Contract Magazine - January/February 2018 - 97
By Jackie Bryant
Ryan Gobuty / Gensler
Featuring planar Corten
walls to provide directional
guidance and a nod to the
building's reddish exterior,
the new lobby unifies
disconnected spaces with
a holistic design.
Reconsidering the architectural interiors
created by a legend is a heady task, particularly
if it was less than 30 years since the initial
construction. Aventine, designed by Michael Graves
and completed in 1989, is a reddish-hued 11-story
office building in San Diego with postmodern
common spaces that had become dated,
disconnected, dark, and lacking in amenities
popular in offices today.
Aventine is part of a mixed-use complex
designed by Graves that includes the Hyatt
Regency La Jolla at Aventine as well as stores
and restaurants. The office tower had some
elements that aged faster than others, which was
problematic within an otherwise hot real estate
market. Rockpoint Group purchased the building
in 2015 and hired Gensler for a lobby repositioning
to make the entry sequence more functional
for tenants and more attractive to the commercial
real estate market.
"When we first approached the project, there
was this question of what do we do with a classic
piece of architecture, recognizing who the original
designer was," says Darrel Fullbright, principal
at Gensler's San Diego office. "But we quickly came
to realize that the function was paramount to us
delivering a new vision, and that the main rotunda
was directly in the way of achieving this."
Fullbright's team fused the disjointed
components-which included two front doors, three
elevator lobbies, and a rotunda-by removing the
walls separating them to create one large,
open space. Gensler retained the spirit of Aventine
by incorporating high-quality materials and details,
but with contemporary twists with marble, wood,
and planar Corten walls. A cafe was added with
black Vibia pendant lights over a counter of nublado
light marble with a contrasting quartz countertop.
A large communal table, made of flat-cut walnut
veneer and oil-rubbed bronze, occupies the center.
Gensler custom designed the cafe tables, which
were constructed by Southwest Millworks. Outdoor
tables and chairs were incorporated to take
advantage of the mild San Diego climate.
Since the repositioning, Tony Russell, a broker
for JLL, which is one of Aventine's tenants and its
leasing manager, says the lobby has come alive with
activity, something that had been missing previously.
"I see many tenants having small meetings in the
different common seating areas. Tenants also spend
lots of time taking small breaks from work, going
to the cafe for a coffee, or to play Cornhole or Jenga
on the outside patio. Before the renovation, it was not
a place people would spend time," Russell says.
Michelle Tello, a project designer for Gensler,
echoes that, adding, "the overall feedback has been
positive. The amenities and cafe are constantly
being used and attracting new tenants." And those
tenants, she notes, are even reducing their internal
lounges, maximizing their own square footage
by utilizing the main lobby and cafe instead.
The increase in usage required the building
owner to enhance the cafe since the repositioning
opened. "Additional food and beverage equipment
was added to accommodate the cafe operator's
needs," Tello says.
Besides fine-tuning functionality, the
Gensler team learned other lessons from Aventine's
repositioning, particularly about involving the
client and working around a sensitive history
and reputation. "It is important to collaborate with
your client and make them an integral design
partner, especially when proposing a unique design
for which the results are not completely known,"
Fullbright says. "It is also important that we,
as designers, are strong advocates for design
ideas that will help achieve the client's ultimate
goals and objectives." c