Interiors Awards 2018: Lobby Repositioning

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. Photograph by Ryan Gobuty / Gensler

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Interiors Awards 2018: Lobby Repositioning
Designer: Gensler

Client: An affiliate of Rockpoint Group
Location: San Diego

“With strong detailing and a nice balance of refined and raw, the designers made the lobby wonderfully active, not just a place to pass through. There’s an element of surprise everywhere you look.” —Jury

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.”

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