By Delle Willett
I recently had the opportunity to get a virtual in-depth tour of Block F in East Village with Amber Lake of Carrier Johnson + Culture, with an emphasis on the landscape architecture (which is what this column is all about, right?).
Block F has 32 floors, 405 residential units, 50,000 square feet of office space and 20,000 square feet of retail. Start of construction is slated for 2020.
With F and G streets to the north and south and 15th and 16th streets to the east and west, Block F bookends the proposed East Village Green facing the current campus of the NewSchool of Architecture & Design. It’s a development that adds much needed greenscape and open space to the industrial and utilitarian urban landscape of East Village.
From the start, the design development of Block F has been a collaboration with architecture, interior design and landscape architecture through architect Ray Valera, interior designer Manuela Bravo-Smith, and landscape architects Martin Flores and Amber Lake — all of Carrier Johnson.
What evolved was an early partnership between interior design and their programming of lobby, business and residential spaces within the building, and landscape architecture that greeted and guided users between these spaces into the exterior.
With a nod to the industrial character of East Village, the architecture celebrates the rawness of steel, brick and glass. Interior design organizes polished concrete, stone and culvert-shaped apertures, and landscape architecture utilizes steel grating, glass slag and exposed aggregate within bioretention gardens.
Block F will provide for a minimum 12,600 square feet of eco-roof on the eighth level and pool level 32. The roof gardens are being designed specific to San Diego’s microclimates and the building’s sun and wind exposure.
In addition, a significant portion of the green roofs are in the form of 3-foot minimum-in-height planters to allow ornamental and accent canopies for shade, color, and vertical interest. In an array of raised planters, ornamental trees like crape myrtle, dwarf orange or fruitless olive will provide a degree of shade and natural barrier providing texture and color in addition to sculptural form. And finally, a second tier of green roof is found above two multimedia hubs at level eight, providing shade and shelter for lounge space, TV monitors, dining areas and other outdoor gatherings.
The entry to Block F aligns with the East Village Green to the west and is considered a pocket extension of the green space or a “front porch.” Of the roughly 5,000 square feet allotted for garden space, three-quarters of it is open to the public. The remaining quarter is an extension of the interior lobby space and will be secured in the evening for resident safety and convenience.
The front porch will be open and available to visitors throughout the day. A coffee kiosk located at the southwest corner of the green space serves street-side and public park-side, and a cafe or restaurant anchors the northwest corner framing the public space.
The conscious effort to celebrate and promote sustainability was to incorporate a weir and overflow system geared towards large rain events and rooftop discharge into bioretention gardens. Acting as rain-capturing gardens, water spills from rooftop to tier to a small bioretention basin at the entry. In non-rain events, it’s a planted garden.
From the street, the landscape design took the city’s tree palette to heart utilizing gateway and district trees as required. Chinese flame trees will be planted along F and G streets and Chinese elm trees along 15th and 16th.
The ground level cleanly organizes structured, architectural plants such as foxtail agave and stalked bulbine to contrast against a formed, consistent green-screening hedge identifying the nearby fault line and buffering the lobby entry. Small cape rush, common rush and flax lilly integrate structured form with the softer color of Douglas iris within the bioretention gardens and tiers. Mesquite trees punctuate the hardscape for a softer textured shade canopy at a scale appropriate to the adjacent architecture.
The green roofs of levels eight and 32 consist of grasses and sedums to create a carpeted and varied mixture of color and texture. Forest pansy introduces flowering color within structure planters and the understory contrasts plant material such as agave with softer, kinetic grasses. The larger of the raised planter areas proposes a small grove of dwarf citrus such as kumquats for color, visual interest and scent.
The lower terrace of the public park blends the public realm with the earthy, sustainable feel of the bioretention gardens with textured paving, exposed aggregates, and rock mulch. This is a contrast to the urban hardscape setting along 15th street and the rest of Downtown San Diego.
To complement the rough texture of the urban garden, the upper park terrace showcases a graphic tile pattern leading residents and visitors to the main entry.
The public park takes the significant rise in elevation from 15th Street to the lobby entry into consideration with the use of a central stair and sloped walk. Off street, the café kiosk introduces the start of the sloped walk that “hovers” over a stormwater garden giving an industrial vibe with the use of steel grating. What is seen below is a garden of large angular rock mulch, water inundation plants with a softer reed feel and at night, up-lit glass slag emphasizing the main entry.
Level eight and 32 utilize concrete pavers to identify circulation and gathering spaces beneath the green-roofed multimedia hubs. Ipe wood deck pavers define a space for outdoor activities such as yoga, and synthetic turf handles the wear of an outdoor exercise studio in one location and dog run in another.
Watch for progress!
— Delle Willett has been a marketing and public relations professional for over 30 years, with an emphasis on conservation of the environment. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.