del Mar is important.  In keeping with the theme of Northern Italian villages, basic materials will be stone, brick, textured concrete masonry, cement plaster and clay roof tiles; Jenny Craig Athletic Pavilion is a faithful design in keeping with the University of San Diego’s Spanish Renaissance architectural style.  Current work at Point Loma Nazarene University, includes the master planning, design and implementation of more than a dozen building projects for the 87 acre campus, including the Ryan Library, Cooper Music Center and Nicholson Student Commons.

Sadler: I’m happy that the recently completed Paul Harter Veterinary Medical Center at the Wild Animal Park will become one of the premier animal care and research facilities in the world.

Deems: I left Deems Lewis McKinley in 1986 just prior to the completion of the initial phase of the San Diego Convention Center and engaged in development consulting for various convention center projects across the country. In 1992, having been associated with the Salk Institute since 1976, I was asked the Institute to serve as Salk's Consulting Architect to assist in the programming, planning and design of various projects including laboratories, a president's residence, and establish standards for campus interior design and graphic signage. I am currently overseeing the preparation of an update of the Campus Master Plan (the first since Louis Kahn's plan in the early 60s)..  Deems Lewis McKinley remains in practice in the San Francisco area under the leadership of our previous associate, Wallace Gordon, AIA. They specialize in primary and secondary school architecture.

SDM: Is it possible to build a terrorist proof high rise?
Consensus:  No.

SDM: Should the World Trade Center buildings withstood the onslaught of September 11, 2001?

Consensus:  In hindsight anything is possible. Having the buildings stand for almost 100 minutes after being attacked is a testament to their excellent design and construction.

SDMWhy the dearth of prominent women architects working during that era?
Consensus:  Your question is misleading.  There were women working in architecture then.  Are you asking why weren’t there more women’s names at the top on signage and letterheads?  If so, the answer is simply architectural schools were not developing as many professional women architects then as there are today.  Very simply, a generation or so ago the opportunities for women to pursue professional careers were not as plentiful.  As a result, they did not have the seniority then.  Fortunately, things have changed.

Stepner: There are many more women practicing today and in the architectural schools more than one-third of the students happen to be women.

Henderson: Few women then, many more now (Architects/Contractors).

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