Architecture awards honor converted grocery store, mixed-use buildings


The conversion of a nearly 40-year-old grocery store into a luxury gym received top honors at this year’s San Diego architecture awards.

Equinox La Costa in Carlsbad received the honor Thursday night for the $4.4 million conversion of a 31,000-square-foot abandoned former Vons. The distinction was for the annual Design Awards from the San Diego chapter of the American Institute of Architects.

Architect Retail Design Collaborative, of Long Beach, said it took about two years to complete the Equinox project, which included a lounge, juice bar, yoga area, steam room and management offices. Materials included porcelain tiles, cedar, flamed marble and recycled materials.

The jury said it admired the transformation as an example of sustainability, as well as the use of natural light in the core of the building. Skylights amplify daylight that spreads rays throughout the building, including locker rooms.

“The material palette is simple, and elegant and used with restraint to effectively define programmatic activities,” said comments from the five-member selection panel.

Equinox is a luxury fitness company that started in New York City. Retail Design Collaborative design director Jonathan Lopez said the challenge was to create something that was true to its urban roots but also connected to the vibe of Southern California.

“It’s amazing to see how the reimagination of something unused can truly transform a neighborhood,” he said. “So, we’ve been excited about the success of the project.”

Begun in 1960, the Design Awards program on Thursday also recognized three other projects with honors. Other projects received merits and citations, and there were a few individual categories decided on by the architecture institute’s board. There were 88 submissions this year.

Honor for architecture: UCLA Saxon Suites by Studio E Architects

San Diego-based Studio E Architects was honored for its construction of a two-story common building at UCLA that includes study lounges, offices and gathering spaces. The 7,240-square-foot building cost $3.9 million to construct and stands out because parts of the steel building look like it is hovering above common areas. Judges said the overhang solved technical problems, enhanced the project and served as a dynamic, engaging shading device.

Honor for architecture: IDEA1 by The Miller Hull Partnership

The $60 million project in East Village has many different attributes, from retail to creative housing, and is one of downtown’s most diverse mixed-use developments. Judges said the pedestrian and human scale of the street facades and the courtyard weave the building together. “The building is not an object; it fits well in the community and the subtle facades are timeless,” they said.

Honor for urban design: Quartyard by Rad Lab Designs

The US Green Building Council-San Diego held a panel forum on the state of sustainable housing at Quartyard Park at Park Blvd. and Market Street
(Peggy Peattie / San Diego Union-Tribune)

Quartyard is a temporary “pop-up” style development that uses recycled and retrofitted shipping containers. Businesses serve craft beer, coffee, hamburgers and there is space for concerts and events. The jury said the project should be a prototype for future vacant urban lots. “This is a great community revitalization project created from a simple kit of parts,” the said.

Metro Tijuana award: Casa Coubes by Generica Arquitectura + Diseño Urbano

This three-patio house on a hillside uses its unique shape to get as much natural light as possible into the home. The architecture board said the simple, clean material palette allows the residents to focus on the tranquil spaces or engaging views. It said it was impressed by the the horizontal and vertical layering of interior and exterior spaces.

Accessory dwelling unit award: The Enclave by Crossman Architecture

Plans for this Coronado accessory dwelling unit, sometimes called a granny unit, are probably nicer than most people’s houses. The unit is built above an existing 1950s home and uses load carrying elements to cut down on the carbon footprint. The architecture board created the new category this year with the intention of encouraging more innovative designs for granny units and recognize a growing part of housing market.

Other winners


Merit Award – domusstudio/2800 Third Avenue. Firm: domusstudio architecture

Merit Award – Del Mar Civic Center and Town Hall. Firm: The Miller Hull Partnership

Merit Award – La Jolla Guest House. Firm: Gluckman Tang Architects

Merit Award – Spectrum IV. Firm: LPA

Citation Award – Makers Quarter Block D. Firm: BNIM

Citation Award – PLNU Science Center (Sator Hall + Latter Hall). Firm: Carrier Johnson + CULTURE

Interior architecture:

Merit Award – Virginia Way. Firm: DuCharme Architecture

Merit Award – The Honor Foundation. Firm: Gensler


Honor Award – 705 Sixth Avenue. Firm: Rios Clementi Hale Studios

Merit Award – Front Street Tower. Firm: Rios Clementi Hale Studios

Divine detail award:

Citation Award: Super Court of California – San Diego. Firm: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill

Young architect of the year award:

Philip Auchettl, AIA, CEO/Co-Founder of RAD LAB

Jared Basler, AIA, Owner of Basis Studio

Student design award:

Ivan Hu, Romberg Resurgence; NewSchool of Architecture & Design

Mackenzie Sims, Learning Environments for Creativity; NewSchool of Architecture & Design

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