The Couple That’s Shaping San Marcos
By Beth Geraci
For husband and wife architectural team Taal Safdie and Ricardo Rabines — the duo behind Safdie Rabines Architects — architecture is all about creating inspiring places for people to spend their time.
Since its founding in 1993, Mission Hills-based Safdie Rabines has specialized in site-specific, humanistic, socially responsible architecture and urban planning. It’s no wonder, then, that the firm chose to become a 2021 sponsor of Open House San Diego, whose architectural values are in alignment with the firm’s own mission.
“Our goal is to create good places, beautiful places, for people to enjoy,” says firm cofounder and architect Ricardo Rabines, a native of Peru. “To us, ‘good places’ mean spaces that inspire and that are comfortable and inviting. In all we do, we strive to create an optimal user experience. That’s the bottom line for us.”
That commitment is evident in all of Safdie Rabines’ work, whether it’s the recently completed National City Aquatic Center, the 3,000-capacity amphitheater being built at UCSD, or East Village Park, which Safdie Rabines breaks ground on in March. Their dedication to their craft makes them a great fit for Open House, a program that seeks to elevate architecture in the eyes of San Diegans.
An Open Celebration of High Quality Design
Safdie Rabines Architects sponsored Open House in 2021 because it believes in the program’s mission to celebrate and promote notable architecture.
“Architecture can create a sense of community, make people feel welcome or unwelcome, comfortable or uncomfortable,” says Taal Safdie, who cofounded the firm with Ricardo and is involved in the design and management of every project in the office. “Architecture can invite people into a space or make them want to disengage from it completely,” she says. “The impacts of design are something you feel. By exposing the public to some of San Diego’s most unique spaces, Open House makes San Diegans keenly aware of their designed environment.”
North City Is Becoming an Urban Destination
In 2021, Open House San Diego is turning its focus to San Diego’s emerging neighborhoods, including areas in North County. Safdie Rabines Architects is currently and deeply immersed in the master planning of San Marcos’ new downtown, known as North City.
Situated on 200 acres across from California State University San Marcos, North City is a mixed-use community that was approved 12 years ago through the vision and leadership of Gary Levitt, President of Sea Breeze Properties. “As it unfolds, a high-density urban node is rising up in San Marcos, marking a crucial transformation for a city that has never been home to a central downtown,” Ricardo says.
North City’s master plan creates an urban center for the entire inland North County San Diego. It provides a variety of housing and employment opportunities to create a true live/work employment, along with a variety of restaurant, entertainment and retail options in a pedestrian-oriented environment. North City neighbors both the CSUSM Campus and Kaiser Permanente’s newly under construction hospital, while benefiting from mass transit options, including rail.
Safdie Rabines has completed several student housing projects, market rate mixed-use housing and most recently, an academic and administration building for the university. Coming up next, the North City and Safdie Rabines teams are breaking ground on a new student housing project this spring, with plans underway for a substantial mixed-use housing project. When completed, the market-rate complex will feature about 450 housing units, offices, and restaurants and retail at street level.
“San Marcos has always been a car-oriented place with highways cutting through it,” Ricardo explains. “It feels much more suburban than urban. While San Marcos has been home to the fast-growing university, for a long time it didn’t have a commercial area where students could go. The mixed-use, North City development we’re currently engaged in is making the area denser, more walkable, and more community focused. And with a new public transit stop, the North City area is also becoming more accessible.”
Design + Community Creates Positive Results
With Open House’s 2021 theme “Design + Community,” it seems all the more fitting that Safdie Rabines Architects is sponsoring the program.
“Community work is priority number one for us, so we love that OH’s central theme aligns with our own values,” Taal says. “Design matters, but if a project is publicly funded, it should be beautifully done and serve the public in the best possible way.”
If Taal and Ricardo are strong believers in that principle, so is Open House San Diego. Like exceptional design itself, Ricardo says, Open House makes people aware of their surroundings and inspires them to see things differently.
The couple hopes that when San Diegans visit San Marcos during Open House San Diego the week of March 5-12, they’ll feel the civic pride that is being reborn there after so many years.
“The heart of a community is beginning to beat in North City right now, and that’s exciting,” Taal says. “A vibrant destination is taking shape, one with more density, great outdoor spaces, and a balance of educational life and entertainment. We encourage people to visit and see it for themselves.”