Join RAD Lab for an in-depth discussion in this video RAD Lab: Revitalizing the City Block - Film, part of RAD Lab: Revitalizing the City Block.
(gentle music) - [Voiceover] A typical thesis project for architecture is really looking at broadening what we have right now and actually coming up with new solutions. There's a lot of vacant properties, and we've noticed that across not just San Diego, but other cities. Our idea was okay, well how can we start incorporating some sort of temporary architecture. Putting something in as a placeholder for that future development.
Creating more pedestrian friendly and exciting area, ready for that new development. My name is Philip Auchettl, I'm the CEO of Rad Lab. Quartyard's the name of our first project, which we created while we were students at New School of Architecture. Usually thesis projects are very solo, one man missions. In the real world that's not how it works.
You have to work as a team and that's how we ran our thesis project. - And because they were prepared as developers they knew all the different parts of the process to make a building. This is one of the rare cases that the building itself is the thesis. So that's what is exciting about this project. That they prove their space theories with the actual building. (peppy music) - Quartyard is an urban park in a downtown environment.
It's hard to create this outdoor experience that is open and free and friendly to the public. So what we did was we tried to activate it with things that you would want to have in your own backyard. So we've got a sausage place, we've got barbecues, we've got a bar, dog park, coffee shop. The idea is that it's everyone's backyard. - Community involvement's one of the biggest parts of this project. Our slogan is Your City Block. And from day one we went and put signs up on the fence just saying What Do You Want Here? With a bunch of sharpies and people filled it in.
The main constant theme that just kept coming back was that people were really excited about having some sort of outdoor space to gather and socialize. - The Quartyard is such a community based project it almost was the same with us, like a community based internal project. Everything was a constant conversation. It was just three guys trying to create their dreams - You know this is a brand new concept, especially for the city of San Diego. This hadn't been done before. The use of shipping containers was something that the engineer in the city almost fell off his chair when we proposed this idea to him.
We brought in outside consultants who have worked with shipping containers in the past to assure them that they weren't going to fall over. - We wanted to do something different, we'd never really seen a container project where they painted them white. So a lot of them go with dark grey or just leave them colorful and what not, so we thought white could be a really clean aesthetic, as well as maybe help with the heat gain. - It really comes back to the concept of building green and sustainable design and the shipping containers, they're all recycled, the trays are all in recycled dumpsters, the trash bins are recycled barrels, the tables are all reclaimed wood.
I think as young designers and young professionals that's really our responsibility that we can build more sustainable and more green within San Diego. - Right here is just a picture of essentially Google Earth. You just see what was there before, which was exactly nothing. It was blighted it was a dirty parking lot. And then you start adding all these layers and textures to it, and all of a sudden it transforms to a beautifully curated space. Anyone can come up with a great design but getting it funded and actually following through with it obviously is very difficult.
- It was like a 70/30 ratio, I'd say 70% was outside the studio and just gaining the community support. Trying to figure out how we could make this happen. And then the 30% was as much design work as we could. - When we initially were looking for fundraising we did a Kickstarter. We're a bunch of poor students, we didn't have any funding so we managed to actually raise $60,000 in just 30 days which was pretty phenomenal.
For us that was a big step to say yes, you know what not only do we wanna do this, but this is now proven that the community wants something here to happen as well. It was all pure donation and mostly from the surrounding area. - So it was one of those things that we could take that to an investor set and say hey, we were able to get the community to back us. The hardest part for us early on was just sharing our vision of this space. And it really came down to these renderings, with the help of Photoshop and Rhino to get that vision across.
- After we kind of identified a rough layout of the design and where all the containers were gonna be in this process, we usually develop everything in Rhino to kind of give us a more visual aspect. Window details, opening cut outs, lighting details as well. And then bring it into V-Ray or something, render it, and then do all the post production work in Photoshop. - With the use of Photoshop and rendering agents combined you can create these really photo realistic renderings that allow the average person to be able to understand kind of what you're trying to get across.
So a lot of times you will take renderings that are just raw, like these shipping containers that have just a few modifications on them and then put them into the Photoshop model and you'll add people, you'll add artwork, food trucks, and groups of people. - You know we tried to create a lot of color. We tried to represent that this is your city block and a lot of people gathering, events going on. That's kind of what our mentality and vision was for the Quartyard and trying to get investors involved and the community involved was using these renderings as a marketing tool and painting a picture for them was critical.
Everyone wants to see what they're gonna get. - Just sharing our passion and vision was something that came easy to all of us, but what we were doing was way beyond anything we had done in the past. So we had to rely on quite a few advisors and other professionals that were experts in their field so that we could execute this project. - I came in on the project about right at the end of their thesis. As this became a real something they really wanted to build.
And they had questions on how to put a Pr-Forma together, how much money was it gonna cost, how did we need to redesign things to make it so it was a reasonable number to make the actual project real, could we monetize them for the actual cost that it took to build it? - Because we're only here for a couple years we have to make sure that this thing can pay itself off. So we really had to balance out those aspects of what we can use that's sustainable versus what actually financially makes sense also. - Creating anything from scratch is already ridiculously challenging, let alone San Diego's very conservative and not necessarily wanting to change.
So it took a lot of time and it took a lot of people to want this project to happen to actually make it happen. - The property is city owned so we're leasing it from the city. We went and met with the mayor's office, Civic San Diego, city attorney's office, we got everyone in one room, and there was a lot of negotiation. We were a bunch of students, we didn't necessarily have our own legal representation at that point, and we were the ones who negotiated the lease. - We had found the corner of Park and Market and we thought great, we can just take over this small 40 foot by 20 foot space, and they said yeah but why don't you take over the rest of the 25,000 square feet? And we said, what, what do you mean? That's a possibility? And they said yeah absolutely.
So it was a huge game changer just in terms of size and scope and what we had to put in to make the project work. - We actually had Civic San Diego and the city of San Diego write a brand new conditional use permit using our project as a case study within that permit. So especially as a thesis, that was pretty phenomenal to have codes changed and rewritten based around our project. - What you have to provide to the city is a set of construction documents that give details to the last nail that's being bolted into the wall.
So pretty much the design is complete by then. - It's great to be in paper space and come up with beautiful designs and think of everything as flat and level. Life isn't flat and level. So the more practical experience you have and the more you can actually listen and learn the better you will be as a designer and the more value you will have to your clients. - As a good designer, you try to lead people in certain directions.
You try to offer signage or visual barriers and edges that will say, hey don't go over here or the exact opposite, you create paths to direct traffic to that region. We have a big fence that separates the two zones. By creating two entry points we're able to direct traffic around that area. And then by using Photoshop, you're able to add people in there so that it demonstrates how the actual use is gonna go. In reality, it's a totally different perspective. You try something and then you realize, wow everyone's taking this shortcut over here.
We never would have expected that but it's a total combination between using the technology that exits and getting hands on experience and actually trying it out yourself. - We're big on doing sketching, we're big on doing physical models, we're big on doing digital models. They're all just very different processes of coming up with I think the best solution. - You don't start out knowing how to do this right away. The only way to get better is by just doing. And so by practice and then watching tutorials and figuring things out, it just makes every step of the way better.
- [Voiceover] There was plenty of times where we thought this thing was about to fall apart. But we just kept pushing through and I think that's what you have to do to really make something like this successful. Initially when we decided to do this as a group and create a thesis and create our own business within our thesis, I don't think any of us quite understood how far this thing would go, but I think we've all enjoyed the ride and we couldn't be happier with where we ended up. - We're approaching our first year anniversary, our first birthday party, and it has been wildly successful, way more than I ever would have imagined.
We initially created a project in a place that we wanted to go because we thought that that was missing in the city, and to see the amount of people show up on a daily basis or for our events is just astonishing. How many people also felt the same way we did. - We've had all different types of events from benefits to DJ set concerts, you name it, we're trying to get creative as possible and try to activate the space as much as possible. - If the city ends up putting another high-rise here that's part of our concept is that we are here for now, we're that placeholder for the future development.
We're creating a more pedestrian friendly and exciting area to be. So if that's the case we simply pick all the shipping containers up, move to a new location, and start reactivating and rejuvenating somewhere else. The Quartyard project's been a huge flag in the ground for us. We've been able to take on a lot of other new projects. Mostly commercial, some residential. Three at California and across over to the Virgin Islands as well. - I'd like to say that I'm very proud of these rock stars. We used to call them The Beatles while they were in school.
They created this incredible place for the community. - [Voiceover] Just being pulled aside by some of the local residents and they just say thank you. I think that really just takes back to what this is really all about. And by creating a space, I mean what architecture's about.