530 Sky Terrace

San Diego, California

An Under-Utilized Space in an Iconic Tower is Turned into a Vibrant Outdoor Deck

On the third-floor deck of San Diego’s Union Bank of California Building, a previously unused space was transformed into an outdoor garden and gathering space: one of the office building’s most-valued amenities.

The 27-story tower, originally built in 1969, was the city’s tallest building for its first 20 years. The stepped design creates an outdoor space atop the podium, but there were no seating areas and it overlooked an unsightly parking garage.

The makeover began not with design but art. Working with the next-door building owners, the design team received permission to add a mural to the garage façade. After soliciting many proposals, the team chose acclaimed artist and mural designer Maxx Moses to create a strikingly colorful new painted backdrop on the garage wall.

The new space is broken down into a series of individual garden areas. The team used reclaimed decking materials made from coconut husks in two tones to denote circulation and seating areas. There are combinations of 10 different living room- and dining room-like configurations for socializing, solitude and shared meals, the largest of which sits under a dramatically cantilevering canopy. Shade trees, flowering plants and drought-tolerant greenery give the design a flourishing sense of abundance. To accommodate for drainage, the decks are raised slightly. Fire pits and lawn games help complete a sense that this deck was made for fun and hanging out.

Though popular by day, 530 Sky Terrace comes even more alive at night, when the illuminated mural becomes like a movie screen, and well-placed lighting helps give the entire space an atmospheric glow.

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