Despite its decidedly nonresidential origin, this 1960s modern building—originally the San Diego Blood Bank—proved an inspired subject for conversion to loft apartments. Its central location and elegant structural system set the stage for a successful second act. “It’s an all-concrete building,” says architect David Hawkins, whose design strategy was to expose as much structure as possible on the interior.

Each of the 25 units—targeted to urban professionals—provides 1,000 square feet of living space with 11-foot ceilings and a cleanly designed, linear kitchen. Tinted, low-E glazing spans from floor to ceiling, providing views of the nearby park and skyline while reducing the building’s heat load. The open floor plan allows tenants to define a sleeping area that is either open to the common spaces or separated with room dividers. “It will be interesting to see what people do in there,” Hawkins says.

Our jury said the building’s “classic mid-century style” made it a counterintuitive choice for this type of conversion. “It’s not an industrial building; it’s going from offices to lofts,” one judge said. But the bright, geometrically disciplined interiors and handsome street elevations bear witness to the insight that drove the project. “It has a very Mad Men street view, but it generates a lot of energy for such a buttoned-up façade.”

On Site Adapting the building’s concrete structural elements to serve as interior finishes called for a two-part approach. The slab floors required little more than polishing and sealing. The coffered ceiling, however, had numerous holes left from stripped-out mechanical runs. Patching and sandblasting created a uniform, subtly textured surface overhead.

Learn more about markets featured in this article: San Diego, CA.