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EDITORIAL: Building Character

Del Mar Civic Plaza rendering. Courtesy City of Del Mar.
Click on image to enlarge.

What we build in Del Mar should be a reflection of who we are as a community and what we cherish about the character of our environment. Both private and public structures should be designed with that in mind.

We urge the City Council and the city hall architects to pay close attention to comments from many in our community about the preliminary design ideas recently presented by the design team.

The architects seem to understand that our civic center needs to communicate a strong statement about our core community values. We are a small, low scale, people-oriented village. Our center should be a warm welcoming place for citizens to gather, talk, listen, and deliberate about how we want to live together, shape our environment, plan our future, and solve problems. That message must be indelibly imbedded in the structures and spaces of our civic center.

We do not want a civic center of pretentious scale that suggests we aspire to be the biggest and best. The structures need to reflect our respect for the staffers who work so hard for us, but at the same time signal how accessible civic spaces are to citizens who need assistance or want to participate. Shapes that are cold or boxy send the wrong message. Structures that overwhelm the street and nearby neighborhoods send the wrong message. Structures that are big and imposing have a tendency to intimidate those who approach.

We urge the architects to embrace the unique charm and character of some of our most cherished buildings such as the library, St. Peters Church, Stratford Square, the train station, and the Powerhouse. Our civic space should complement, not compete with these admired buildings. Adding to their challenge there are also voices in favor of the designers’ proposed more contemporary transparent design. And we appreciate their challenge given the 14 foot height limit they must work within. Our community is embraced by lush greenery, open spaces, and the ocean—they seem to be trying to incorporate those elements into the design.
The design elements must be soft, not hard, using natural materials that telegraph our love for the natural environment. Human scale please.

We have one chance to get this right. It will characterize Del Mar way beyond our time. We look forward to how creative the architects can be in addressing all of these complex ideas.


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