DBRDS share’s a win for AIA San Diego’s ‘Balboa Park 2015 Centennial Gateway’ Competition!

Last night AIA San Diego held an exhibit at the San Diego Museum of Art, Balboa Park to announce the winners of their ‘Balboa Park 2015 Centennial Gateway’ Competition & we were very pleasantly surprised to hear that the Jury had selected a three-way tie for first place and that our proposal was one of the winners! Our submittal team consisted of Pauly, Ivan & Craig from DBRDS + Architectural Photographer Darren Bradley.

The completely anonymous competition was judged by Landscape Architect Laura Burnett; Graphic Designer Simon Andrews; local Artist Matthieu Gregoire and Architects Rob Quigley (designer of the new Central Library), and David Rice, (Director of Architecture and Planning at the San Diego Zoo).

When we first heard about the competition we saw no other option than to join in the fun. As a huge proponent for public dialogue and design competition, we felt compelled not just to make an arbitrary submittal, but to really think about what Balboa Park means to us, to the surrounding communities and regionally within San Diego. Valuing connectivity and a future vision of less reliance on vehicular modes of transportation with more emphasis on pedestrian and bicycle movement, we felt it was more important to investigate a ‘gateway of connectivity’ for the much separated Eastern & Western communities which adjoining the park edges, and provide them with an ‘on foot’ experience into the heart of Balboa Park.

With an elevated pedestrian bridge from South Park (which could further extend deeper into the canyons), we propose to give San Diegan’s a new perspective on how to experience and move across Balboa Park eastern half. To reinforce our commitment to ‘the pedestrian’, we then proposed to completely eliminate cars from crossing Cabrillo Bridge & to transform this vehicular corridor into a civic space which could host a series of uses and events. From what I call ‘ritual retail’ (coffee, newsstand, florist, etc) to HighLine type greenery and dynamic seating arrangements, public exhibits, etc, we chose to truly dedicate this amazing space (if you can stand there long enough to enjoy it without cars currently flying by you) into a much sought-after public space for all to share. I am sure this notion will shock some, but as we look forward we must appreciate that cars are now on the decline (Californian car registrations fell 10% between 2008 & 2010 as recently published in the Downtown San Diego Partnership’s ‘Imagine Downtown’ Plan), we need to look at new ways of creating civic opportunities in places that mean something to us. Cabrillo Bridge is an important identifiable structure for San Diego…we should reclaim it for the people & make a place you want to be!

Here is our submitted 30″x42″ board (click to enlarge) & the 400 narrative:


QUESTION: As part of the legacy of the 2015 Centennial Exposition, how can Park Boulevard be defined as the Park’s front door?

EVALUATION: Park Blvd is currently an unfriendly & intimidating ‘pedestrian’ entry into Balboa Park, the scale of which primarily promotes private vehicular access with the potential to expand San Diego’s light rail infrastructure to increase both local and tourist visitation into the heart of the park which would inevitably reduce the demand for parking in the park. In addition, Florida Canyon is visually hidden from most of the park and is utilized as a vehicular spine with little pedestrian activation. Therefore, neither Park Blvd nor Florida Canyon present opportunities for expanding Balboa Park for reconnection with downtown or surrounding communities. Our 100-year vision for Balboa Park should promote growth of the park, pedestrian/cyclist/community connectivity and sustainable transportation options for a future less reliant on private vehicular access.

PROPOSAL: A ‘Gateway’ needs not be defined by a simply monument to celebrate a period of time, but rather a commitment to expand Balboa Park creating new levels of connectivity for the future of the park and surrounding neighborhoods. With a vision of reduced reliability on private vehicular transportation and increased public transportation, pedestrian walkability and bicycle usage we propose a ‘gateway of connectivity and civic engagement’. This can be achieved in three ways: 1. Park Blvd is the primary vehicular entry into the heart of Balboa Park currently providing access to over 6500 car spaces [SD Zoo parking included] throughout many different lots. The historic Cabrillo Bridge therefore we propose to transform this existing transient bridge-way into a green civic space with activated uses as a ‘green lid’ across CA State Route 163. Temporary pavilion structures can be placed along the bridge set into the green landscape providing eatery and retail services, which promote safe pedestrian/cyclist activation and prolonged civic engagement on the bridge. 2. A proposed elevated pedestrian bridge linking El Prado to the central community of South Park can be a funnel for neighboring communities to enter the park. An elevated pedestrian/cycling bridge promotes movement & connect-ability through a dynamic series of straights and bends that responds to the terrain below. From an elevation previously not experienced, the bridge also allows viewing angles for park visitors to enjoy the park lands below. 3. A freeway ‘green lid’ to reconnect the southeast corner of Balboa Park with Downtown. To further strengthen this expansion, additional green lids & reclaimed lands can be constructed to connect communities and de-prioritize vehicular corridors over community connectivity.

Well done to everyone who participated &/or submitted ideas…San Diego needs more dialogue like this…more ideas, we are a great City, competitions like this will help us visualize our potential. Click HERE to read the UT San Diego article by Roger Showley which shows the other winners.



  1. David McCullough, ASLA

    Congratulations boys! Brilliant idea in my opinion..and as an edge dweller (edge of the park that is) I think we need to push to see this happen prior to 2015!!!

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