With its space-ship-shape and rich history, the Brixton Headquarters building is iconic in San Diego’s coastal north county. On a mission to bring this beauty back to life, Brixton Capital retained ID Studios to consult on its design transformation, both inside and out. Researching the building’s history, we quickly discovered that its story is as interesting as its unique shape.
The building currently located at 120 South Sierra Avenue, started as the Solana Theater in the 1930s with its main entry, and address, on South Acacia Ave. It was built by Smith Construction which was run by Dorthea Smith and her husband Milton Smith who built several landmarks in Solana Beach.
The earliest reference to the theater we found was in Seabiscuit, An American Legend by Laura Hillenbrand. In the book, she recalls a famous 1938 horse race, Seabiscuit vs Ligaroti, which was reportedly replayed at the theater after being run on the nearby Del Mar Racetrack.
The theater stayed in business for decades and is often recalled in the Facebook Group, “You Might Be From Solana Beach If…”
Long-time locals remember long lines that would wind along South Sierra and into the Plaza on “kids mornings,” when the theatre would play 25 cartoons and a short feature — and no parents were allowed. “A theatre full of popcorn eating (and popcorn throwing) kids and no parents hollering ‘no.’ It was utter joy,” recalls Society programs chair, Carol Childs.
In the late 1970s, business at the theater waned after Flower Hill Mall Theater opened two miles away. When the Solana Beach Theater closed, a family took advantage of a then-current trend and opened “Organ Power Pizza Parlor.” They purchased and moved a historic organ built by famed organ builder Robert Morton onto the theater’s stage.
The building started its next life when it was converted to office space. In the ’80s, after a leveraged buyout of The Chart House, executives chose the historic theater for their new headquarters. They hired Architect Joe Lancor, who added the curved roof and nautilus shell shape now prominently featured as the entrance.
After Chart House moved its headquarters to Chicago in 1997, the building continued its corporate identity, housing various companies. Brixton purchased the property in 2016 with the intent to modernize it for its Corporate Headquarters. Brixton Chief Executive Officer Travis King said Brixton wanted its offices to reflect the “hardworking, get it done East Coast/New York mentality combined with the laid-back vibe of San Diego.”
ID Studios brought those ideas together with an open-concept design, maximizing the coastal views of Fletcher Cove bringing their “vibe” to the interior. We knew that the almost windowless wall that previously housed the large movie screen hid a stunning view of Fletcher Cove. The design team relocated restrooms and other core services, then pierced the wall with a line of windows to create access to fresh air for occupants, along with the coastal views.
The renovation also features a new stairway in the circular theme of the nautilus-shaped entrance. With office space on the two upper floors, the basement was converted into a fitness area with a jiu-jitsu studio, showers, and surfboard storage. Separate access to the fitness studios from Fletcher Cove Park and the beach minimizes sand being tracked into the office.