The smell of the grass, the roar of the crowd, the crack of the bat—all are hallmarks of America's ostensibly favorite pastime. Many have enjoyed a heated baseball game from the bleachers, the stands, or even a skybox, but Carrier Johnson + Culture's new Diamond View Tower in San Diego gives fans the opportunity to enjoy the game from an unexpected venue—their desks. Located just past right field in the Antoine Predock– and HOK-designed ballpark for the San Diego Padres, Diamond View is a multitenant, 15-story office building. Both the ballpark and the office building are located in East Village, an area once known for nearly empty streets and an abundance of brick warehouses, and on the border of the Park at the Park—a public green space by day and part of the mixed-use ticketed experience during game time. Diamond View is part of the redevelopment that has brought new life to the area.
With a building this large and diverse, multiple design teams were involved in the project, including one for the exterior, one for the interior, and one for a gentlemen's spa on the ground floor. But across the board, the designers decided to incorporate the element of baseball. Sometimes obvious, sometimes nod-and-wink, the references to the sport in the tower's design give the building an element of levity.
The subtly baseball-influenced exterior design began with a photo collage documenting the sport, both historically and in the present day. The base of the building is a squat four stories of brick to dialogue with the surrounding warehouse buildings—incorporating the historic Candy Factory building on one corner of the site. From this rises the glass tower, clad in PPG glass and Alpolic aluminum composite panels. Frank Wolden, design principal and creative director at Carrier Johnson + Culture, notes that the arrangement of these panels on the face nearest the ballpark was informed by old scoreboards. Cantilevered balconies act as bleachers, allowing people to watch the game from the rooftop.
But these elements do not detract from the building's essential modernity. “The idea of how the building met the street started with the idea of modern brick boxes that tie it to the historical context of the East Village,” Wolden says. But he also notes the desire to “juxtapose that with something more ethereal or more temporal. The office building almost disappears into the sky. That was achieved because of our glazing choices.”
The materials vocabulary of the exterior, as well as the baseball theme, was carried into the building through the public spaces. Starting at the lobby, the interiors team used a glass-and-metal palette consistent with the façades, warming it up with wood and fabric as visitors reach the center of the building. The main lobby bisects the tower and looks toward the city on one side and out on the Park at the Park on the other. Solnhofen limestone floor tiles were laid to mimic the sidewalk and to recall the concrete used as part of the building structure, creating a public thoroughfare. Perforated metal panels are used as accents, but the main focal point is a backlit Panelite wall (orange daily and blue when the Padres are playing) that has the most obvious nod to the game, a graphic element by Brand I.D. Graphics that tells the history of baseball through photos, stats, and a timeline.
The materials take on a warmer tone in the center of the lobby, in part, says Edward Polk, senior associate at Carrier Johnson + Culture, to let people know they have reached the heart of the building. Horizontal teak panels at the guard desk are evocative of old-fashioned baseball dugouts, and the arrangement of those panels recalls the exterior paneling of the building.
If visitors take the elevator to the 15th floor, they reach the last grand public space, an entertainment venue for tenants that can be rented out on game days that Polk refers to as “the ultimate skybox.” A large, nearly double-height room spans the parkside portion of the floor, with a bar and lounge. The surface of the bar is the same limestone as the lobby flooring, creating a cross-floor dialogue, and the baseball theme is continued, with wood flooring that mimics wooden bats, leather-wrapped wall panels that recall an old worn-in glove—“you can even smell the leather,” says Polk—and a circular dropped ceiling with inset Plexineon strips that looks like an abstract baseball. But the focal point is an exterior space with lounge furniture, a fire pit, and a view of home plate that even a baseball hater can love.
But because Diamond View is a multi-tenant space, the Carrier Johnson + Culture team could take things only so far. They worked with tenants on signage and additions to the public space, and they worked with tenant Cox Communications early on to rework the exit corridors to better suit the television studio's needs. They did complete one other space, the Well-Heeled Gentlemen's Spa on the ground floor, giving a new twist to the typical feminine salon experience. With concrete floors and FAP Ceramiche silver tiles around the bar—yes, bar, and cigars are also rumored to be available on occasion—the space has a sleek look and touches such as Porsche-designed chairs that make the salon more masculine.
Another tenant space, IPG, also takes a minimalist modern take, using elements found elsewhere in the building while still creating its own identity. Designed by Howard Sneed Architecture and Design, a firm that specified the furniture for the 15th-floor entertainment venue, the stock trading office features large blank walls to showcase one of the founding partners' impressive art collection—he is also a member of the MoMA board. A graphic glass wall by Stuart White Design separates the trading floor from the lobby. “We wanted to create something very open so that you can see through the space, and we created long corridors to give the space an art gallery feel,” says Lily Argüelles, lead designer on the project.
A diverse project, yes, but Diamond View Tower manages to retain a sense of character that takes it beyond the typical core and shell project. “It appears by day as a contemporary office building,” says Wolden, “but then it has the ability to transform into part of the ballpark, as the roofs fill up and the terraces fill up, and the party room gets going.” The ultimate skybox indeed.