A Few Words About Large Projects – November, 2014


SOM Architects – La Jolla Commons, Tower Two, San Diego California

Skidmore Owings & Merrill Architects: La Jolla Commons Campus – San Diego, California

It can take a crack architectural team six months to design a fourteen story glass-skinned tower. And it will take an experienced contractor eighteen months to build the shell. In another six months the interiors and tenant improvements will be complete – so think of it as a three or four year process from start to finish. Within that time-frame a multitude of component parts will be purchased, stored, installed and adjusted. Consider: grading, electrical, plumbers service, heating and ventilation for a 421,000 square foot structure. Before ground is broken there will be soil and site evaluations and surveying. If you’re the general contractor you’ll oversee temporary power, aggregate piers, structural steel, building equipment and sub-contractors. There are a lot of moving parts. A lot.

After the landscape goes in, after the furniture installation and ribbon-cutting, after the punch-list and after hundreds of items have been repaired, replaced and repainted, I come in. I make photographs at the very end of the process, after the corporate logos have been hung on the parapets. After the windows have been cleaned.

Skidmore Owings & Merrill designed the La Jolla Commons Tower Two in the clean, clear language of International Style. The rhythmic fenestration and open first floor atrium give the building a lightness on its feet that bely the intrinsic weight of an office building. Architect of record Paul Dana referred to this quality as bringing the building to the ground lightly.

The firm of Skidmore Owings & Merrill is one of the iconic American design firms, formed in Chicago in 1936. SOM is responsible for some of the tallest buildings on earth as well as some of the most distinctive North American architectural designs: Lever House in Montreal, Telus Tower Manhattan and One Chase Manhattan Plaza all bear a striking resemblance to the La Jolla Commons project.

John Durant – November 2014