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Ricardo Rabines and Taal Safdie at Scripps Seaside Forum; photography by Robert Benson

Double Vision

by AnnaMaria Stephens | Riviera San Diego magazine | November 21, 2012

Time off? There’s no such thing for Taal Safdie and Ricardo Rabines. And the married duo wouldn’t have it any other way. “We never feel like we’re working,” says Safdie. “We enjoy doing architecture all the time.” Design aficionados—and juries—have noticed their devotion. This year alone, they won an AIA award for a La Jolla residence and an Orchid for a public restroom in Oceanside. Safdie, whose father is iconic Israeli-Canadian architect Moshe Safdie, met Rabines in grad school. The two moved their family here decades ago, raising three kids in Mission Hills. The couple’s latest coup? A brand-new home right next door.

Why San Diego?
TS: It felt like it still needed to be built, unlike the East Coast cities we’d lived in previously. There was a lot of opportunity for two young architects—well, young at the time.
RR: The settings here are beautiful, as is the weather.

Tackling complex sites?
TS: We love the challenge.
RR: Really, difficult sites are the only ones left. People are trying to squeeze houses onto them.

S.D. now vs. then?
TS: In New York, you hire an architect to move a door. Here, contractors built entire houses. We called it the Home Depot mentality.
RR: And very few homes took advantage of the outdoors. But now people respect original design and value quality over quantity. Modernism has changed everyone’s mentality.

What’s still lacking?
RR: There’s no civic architectural pride.

Your many projects at UCSD?
TS: There is an inherent intellectual energy from the students and faculty, who have a voice in the design process, that challenges our thinking.

Best S.D. building?
Both: The Salk.

Traveling for inspiration?
RR: Paris and Italy. And we love Renzo Piano’s work in every city.
TS: When traveling, we love walking to absorb the scale and texture, the fabric of the city, its mix of new and old. We especially love public works.

That explains the restroom.
TS: It was supposed to be a much bigger project so that one’s bittersweet.
RR: We are designing a small library in National City, which really needs it. These kinds of projects have so much meaning for the designers and the community.

Moving next door?
TS: We renovated the existing house—pushed it and pulled it to its limits. This time we get to improve on everything that didn’t work there.

Your decorating style?
RR:
A friend called it Indian Modern.
TS: We love fabrics, tapestries, and warm colors like oranges and reds. We also really love white, though the kids hate it.
RR: Color comes from the garden and from people. We’re very colorful people.