Saturday, November 21, 2015

A Hidden Architectural Treasure in San Diego's Mission Valley

Industrial Indemnity Building
The Garden Room here is a free-standing glassed in pavilion used for conferences. Photo ©Darren Bradley

I am frequently told by people who see my photos of buildings around town that they'd never noticed the buildings until they saw my photographs - even though they'd driven or walked past it for years. I take that as a compliment, and it's partially the point of why I do this in the first place - to get people to stop and notice and maybe even appreciate building they'd otherwise ignore. But recently, it was my turn to have someone else point out a building I never knew was there - even though I'd driven past it thousands of times. 

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First view of this little cluster of brutalist buildings, perched on the hillside. Photo @Darren Bradley

This cluster of modernist buildings is in Mission Valley, perched on a slope adjacent to Interstate 8, overlooking Qualcomm Stadium and IKEA. 

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The deep waffle ceilings and the cutouts to allow light are my favorite part of this project. Photo ©Darren Bradley

My friend Keith , who is a local architectural historian, happened upon it recently and sent me a few iPhone shots. In his typical fashion, he walked in and introduced himself a lady inside and asked her about it. He also convinced them that they should allow a photographer to come by later (that would be me), and that he was acting as a scout for said photographer. 

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Courtyard view. Photo ©Darren Bradley

I had a couple of hours free yesterday after work, so I decided to stop by unannounced and see if I could get some shots. I'm not exactly sure what Keith told them but I got the royal treatment as soon as I walked in the door. I was handed a visitor's badge and given the run of the place. 

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Selfie. Photo ©Darren Bradley

I still know almost nothing about the project, other than what I know from Keith's website, It was designed for the insurance company Industrial Indemnity. It appears to have been built in phases, from 1970 to 1974. I'm guessing the two-story section is the 1974 bit, as it feels a little more contemporary. 

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East elevation. Photo ©Darren Bradley
It was designed by the architecture firm of Deems/Lewis & Partners. That firm started as an offshoot of the  celebrated Los Angeles firm of AC Martin. 

AC Martin is responsible for one of my favorite buildings in Los Angeles, The LA Department of Water & Power. Photo ©Darren Bradley

Both Ward Deems and Bill Lewis were architects for that firm when they proposed to AC Martin to move down to San Diego during the design and construction of that firm's mega-project of Mission Valley Center shopping mall and the May Company department store there. 

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May Company Department Store at Mission Valley Center. This section was originally a restaurant. It's now just used for storage. The department store is now a Macy's. Photo ©Darren Bradley

They eventually separated from the parent firm to become Deems/Lewis & Partners in 1961. 

Anyway, back to this project. It's no longer an insurance company. It is now the San Diego County Behavioral Health Services Center.

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The main entrance is through a tunnel in the hillside. Photo ©Darren Bradley

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Photo ©Darren Bradley

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Photo ©Darren Bradley

What's so great to see is that the people working there were all extremely complimentary about the buildings. They all seemed to know and understand that they were working in someplace special. Many stopped me to tell me how much they loved working there. 

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Another selfie. I couldn't help myself. Photo ©Darren Bradley
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Photo ©Darren Bradley

The quality of the light filtering through the trees and reflecting off the concrete is superb, and the contrasts between the materials is striking. Those waffle ceilings appear to hover over the glass walls. It really is like being in a sculptural work of art. 

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Photo ©Darren Bradley

Thanks again to Keith York at for pointing this out to me, and for doing the advance work. 


Unknown said...

Stunning photos, Darren!

Anonymous said...

I am happy to see the pictures and I am so happy I was able to make it happen. It is do beautiful, people should be able to see this place and I am lucky to work there

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