Washington Street Apartments – a private sanctuary in the heart of the desert

Aerial View

Dusting off these sketches from a few years back and rolling up our sleeves on Washington Street Apartments!  Washington Street Apartments is a low-income senior housing community in La Quinta, California.  The project consists of both existing building renovation and new construction to create a sustainable community for seniors in the heart of the desert.

Commons View 2

The existing buildings’ modest, mid-century style will be preserved and enhanced with the addition of sustainable measures that include: natural cross-ventilation and day lighting through a system of thermal chimneys and strategically-placed window openings; photovoltaic systems; and a variety of simple shade-creating devices to provide shelter from the desert sun. The site has been re-imagined to reinforce social connections and chance meetings which are essential to healthy senior life.

Through Units View 2

Through Units View 1

Posted in adaptive reuse, Affordable Housing, Architecture, Community, Design, Senior Housing, Sustainable+Green | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Meet Marcela

Meet MarcelaMarcela Gracia, Age: 27, Hometown: Navojoa, Sonora, Mexico, B.Arch University of Arizona, M.Arch University of Virginia.

Why did you study Architecture?

My parents are true polymaths and I grew up surrounded by a little bit of everything, which made me be interested in (way too) many subjects. Architecture ended up being the only profession where I could develop and investigate most of my interests directly and indirectly. 

My architect hero?

I’ve never been one to pick favorites but there’s a few people that I’ve admired along the years; on the practical side, Louis Kahn, Mansilla+Tuñon, Tatiana Bilbao, Alvaro Siza, Lina Bo Bardi. I’m also very interested in theoretical issues, so I would add John Hejduk, Colin Rowe.

Architect Inspiration-01Photos courtesty of: Paper Houses for Tatiana Bibao; Exyrex for Louis Kahn; Architravel for Mansilla+Tuñon; Dezeen for Alvaro Siza; Revista Plot for Lina Bo Bardi; Wikipedia for John Hedjuk; Valerie Bennett for Colin Rowe.

My two favorite buildings?

No favorites, but I would say the Luis Barragan House, and the Duomo  di Milano. And I really want to visit the Ningbo History Museum by Amateur Architecture Studio and see if it looks as monumental in person as it does in pictures, so it is a hypothetical favorite…

Luis Barragan House-02Photos courtesy of Ouno Design, Revit City, and Design Museum

Favorite food:

Avocado. For breakfast, lunch and dinner. If I had to pick a dish, it would be anything with shrimp.


avocado collage-03Photos courtesy of Gluten Free Gigi, Gardening Know How, and Fair Child Garden.

Top songs on my mp3 player? 

Etude. In C minor op.10 no.12 by Chopin and anything by Melody Gardot, Billie Holiday and Madelaine Peyroux.

ChopinImage courtesy of Fanart.

If I could live inside a work of art, I would choose…

One of Degas’ ballet rooms, or peeking into one of Caravaggio’s gloomy scenes.

Edgar_Germain_Hilaire_Degas_004Photos courtesy of Wikipedia

Secret ambition?

I’d love to teach 1st year architecture studios, or architecture drawing/illustration.

Favorite San Diego experience?

Sunset at the Salk Institute.

What’s next?

Getting my architecture license! 


MapImage courtesy of Google Maps. Map of Navojoa, Sonora, Mexico.
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7 Years in the Making – Bikeway Village Breaks Ground in Imperial Beach

Official Groundbreaking for Bikeway Village 

Dust off your multi-colored spandex and helmets.  7 years  in the making – construction for Bikeway Village is officially underway!  The project re-purposes two non-descript warehouses in Imperial Beach and provides 30,000 SF of alternative retail and public amenities focused on fitness and outdoor activities.

Bikeway Village is located in a central location on the Bayshore Bikeway

Adjacent to the San Diego Bay and the Bayshore Bikeway, Bikeway Village increases the connectivity between the city and the bay, improves public access to the coastline, and provides an informal gateway to Imperial Beach.

IMG_1246John Sheehan gives remarks at the official groundbreaking

John Sheehan represented Studio E Architects at the groundbreaking on January 25 and spoke to the community about this exciting new public feature.  Bikeway Village amenities include a spacious outdoor plaza overlooking the shore and bay, restored native wetland planting designed by LANDlab, bike stands, public restrooms, and a water bottle refill station. The project received an award in 2013 from Move San Diego, an organization which promotes walkable and bikeable neighborhoods and land uses that generate sustainable growth.


The public amenities and retail space at Bikeway Village will serve bicyclists, strollers, runners, birdwatchers, beach-goers, and retail patrons.  The project being built by TSA Contracting is scheduled to open in September this year – we hope to see you (and your bike) and the ribbon cutting!

11-0225 Model_2W


11-0225 Model_1W


Posted in Architecture, Community, Design, Mixed-Use, Sustainable+Green | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Helen Woodward Animal Center Moves into Fundraising Mode


View of the main entry of the adoptions center from the parking lot

Well, it’s official: Studio E Architects has gone to the dogs. To the cats too for that matter but in the best way possible. We were hired (in partnership with Augustine Design Group) to design the new Adoptions Center for the much acclaimed Helen Woodward Animal Center in Rancho Santa Fe. The new center includes kennels, administrative areas, feline viewing areas and state of the art medical facilities. With the design complete, Helen Woodward commences their fundraising efforts.


Lobby of the adoptions center

The facility is a series of interconnected structures that are open barn-like and will use passive cooling techniques to offset energy use and increase thermal comfort. Large roll up doors connect to courtyards and outdoor spaces.

Here’s hoping that someday soon all you reading will get introduced to your future family member here. Please check out http://www.animalcenter.org/adoptions/ to see the latest pets available for adoption. WARNING: you will be bookmarking this page and making plans to visit the center soon.


Light-filled, high-ceiling dog kennels


Dog kennels open up via glass garage doors to a courtyard


State of the art medical center

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Parking Garage at UCSD nearing completion


The fins are going up on the perimeter of the UCSD Medical Center Parking Garage

The fins are up on the perimeter of the UCSD Medical Center Parking Garage

There’s a lot of construction happening on UCSD’s Medical Center campus, east of the 5 freeway in La Jolla! Right in the heart of it is this Studio E Architect’s designed parking structure, which is nearing completion. As part of the McCarthy led design-build team, we won the project back in 2014, along with IPD as the parking architect. You can read more about the win and see the renderings at this previous blog post.

The 7-story garage features perforated aluminum fins around the perimeter designed to shield the cars and lights within, activate the facade and break up the mass and simple form of the garage structure. The approach is akin to putting on some sparkly eye-catching jewelry!

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Workers delicately align the fins to the embed channels cast into the concrete structure

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Looking out of the garage through the fins with varying degrees of perforation and angle

Buried in the heart of the garage are two 80 feet tall thermal energy storage (TES) tanks. This design move not only screens the tanks from view but it cracks open the large floor plate of the garage, allowing light to penetrate into what would otherwise be the darkest spots in the garage.

Daylight at atrium

Daylight illuminates the atrium and the textured rear wall of the garage

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The garage splits around the TES tanks allowing light to enter deep in the floor plate

Still in progress is the monumental stair at the southwest corner which connects the level 3 south walkway to the pedestrian thoroughfare of Health Sciences Walk. Also located at this junction is the glass elevator shaft. This was designed as a visual terminus to Health Sciences Walk and its vertical nature was accentuated by pronounced, over-sized vertical mullions in a lighter metallic color and darker horizontal mullions which tend to recede into the background. We are excited to see this area starting to come together!


The glass elevator tower at the southwest corner

The views from the street really show the play of light and shadow and the varied nature of the west facade along Medical Center Drive. A big success was stepping down the height here to 5 stories and the insertion of light wells to split the 360 foot long building into three chunks. The two-story volume space at the southwest corner accentuates a small plaza at the foot of the monumental stair, complete with a coffee cart. Beyond this space to the north projects a one-story box housing the information office. All these design moves serve to create a people friendly place at this important corner, proving that this parking structure is not only about the cars, all 1,259 of them!

Street view

Street view from the southwest


Street view from the northwest

Posted in Architecture, Design, Educational, Parking Garages | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

They arrived on the back of a truck:  modular workforce housing arrives in Silicon Valley

Residents began moving into their units at Parkside Studios in Sunnyvale beginning in late July 2015. Nothing about the apartments would suggest to a visitor that they were built 120 miles away in Sacramento and then trucked to the site on the back of a semi. Units arrived fully finished – flooring installed, walls and ceilings painted, plumbing fixtures and appliances in place. All the services (water and sewer and electrical lines) were stubbed to the corridor side of the modules – so that once they were set in place it was “plug and play”. The process was not without its share of particular challenges…likely described in a future journal entry under the “Lessons” heading.


Parkside Studios  |  Vantage Point Photography


ParksideStudios0326webParkside Studios  |  Vantage Point Photography 

The units are arranged in a “L” configuration that wrap two sides of a generous second-level outdoor terrace. It is hoped that residents will embrace this outdoor space that overlooks an entry garden below and the large community sports park beyond. Small gathering areas are provided on each floor and a large community room with a kitchen is at garden level.

ParksideStudios0375webResidential Rooftop Terrace  |  Vantage Point Photography 

Despite their diminutive size – each unit boasts a private balcony largest enough for a small table and chair. The units were designed with an alcove to allow a resident to either create a dining area or a sleeping niche – as their preferences dictate. At the request of the developer – all units have a full size refrigerator and stove/oven meaning any resident keen to bake a pie or roast a turkey has nothing preventing them!

Modular Unit  |  Vantage Point Photography 

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These girls are on FIRE!

combo photo3

Maxine Ward and Lauren Pasion

Two of the Studio E team have celebrated big professional accomplishments recently and it is time to throw some props their way!

Congratulations to Lauren Pasion on becoming a licensed architect in the state of California. What does it take to get there? 5 years of school, 1 professional degree, 5,600 Intern Development Program hours, 7 national Architect Registration Exams and 1 State Board Supplemental Exam – that and a lot of hard work! We are proud to add another licensed architect to the team. Lauren will be flexing her new credentials on a couple of projects about to start construction – Cal Coast Academy and Townhomes at 30th & Broadway. Those contractors had better watch out!

8-year Studio E veteran Maxine Ward was honored by the local AIA chapter with their Young Architect of the Year award. This is given annually to a licensed architect in the early stages of their career who has made a significant contribution to the built environment of San Diego and to architecture through their body of work and their commitment to all aspects of the architectural profession.

At Studio E, Maxine’s varied body of work includes schools, mixed-use, multi-family and high-rise housing.  She has served as Project Architect on high-profile projects, including
multiple charter schools and sizable projects on university campuses. Most notable has been her work with High Tech High Learning, with whom she designed and built three charter schools at two campuses within six years.

As important as Maxine is to our continued success here at Studio E Architects, Maxine has played an equally important role in elevating the importance of design in San Diego. In her leadership role at the San Diego Architectural Foundation she has deeply engaged the profession and the public alike in a fruitful and compelling conversation about the best version of ourselves. She has promoted the importance of the profession and elevated the expectations of the community. For that all of us should be thankful.

Congratulations Maxine on this well-deserved recognition!

AIA on stage

Maxine on stage at AIA San Diego Design Awards, October 29, 2015

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Which is sleeker – the car or the building?

pic 4
Imagine our excitement to open up the February issue of Car and Driver magazine and see one of our buildings featured prominently in a national print advertisement for the new Infiniti QX50! It’s the Housing, Dining & Hospitality Administration Building at UCSD campus in La Jolla, completed in 2009. It’s one of our faves too, with its sleek undulating glass facade which limits solar heat gain to the offices within and looks pretty sexy while doing so! Here’s some additional photos from the archives, including detail shots of the stainless steel connectors that hold the tinted glass panels up.

Thanks Infiniti! What good taste you have!



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Perriann’s Pottery

Did you know that we have some awesome artists working here at Studio E? Come and support Studio E’s Perriann Hodges in her upcoming art show, RAW: San Diego Presents FUTURES, at the House of Blues. She will be presenting a selection of her architecturally inspired ceramics at the showcase along some of San Diego’s best artists in art, fashion, music, film, photography, and performance. The showcase is only one night and opens on Wednesday, January 20th at 6:00 pm.


Sculptural Teapot – It works too!

The Showcase: RAW:San Diego presents FUTURES

When: Wednesday, January 20th at 6:00 pm

Where: House of Blues | 1055 Fifth Avenue, San Diego

How: Tickets are $20 / person available here.

Torus Sculpture

Sculptural Donut


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Q&A with John in San Diego Home/ Garden Lifestyles


Principal John Sheehan was featured in the May 2015 issue of San Diego Home/Garden Lifestyles (pages 38-40). Find out his opinions on affordable housing, what drew him to San Diego in the late ’80s, and his views on “optimistic design”.

SDHG CoverJohn_3

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