Prominent Local Architect Dies From Assault Injuries
Many in the design and sports communities are mourning the loss of local architect and rugby player Graham Downes.
He died Sunday from injuries suffered during an alleged assault at his home on Friday morning at about 1 a.m. Police have arrested one of Downes' employees, Higinio Soriano Salgado, on suspicion of fatally beating his employer. Police say they do not yet have a clear motive.
Downes, who was 56, was known for his passionate approach to work and play.
He was a big man — 6 feet, 2 inches and 245 lbs. Some say he walked into a room and immediately commanded attention.
Downes came to San Diego from South Africa. He built a successful architecture firm from scratch, landing high-profile projects like the Hard Rock Hotel and Tower 23 in Pacific Beach.
Downes was also known for his vision. He turned old warehouses in once blighted areas, like Barrio Logan and the East Village, into mixed-use live/work spaces.
Leslee Schaffer, executive director of the San Diego Architectural Foundation, said Downes worked and traveled all over the world.
"I think that his international exposure was something he brought back to San Diego," said Schaffer. "That helped create a greater vision for San Diego."
Downes also had an international reputation as a rugby player. Jon Hinkin knew Downes for 23 years and played rugby with him.
"He was one of the best in the world at his position. To have that kind of talent land in your hometown was pretty phenomenal." said Hinkin.
Downes helped lead the Old Mission Bay Athletic Club to several national rugby championships. He played for the U.S. national team and in 1991 was a member of the U.S. World Cup team. His friends and teammates called him "Basher."
Downes had more than 4,500 friends on Facebook. Now, his page is filled with remembrances and testimonies to his larger-than-life personality.
Downes' architecture firm, Graham Downes Architecture, sent out a press release announcing his death. It ended this way: “Downes is survived by everyone who ever knew him, because if you did, you’d surely remember him.”