When Residential Architect profiled Safdie Rabines Architects in 2006, the San Diego-based firm had just started to design bridges and institutional buildings, along with the residential work it had always done. In the years since then, the housing market cratered and then began to recover—so the firm’s timing worked out well. Bridges and other infrastructure commissions helped Safdie Rabines Architects get through the Great Recession, along with a house or two and some bigger-scale institutional jobs. “It’s been good to have a large variety of work,” says Taal Safdie, who runs the firm in partnership with her husband, Ricardo Rabines.

Safdie, Rabines, and their 19-person staff moved to a new office in 2010, a few blocks away from their old space. The current studio has patios large enough for outdoor meetings, and it encompasses an open interior space rather than the old studio’s charming but rabbit warren-like assembly of rooms. “It’s great to all be in one big space,” Safdie says. “This way everyone in the office knows what’s been going on.”

A lot, in fact, has been going on at Safdie Rabines. The firm just picked up four design awards from AIA’s San Diego chapter: one for a custom home in La Jolla, Calif., two for a student center at UCLA, and one for a pedestrian bridge in San Diego. It’s also introduced an interiors division called SRI. And it recently finished the first phase of a student housing community adjacent to Cal State-San Marcos, among many other projects.

Although Safdie Rabines has achieved an impressively diverse breadth of project types, custom residential work still plays a key role in the firm’s overall approach to design. “We love to do private residences,” Rabines says. “In residential you work with new materials and have a chance to explore them on a small scale. Then you can take that to public work. The nicest thing is that you can do a high-end private residence and take it through to affordable housing.”

At the moment, the couple is wrapping up a custom residence for which they also designed the interiors and some furniture pieces. They’ve also got a pedestrian bridge in Qatar under construction in addition to multiple infrastructure projects. Other work in progress includes a small hotel renovation in Sausalito, Calif., a public library in San Diego, the second phase of the Cal State-San Marcos student housing community, and a 153,000-square-foot mixed use, affordable housing community in San Diego’s Barrio Logan neighborhood.

A sculptural sensibility and a strong interest in indoor-outdoor connections run throughout their work, no matter what the scale. Check out our slideshows on custom homes by Safdie Rabines Architects.

Firm Specs
Years in practice: 19 / Currently active projects: 24 / Projects completed in 2011: 11 / Firm size: 21

Past Articles on Safdie Rabines Architects


Architect’s Choice

Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., House

2007 RADA
Artist Bridge Studio, San Diego

2006 Leadership Awards: Rising Star

Tree House, San Diego, Calif.