Sites determine design say architectural duo

By Dave Schwab

Staff Writer

Husband-wife team Taal Safdie and Ricardo Rabines of Safdie Rabines Architects believe architecture should evolve from the distinctive qualities of each site.

The pair will lead the second presentation in La Jolla Historical Society’s Contemporary Architects Making History 2011 Lecture Series. Their lecture, titled “Changing Established Patterns Through Design Excellence, will be March 24 at 7 p.m. at Wisteria Cottage, 780 Prospect St.

The 10-part series features mostly local architects talking about their work and how it contributes to the community’s design heritage.

Safdie and Rabines established their firm in San Diego in 1993. Their work has included local landmark buildings, including Eleanor Roosevelt College at UCSD and the Robert Paine Scripps Forum for Science, Society & the Environment at SIO. They’ve also worked on numerous private residences.

In design, Safdie said she and Rabines try not to have any preconceived ideas of what a building should look or feel like.

“When a building feels like it’s married to its site, that’s when you know as an architect that you’ve been successful,” she said.

Rabines agreed, noting each site “has its own story to tell.”

Safdie gave an example: “We had a client who loved birds and lived in a canyon, and we designed for them so they could sit in their living room and view birds in the canyon,” she said. “The house took shape around the needs of the client.”

Rabines said he and his wife work well together because “each of us has different skills and they complement each other other well.”

Safdie said she and her husband are also successful in articulating custom designs for clients noting, “You just need to listen.”

Safdie Rabines Architects also likes to create architecture that is socially responsible and environmentally sustainable.

”Responsibility means not wasting the public’s money,” said Rabines. “And sustainable means planning to use a site in a passive way that doesn’t have to be showy or high-tech.”

As an example, he cited how a home can be designed to take advantage of natural shade from trees.

“There’s a proper way to catch the natural elements to cool or warm a house,” he said.

Both architects like working in La Jolla.

“La Jolla has some houses that respond well to their sites: It’s very rich,” said Safdie.

Rabines thinks the community has a bright architectural future.

“There will be a lot of work restoring and renovating houses,” he said. “What we’d like to see is less (bulk) and more quality.”

Tickets are $10 for Historical Society members, $15 for non-members. Go to




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