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A Collaborative of San Diego Design Leaders Reinvigorates the Design Center, Introduces Futuro Space

2/13/24

At the renowned San Diego Design Center, a classic 15.3k sf mid-century modern multi-building office campus located at 3605 Fifth Ave in San Diego’s Hillcrest neighborhood, local design leaders are joining forces to reinvigorate the iconic property. Sean Slater and Frank Wolden of architecture, planning and interiors firm RDC, David McCullough of landscape architecture and urban design firm McCullough Landscape Architecture, and the property’s owner Graham Hollis of Blue Sapphire Holdings are collaborating to bring back the original intent of the space as a creative hub for the San Diego arts and design community.

Photo: Rick Burritt
Photo: Rick Burritt
Together, they are launching a set of community gathering spaces dubbed Futuro Space after the iconic UFO-like Futuro House that inhabited the Design Center parking lot in the 1970s. These leaders and their firms are working together to offer and manage Futuro Space as a hub for community meetings, creative collaboration, and other design-focused gatherings.

“The San Diego Design Center is not just a building, but a place where history and creativity meet,” said Sean Slater, AIA, Senior Principal at RDC. “Together with Blue Sapphire Holdings and McCullough, RDC is working to make this special place a community hub for creative discourse.”

Futuro Space is a collection of gathering spaces intended to reinvigorate the spirit of the original intent of the Design Center, opening a collective of community collaboration rooms and event spaces for the community of San Diego and the surrounding area. It is comprised of large and small meeting rooms, patio event space and individual workstations, with plans to add more community resources and engagement tools as time goes on. It opened in late 2023 and has already become the place for dialogue on issues of design and the built environment, both formally and informally. Groups Futuro has hosted include the Urban Land Institute (ULI San Diego-Tijuana), the American Institute of Architects (AIA San Diego), the San Diego Architectural Foundation, and Citizens Coordinate for Century 3 (C-3).

The Design Center complex, located at 3605 Fifth Ave, was designed by prominent San Diego architect, Lloyd Ruocco, FAIA. Upon completion of construction in 1949, Ruocco moved his architecture studio to the Design Center, along with the studio and showrooms of his wife, interior designer, and professor Ilse Hamann Ruocco. Focusing on the creative community, the couple transformed the space into an incubator for artists, designers, photographers, and architects who were invited by Ruocco to help shape the city’s arts community.

Constructed of primarily redwood and glass, a style reminiscent of many of Ruocco’s early designs, its open floor plans and rectilinear structures are hallmarks of the California Modern style—a style he helped pioneer. The openness of design and extensive use of glass reflects Ruocco’s sensitivity for a built environment’s relationship with the outdoors that became a trademark of some of his most notable designs. Lloyd Ruocco is quoted as saying, “Good architecture should call for the minimum use of materials for the most interesting and functional enclosure of space.”

When Blue Sapphire Holdings LLC acquired the Design Center, Graham Hollis and his team restored its facade. The company used the lower level of the property while renting the other floors to design professionals. Hollis commented, “We had a vision to return this space to its original purpose, serving as a center where design and ideas flourish. We are pleased to be taking that idea to the next level with Futuro Space.”





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