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San Diego Cadres

In 2006, architect Nathan Lee Colkitt, whose firm has designed affordable, modern housing, a challenged athletes foundation and a conceptual Cuban immigrant museum, was in search of a live/work space in San Diego he could make his own, so he consulted architect Ted Smith, who Colkitt calls “the grandfather of San Diego design/build.” Smith had a space in his multi-unit building in the city’s Little Italy neighborhood that housed tenants ranging from architects and designers to video-game creators, musicians and a hair salon. Especially appealing was the fact that the available unit was a 750-square-foot concrete tabula rasa that Colkitt could rework to accommodate both his private living space and his firm’s office. “Like every designer, I tried to find the one with the most problems, because that brings out your creativity,” says Colkitt. “This unit is oddly shaped, with every wall at an angle, and I wanted to do something more interesting than just putting up a wall in the middle.” His solution was to create two small lofts, one for reading and one for sleeping, anchored among several existing concrete columns running along one wall.

Along a busy street in San Diego’s Little Italy neighborhood stands the mixed-use building in which architect Nathan Lee Colkitt and a diverse array of tenants inhabit their live/work spaces. “It’s hard to describe—it’s really funky,” says Colkitt of the building. “It looks like a giant aircraft carrier landed in the street.” Rental units inside range in size from about 400 to 3,000 square feet. Photo by Cheryl Ramsay

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