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Design for new San Clemente Marine Safety Headquarters would create new public plaza

Building Team

Design for new San Clemente Marine Safety Headquarters would create new public plaza

Built into a bluff, the new structure would be cradled in the thermal mass of the earth.


By Peter Fabris, Contributing Editor | June 22, 2022
San Clemente Safety Plaza
Courtesy HMC Architects.

A proposed design by HMC Architects for a new San Clemente Marine Safety Headquarters makes creative use of the seaside topography of the Pacific Coast. The design, which recently won an AIA San Diego 2022 Design Award, would place the structure within a bluff, cradled in the thermal mass of the earth. The subterranean space would enjoy plentiful natural light, passive ventilation, and extreme energy efficiency, with the building anticipated to use 87% less energy than average.

Removing the old building would give the beach back to the public, providing 20,000 sf of new public space along the shore. The new public safety facility, the administrative headquarters of the lifeguard corps, would be situated underneath a new public plaza. Many of the facility’s functions, such as loading, maintenance, and storage, are unsightly and occupy valuable public space.

The new design hides these functions below grade while still giving staff uninterrupted views of the beach. On the bluff, extending the terrace outward increases the plaza area 12-fold and the linear footage of seating 25-fold, while maintaining the same amount of planted area.

Built in 1968, the existing structure is a familiar landmark on the Southern California coast. It has fallen into disrepair, due to coastal erosion and harsh salt winds. Renovating the existing structure in its current location would be expensive and would not provide compliance with modern standards. Furthermore, rising sea levels and storm surges will increasingly threaten the property. To avoid this, the architects proposed using the equivalent renovation budget to create a modern facility while expanding space for public enjoyment.

“The transformation of an underutilized hillside into a strong, terraced public plaza, while creatively incorporating existing elements, is commendable,” according to a comment from the AIA San Diego Award Jury.

Building Team:

Owner and/or developer: City of San Clemente
Design architect: HMC Architects
MEP engineer: P2S
Structural engineer: KPFF

Courtesy HMC Architects.
Courtesy HMC Architects
San Clemente Plaza
Courtesy HMC Architects

 

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