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  Rio San Diego Plaza, Page 52Rio San Diego Plaza
Nadel Architects, Inc. 
1990 South Bundy Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90025

San Diego, California
Total Square Feet: 198,000
Construction Period: May 2000 to June 2001

Construction Team
General Contractor: Neilsen Dillingham - 3127 Jefferson Street, San Diego, CA 92110
Structural Engineer: Burkett & Wong - 3434 Fourth Avenue, 
San Diego, CA 92103
Electrical Engineer & Mechanical: Helfman/Haloossim & Associates - 1545 Pontius Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90025
Landscape Architect: Fong Hart Schneider + Partners - 930 W. 16th Street, #A2, Costa Mesa, CA 92627
Cost Estimator: Neilsen Dillingham - 3127 Jefferson Street, San Diego, CA 92110

Just off the I-805 Freeway, in a busy Mission Valley commercial business district near Qualcomm Stadium, is the Rio San Diego Plaza Corporate Business Center. The center is built on a 12.2-acre site that was vacant for some time, deemed foundationally unsound, plagued with an unusual geological composition and a long history as a gravel quarry. Compounding geological concerns was the I-805 freeway overpass supported by towering 8-story piers running through the center of the property. But San Diego-based developer and owner, Currie Partners, worked with Nadel Architects to explore potential for the orphaned site, winning entitlement for the master planning of a corporate business campus comprised of two speculative office buildings designed around a landscaped courtyard.

The first of the two buildings was completed in July of 2001. To overcome the geotechnical challenges of building on an unstable site, the structural engineer, Burkett & Wong, specified 90-foot-deep caissons for the foundation. A structural slab was poured for the first floor of the 6-story, 198,000-square-foot building to create further stability and seismic protection. The special foundation structure added $3 a square foot to the construction cost. Building leasable tenant space at a reasonable market rate without compromising the design became a primary concern requiring innovative solutions. Value engineering was performed with the contractor from the onset of the project to manage overall building costs, and by carefully balancing inexpensive finishes with high-end accents, final costs came in at just over $66 per square foot.

To establish a distinct identity and to separate the office building from the freeway piers, a strong organizing device was developed for the master plan. Oval became the main shape generator for the overall campus layout, with the center point designed as a lushly landscaped plaza containing lunch tables and seating areas for employees. The curved office building radiates from the oval, skimming the front perimeter of the site. This strategic placement of the building makes it a striking focal point on the busy frontage road Rio Bonia Way. 

The facade of the building was treated as two interlocking masses floating above a dark glass base. A budget conscious response with dynamic results, one portion clad in off-white Flexirock, the other in red sandstone tiles, was carefully selected for color consistency. A curtainwall system opens up the ends of the structure, merging with ribbon windows that run the length of the building and create a staccato effect within the mass of sandstone cladding. The roof line steps down with a sloping cornice element, emphasizing the curved floor plan.

The concept of interlocking forms is repeated at the main entrance where interior and exterior elements converge. An exterior Venetian plaster wall bisects the entry to become the main wall in the lobby. Flamed granite tile forms a linear footprint moving through the swinging glass doors into the lobby corridor where blond anigre walls are detailed with custom graphics.

Providing the core and shell for Rio San Diego Plaza Tenants, the building was 65% leased within months of opening, and has been a tremendous success within the Mission Valley business district, especially for a site that was considered un-buildable.

DIV 07: Building Sealant: Dow Corning.
DIV 08: Glazing: Viracon, Monolithic, Insulating, and Spradrel Glass; Glass Entry Doors: Grand View; Curtainwall: Arcadia, Inc.; Curtainwall Frame Paint: Valspar.
DIV 09: Paint: Benjamin Moore; Tile Grout: TEC an H.B. Fuller company.
DIV 14: Elevators: KONE.

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