Three Master of Architecture students put together a proposal for an urban park in downtown San Diego. The hipster type with a dog park, biergarten, concert venue, etc. Coming out of school, they decided to give themselves six-months to get it built. They raised $60,000 on Kickstarter in the first 30 days. This showed the city and private investors that the community was serious about having such a place in their city. The city had previously repossessed property around downtown that was going unused while waiting for larger developments to be designed and permitted. RAD LAB convinced the city to lease them the land during the interim 2-years period. RAD LAB then went to investors to raise funds and build out the temporary project, which was a huge success in the city. It took a lot of hustle and collaboration between the City of San Diego and private investors that Architect & Developer RAD LAB mediated.

I sat down with Philip Auchettl of RAD LAB who discussed his experience. “We were going to be a placeholder for future development. We used shipping containers so we could pick everything up and move it to a new location. That way we could reactivate somewhere else when it came time to move. That was when people started to get excited. I think it made people in the community more open to the idea of it. Anything that is temporary, people seem willing to give it a go. Anytime people want to build a brick-and-mortar thing people line up with their pitchforks.”5
RAD LAB was able to limit their initial costs by having each tenant purchase the container and pay for the renovation using RAD LAB’s design. The tenant would then pay RAD LAB for the lease of the space, and they would turn around and pay the city. At the same time, they would organize events, art shows, farmer’s markets, etc. to bring in more people to the project and curate a public space.

Visit ( and read more from my interview with CEO Philip Auchettl and see more articles about RAD LAB {here}. See how they put Quartyard together from a thesis project to a real asset to San Diego at the video below:

Presented by LinkedIn Learning Solutions.


The concept for the Quartyard evolved from the team’s thesis studies while graduate students at the NewSchool of Architecture and Design. The project was conceived relative to the realization that, due to the economic downturn, a large amount of city-owned land remained vacant and not ready to be developed. The chosen lot is located in San Diego’s East Village on the block of Park and Market Street which has been empty for a number of years, gathering nothing but trash, blight, and vagrancy. The RAD LAB team has adopted the challenge to temporarily occupy the space with: retail, restaurants, art galleries, garden, and community-based uses that provide an urban park with a sense of place.

The project employs recycled and retrofitted shipping containers that act as the core building blocks of the project and will serve as a temporary placeholder for future permanent development. This temporary project will serve as the city’s courtyard, allowing an underused lot to quickly become a vibrant focal point the residents can be proud of.

Quartyard host a coffee shop, an outdoor eatery, onsite management, art galleries, farmers/craft markets, an outdoor beer garden, and rotating daily food trucks. Open 7 days a week the plaza space will offer art & fashion shows, film festivals, educational events, craft & farmers markets, and host public and private events. The park will be open for every day social gatherings ranging from local beer tasting events to fundraising events and pet adoptions and so much more.

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