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Best of 2022

Location: San Diego

Architect: Tucker Sadler

Installer/Contractor: Primary Glazing

System: KLA Translucent Cladding System

Square Feet: Approx. 5,500 sq. ft.

For the San Diego Symphony and its many fans, The Rady Shell is more than just a stage. It is the realization of a long-held dream for a permanent outdoor venue where local music lovers and travelers can come together to enjoy all kinds of melodic sights and sounds. With downtown San Diego on one side and the bay on the other, the revitalized Rady Shell at Jacobs Park blends the city’s urban beat with the bay’s natural rhythms to create a masterful composition of art and architecture. The influence of the park’s natural surroundings on the venue’s design - from the dramatic shell-shaped stage to the gentle wavelike pavilions - is one of many unique elements that make the San Diego Symphony’s first and only permanent outdoor performance center a one-of-a-kind musical experience.

The Design Process



In addition to enhancing the Rady Shell’s staging and seating areas, a large focus was placed on expanding the park’s public amenities. This included the construction of a beautiful new ticket booth and two coordinating concessions buildings where a variety of food options are prepared and served onsite. Concertgoers can now enjoy a delectable meal prepared by some of San Diego’s most recognizable chefs and eateries such as “Top Chef” star Richard Blais, Lola 55, Biga, Urban Kitchen Group, and Kitchens for Good. These additions elevate the symphony experience while their unique facades complement the venue’s artistry and pay homage to the bay’s natural environment.

It was important to project designers at Tucker Sadler that park and concertgoers utilizing these new structures still feel surrounded by nature. To conserve that feeling and commemorate the trees that were removed from the site during construction, designers photographed the trees; and in collaboration with Kingspan Light & Air, transformed those photos into large graphics. Those graphics were then applied to the ticket booth and concessions buildings’ translucent exteriors.

“You are actually looking at the trees on the building that used to be in the park. You are still sitting in between those trees, and it’s a kind of celebration of what was there before, but in a new modern expression” says Sal Villanueva, the project’s architect.

The graphics create compelling imagery that can be enjoyed both day and night. During the day, the trees appear like shadows on the buildings. At night, light from inside shines through the translucent wall systems to make it look as though there is moonlight gleaming through the trees. “We wanted to seek out a material that would allow us to create that image on our pavilions”, says Villanueva. That is why he chose KLA’s translucent cladding system.

With concealed aluminum support and the ability to span large distances with minimal horizontal support structure, the translucent cladding system offers a sleek, continuous aesthetic ideal for applying graphics. Horizontal structure may appear as shadowy lines from the outside, preventing a clean image, and may also interrupt the transmission of light, resulting in dark spots and ruining the backlighting effect. The translucent wall systems featured on the park’s ticket booth and concessions buildings, however, are able to span up to 15 feet with no disruptions. The corners of the new buildings are also rounded out with a polycarbonate corner condition that reduces the amount of visible metal for an even smoother appearance. The result is a captivating aesthetic that harmonizes the park’s built environment with the bayside’s natural landscape.

While the ticket booth features a double-panel translucent assembly that acts as a wall, the two concessions buildings utilize single-panel assemblies with a wall on the inside and light fixtures in-between to create a light box effect. Though these systems are different and serve a different purpose, they appear identical from the exterior. This allows the architect to maintain a uniform appearance through all three buildings.

In the end, Tucker Sadler Architects was able to blend the striking natural surroundings of Southern California with a lightness and artistry that fits with the park’s performance focus. If you’d like to see more examples of how Kingspan Light + Air’s daylighting systems can fit into your project’s design goals, please visit

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