Award Winning Architecture of the San Dieguito River Park
By Dick Bobertz, Executive Director, November 2014
The San Dieguito River Park is primarily an immense conservation effort – conservation of the natural habitat along the 55-mile-long course of the San Dieguito River. Along with the primary objective of conservation are other objectives such as providing trails for recreation in a way that supports conservation. Trails in the San Dieguito River Park route users around fragile habitats and concentrate use on engineered trails that prevent erosion and habitat destruction. Cultural, historic, and agricultural preservation along with education are also important objectives of the River Park. Certain structures are necessary throughout the River Park to facilitate these objectives.
The San Dieguito River Park Board has always supported high quality design for necessary structures with a focus on complementing the natural environment. In addition to numerous trail improvements such as bridges, kiosks, shelters, trail identification monuments, benches, and view overlooks, five major award-winning projects have been accomplished over the first twenty-five years of the San Dieguito River Park. Following is a brief description of each of those projects and the recognition they have received. Together, they have established a San Dieguito River Park reputation for, as the San Diego Chapter of the American Institute of Architects noted, “. . . a shining example of how to execute publicly financed infrastructure.”
2014 The “Birdwing” Outdoor Education Center
This facility, accomplished in partnership with the San Dieguito River Valley Conservancy, is located overlooking the San Dieguito Lagoon. The project was designed by Roesling Nakamura Terada Architects and was given a special award for Urban Solutions by the San Diego Chapter of the American Institute of Architects as the first phase of the San Dieguito Lagoon Center Master Plan. The selection jury cited the project for its “relevance to San Diego’s challenge to protect and nurture critical pieces of the urban environment”.
2010 San Dieguito River Park Administrative Office
In 2007 the River Park’s administrative office was located in a 1920’s era ranch house which was destroyed that year in the Witch Creek Fire. A new building constructed on the site was designed by the Rinehart-Herbst Architecture firm using a rural agricultural building design theme to blend with the history of the area. The project received an Architectural Merit award from the California State American Institute of Architects and an Orchid from the San Diego Chapter of the American Institute of Architects. The Awards Committee commented “San Dieguito River Park should be proud to have this faceted white gem as their new headquarters. When added to the landscape restoration, trails and the new pedestrian bridge this entire project serves as a shining example of how to execute publicly financed infrastructure”.
2004 – 2010 Sikes Adobe Historic Farmstead
The Sikes Adobe Historic Farmhouse, built circa 1870 – 1881, was restored by the San Dieguito River Park and opened to the public in 2004, receiving the California Preservation Foundation award in recognition of outstanding achievement in historic preservation. In 2007 the entire structure, except the original adobe walls, were lost to the Witch Creek fire. The reconstructed building was reopened to the public in 2010, and received the City of San Diego Historical Resources Board award for Excellence in Historic Preservation and the Save Our Heritage Organisation (SOHO) award entitled “Phoenix Rising, Sikes Again”.
2009 The Lake Hodges Bicycle/Pedestrian Bridge
This project which provides a connection between the north and south trails of Lake Hodges is also the only pedestrian and bicycle north/south access for ten miles both east and west of the bridge. At 990 feet it is the longest bridge of its type (stress ribbon) in the world. The innovative construction technique allowed the bridge to be built with only two supporting piers and with an unusually slender bridge profile (16 inches) to minimize aesthetic impact in a natural area. In recognition of its architectural and engineering accomplishment it received an Orchid from the San Diego Chapter of the American Institute of Architects among over a dozen other awards from prestigious engineering and transportation organizations.
2004 The Strawberry Stand Wetlands Learning Center
This structure was a reuse and redesign of an existing farm produce stand that had a long history of providing the area with renowned strawberries. The structure was designed by the Rinehart-Herbst Architectural Firm as an interim use structure preceding a planned future formal River Park Visitor Center. Construction of the project was accomplished by volunteers from the engineering firm Montgomery, Watson, Harza (MWH) and received awards from the American Institute of Architects for energy efficiency, design, and siting.