Sky Deck - Restaurants in San Diego - RDC Architects

Innovative, Experiential ‘Culinary Collective’ Concept Gathers Multiple Local Chef-Driven Restaurants in One Expansive Coastal Locale

DEL MAR, Ca. – Full-service architectural design firm RDC is celebrating the opening of the Sky Deck at Del Mar Highlands Town Center. This unique environment gathers multiple local chef-driven restaurants in one elevated, multi-level indoor/outdoor setting. The new destination is the culmination of a multi-year repositioning of Del Mar Highlands Town Center by Donahue Schriber Realty Group, Inc. (DSRG).

RDC managed a collaborative process with DSRG leadership to create a thoughtful vision for reimaging and revitalizing the 30-year-old shopping center into an experiential, memorable and vibrant place for the Carmel Valley community. This $120 million development was executed in four phases over the last five years. The Sky Deck is the anchor and culmination of these efforts.

The Sky Deck is a unique gastronomic destination with the innovative concept of independent restaurant operators assembled together but with their own dedicated seating. As opposed to food halls or food courts that commonly host a set of micro food tenants with shared seating, this spacious environment offers unique branding and the chance to experience each of its full-service restaurants and bars. At the same time, an overarching vision unifies and energizes the space.

The architecture, interior design, landscape, lighting design and handcrafted curation of art, signage and authentic elements throughout the space echo the overarching story of a “maritime industrial” concept, inspired by proximity to the Port of San Diego.

Images Courtesy of RDC.

Renderings Courtesy of RDC.

“The design process for the Sky Deck consisted of an extensive conceptual development in order to achieve an authentic story as the basis of design and to create a unique place that would inspire the creativity of the restaurateurs,” said RDC Senior Principal Mitra Esfandiari, AIA. “We wanted to create a ‘wow’ moment for visitors as an initial reaction upon entering this grand space, inviting them to discover and appreciate carefully curated details that unveil the story as they experience the place, the diverse cuisine and amenities.”

The Sky Deck’s main feature is an expansive 35’ x 60’ skylight with electro-magnetic smart glass that tints automatically to optimize daylight, reduce glare and manage heat gain to create a comfortable and sustainable environment. This skylight guides natural daylight into the center of the space, highlighting the central cocktail bar and café, as well as the restaurants, and further connects indoor and outdoor settings.

The vision for the Sky Deck originated from a holiday trip to Barcelona by then-Donahue Schriber CEO/Chair Patrick Donahue. He was so impressed with the city’s La Boqueria and El Nacional that he sent members of his construction and leasing teams to tour both. RDC was then commissioned to do the same and begin conceptual drawings to envision how this inspired concept could work at Del Mar Highlands Town Center.

A key Sky Deck concept is a full-scale “diorama” – a series of large found object-art installations set with a backdrop of a 100’-long hand-painted mural. “Maritime industrial” elements echo Del Mar’s beaches and San Diego’s port history. All of the objects are sustainably hand-sourced from local San Diego-based marine surplus collectors. The four suspended art installations – Boats & Buoys, Bottles & Rebar, Nets & Pulleys, and Driftwood Fish – counterpoint both the art mural and the steel-panel, industrial walls. RDC collaborated with local fabricator TECTURE in creating these unique art installations and California-based mural artist Celeste Byres to make the large-scale diorama come to life.

“With its multiple decks, elevated views and airy indoor-outdoor experiences, the Sky Deck sets the stage for evolving the culinary renaissance in San Diego,” said Jonathan Lopez, RDC Associate Principal and Senior Design Director. “The Sky Deck vision was founded on authentic connection to the local community. Having grown up in San Diego, crafting local-rooted design was a personal priority for this project.”

Renderings Courtesy of RDC.

Sky Deck Design Highlights

The Sky Deck is comprised of 26,700 square feet that integrates 6,360 square feet of al-fresco decks and patios, creating multiple outdoor zones.

Design highlights include:

  • A choreographed series of spaces weaving seamless indoor, outdoor and hybrid areas.
  • A grand stair welcoming guests to Brewers Deck, an elevated destination accessed from the interior by a custom, curved-steel staircase. The glass canopy of Brewer’s Deck houses three local craft breweries. Its elevated vantage point peers across the landscape and into the Sky Deck through a series roll-up garage doors.
  • Outdoor seating zones of a great variety, including concrete fireplaces, landscaped banquet benches that fold up from the deck floor, bar-height seating and lounges.
  • Folding glass doors that completely retract to extend the exterior into the interior, welcoming guests to the community lounge and co-working café.
  • Steel-construction design expressing structural elements with exposed, raw I-beams. Complementing the industrial steel, the pitched roof integrates a hand-stained, Douglas fir wood ceiling between the steel beams, defining the ceiling’s immense volume.  

Video Courtesy of RDC.

Founded in 1979, RDC is a full-service, award-winning architecture firm dedicated to making everyday places extraordinary. Practice areas include interior design, branding, hospitality, retail, entertainment, workplace, residential, and procurement. Headquartered in Long Beach, CA, the firm has 160 staff members working in offices located in San Diego CA, Los Angeles CA, Washington DC, Portland OR, Rogers AR, and Shanghai, China. For more information, visit:


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