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New book highlights beloved places in San Diego and Tijuana

 July 3, 2024 at 2:00 PM PDT

S1: Welcome. In San Diego , it's Jade Hindman. On today's show , we're talking about some of the beloved spaces in the region and how you can go visit for free. This is KPBS Midday Edition. Connecting our communities through conversation. Think about your favorite public space. Maybe it's the Imperial Beach Pier or your local skate park. Whether it's an architectural landmark or a low key hangout spot. A new photo book , Places We Love , celebrates those free , accessible spaces and why they're so important to our region. Megan Groth is the author. She's also an architect who grew up here in San Diego , and she joins me now to talk about the book. Megan , welcome to midday. Great.

S2: Thank you so much for having me. Glad to have you here.

S1: So places we love spotlights many favorite places in the San Diego Tijuana region and specifically free outdoor spaces , which I really love.

S2: So you're right , the majority are outdoors. But I made sure to include some , you know , as an architect , as you said , include some really great indoor spaces as well. The goal is free and publicly accessible because that's what builds community. I mean , that's what we need , right ? Um , you know , where do we like to hang out ? Where do we take our friends when they come to visit ? Where do we go with our grandparents , you know , where are the places either in our communities or in the larger , you know , San Diego County and Tijuana region where we spend time together. And that's very important. I think the critical component is that is free. You don't have to pay money for it. And that that is really important.

S1: Yeah , I mean , accessibility is huge.

S2: So in 2012 , Helsinki , the capital of Finland , was the world design capital. And I happen to have been there studying architecture the year before. So I kind of saw the world design capital thing happening , and in particular how the city of Helsinki was restructuring their design and development in the public sector to kind of use that as an opportunity to kind of rethink design in the city. And so I was there and I picked up a very similar book about kind of culture and outdoor space and very cheeky little kind of paperback book about Helsinki. And I already loved Helsinki , so it was a natural and I fell in love with this book. And then fast forward many years , I was coming back from London in 2018 with my family , and I opened up my box of everything I'd stored , and I found the book again and I thought , oh my gosh , how great would this be to have this in San Diego , right ? And so I did some research and , you know , the Architecture Guidebook to San Diego was written in 2002. So we really hadn't had anything like this since then. So of course the pandemic happened , but , you know , so everything got put on hold. But when we were announced that we San Diego , Tijuana was the world design capital , I brought it back out and I reached out to a graphic design friend of mine , Stacy Edelstein at Raygun. And I said , I think I want to do this. Let's do this. She's like , great. And so we started the process.

S1: And , you know , several of the chapters of the book hone in on a particular area.

S2: Tijuana. It is for the region. It's not for San Diego , it's not for Tijuana. It is the region. I also think because that , you know , the region , we , whether or not we understand it each individually and how our lives are affected and our built environment is affected , it's our region is affects the built environment , basically. I know there's a better way to say that , but everything that happens in Tijuana affects San Diego. Everything happens in San Diego , affects Tijuana , whether it's an environmental issue , a housing issue , a cultural issue , food , language , Music. We are one whole region. And so I saw this as a really interesting opportunity to dive into that a bit more and also get rid of that boundary , blur the boundary. So the book is a bilingual. It's in Spanish and English simultaneously. Um , we don't have any sort of hard borders in the book. So there's an introductory essay to San Diego. There's an introductory essay to Tijuana written by Charlene Sincero. So amazing architect in Tijuana and urbanist. Both of the essays are at the front of the book , so that the book , as you said , you know , is a seamless kind of presentation of the region as a whole. And the photography likewise is presented so that there's not a different filter to Tijuana. You know , I love that Steven Soderbergh movie traffic , but you know , how he achieved it was through these gel colors , right ? And the goal was not to have the different regions look differently. Right.

S1: Right. That's great. And images , you know , they are , as you mentioned , a big part of this book. Tell us about some of the photographers you feature in the book. Why did you want to work with them , and what are some of their approaches to capturing these photos ? Yeah.

S2: So I mean , that I think is the real triumph of this book. Right ? So , you know , had the idea , had the amazing graphic design team , and then the goal was , you know , who is going to photograph this book ? Um , and , you know , the book was produced in ten months , so and there's 140 places that are featured. So there's just a volume of people that we had , you know , that we needed to work with. Um , and through Stacy and through various other photographers that I got in touch with , I was able to kind of find all of these amazing people , or they found me who wanted to contribute to this book and the generosity and the creativity and just the I mean , just professionalism of the photography and the photographer community in San Diego and Tijuana is incredible. And I just feel really fortunate that we got to work with over 20 photographers. Um , some work in digital , some work in film. The goal was to mix them across. I'd say about a third of the book is from a photographers archives that were already kind of taken , which was we're very fortunate. And the other two thirds were specifically asked for for the book. So the photographic brief was to center people in these places and not , you know , for example , the classic architectural photograph without any , any humans in it. You know , it's very much about , you know , places people love. What are people doing in these places and making sure that we really show a wide variety of people. So families , younger people , older people , people from all different parts of San Diego as well , interacting with these places. And I think the photographs are phenomenal. And it was such a fun and interesting collaborative project.

S1: All right. Well , you know , I think it's it's also interesting because when it comes to art and culture , I think San Diego has this reputation for not having the talent of , you know , say like Los Angeles.

S2: We've got incredible talent here. And I think that , you know , that is something that this showed me because , you know , as you said , you know , I come from the architecture community and that is a very specific and professional community that we can talk about in more detail another time. Um , and so this was kind of my first introduction to the graphic design and the photography community in our area , and it has been incredible. It is incredible. And the work that everyone is doing is great. I'll also say , you know , as someone who is self distributing this as well , you know , when I was in London , I worked on a book for Fight In when I was at the London School of Economics. And , you know , that's a very different kind of experience. So this was all , you know , done myself , you know , funded myself. And I'm now distributing myself. I would like to give a really big thank you to all the institutions whose shops are covering and supporting this book and , and provided selling this book , basically. I think that has been such a wonderful collaborative process as well. The San Diego Museum of Art was the first shop that said , yeah , we want this book. We're so excited for you. How can we help you ? And so I think , you know , in our region , not only do we have a lot of talent that's doing amazing work , but we've got these institutions that are really supporting local creatives , and I think that's just an incredible thing. We're really fortunate. Absolutely.

S1: Absolutely.

S2: I will say , you know , back to the collaborative aspect of this. So I came into the project with a shortlist , um , of , you know , these are the places I want , I would like that are important to me as an architect and an urbanist and a parent to cover. But many of the places in the book were were recommended to us through people in the community , basically. So a lot of the Tijuana locations were recommended through this amazing Facebook group called Building Tijuana. Have a look at it. And that's kind of a group of architects and urbanists who's who , you know , answered the call and said , yes , these are the places. And likewise in San Diego , we had a Google documents that we sent around , and we tried to really , you know , we're trying to represent the county and the entire region as a whole. So being very conscious of trying to have places everywhere represented in terms of my own favorite , you know , I think Waterfront Park is the one I like to talk about because , you know , that was a parking lot. You know , it was a parking lot for the county administration building and the county administration building. If you haven't gotten married recently and had to go there for your marriage license is a fantastic piece of public architecture. I mean , talk about a really you know , San Diego is not a city known for our civic architecture. And I think the county administration building , in addition to , of course , our new central library , are two brilliant examples of that. And so to have , you know , the former parking lot for that building then turned into this incredible public park where , you know , you can actually touch the water , you know , be on the waterfront touching the water. And , you know , that's such a rare thing , and especially in cities around the world that are transitioning from industrial waterfronts and the people that you see in Waterfront Park , it really is used by members , people from throughout San Diego. So I really think that that's an extraordinary space.

S1: This is KPBS Midday Edition. We're back after the break. Welcome back to KPBS Midday Edition. I'm Jade Hindman. We're talking about a new book , Places We Love. It highlights the spaces that are free and accessible within our binational region. I can imagine this book being used as a guide book. Is that something you thought of while writing it ? Yeah.

S2: So that's exactly right. You know , I kind of pitch it as this is a , you know , beautiful guidebook. It's paperback , you can put it in your pocket or maybe a large pocket , your purse and take it with you and use it , you know , both tourists and locals to use it and to enjoy it. It's also , quite honestly , a piece of advocacy for creating better funding for public spaces throughout our region , and also for looking into design processes to create the best quality built environment that we can for everyone as well. So it is a guidebook , but it's also kind of a sneaky form of urban advocacy.

S1: I mean , if you can just tell me a bit about like , you know , why these spaces are just so important for communities to thrive and for people to thrive ? Absolutely.

S2: I think especially now as we talk about housing. Right. And we talk about units of housing. And that's also always how it's presented , right ? Numbers , numbers and spreadsheets. But that is not what makes a community. And that's not what makes a strong community really. And it is these public spaces where you interact with people who you don't know and are not from. You know , where you are from. They're not they don't may not look like you. They may not have the same values as you. It doesn't really matter , but you're mixing in these spaces and that is very important for creating , you know , an informed kind of , you know , public , but also , you know , engendering feelings of civic responsibility and for developing stronger communities outside of individual communities , perhaps , but kind of a larger kind of sense of community. Yeah.

S1: Yeah. And earlier you mentioned San Diego and Tijuana being named the World Design Capital for 2024 , and how that also helped inspire this book.

S2: And actually ours is the first region , but it's given to a city every two years around the world. And what it means , you know , there are some requirements. And there there's a great team that is working in Tijuana and in San Diego right now , the WWDC team to produce events and all sorts of things for this year. So there's a lot going on. So please check out their website. It's been quite impressive. But really , you know , it is an opportunity for cities to use it any way that they want. And they can I guess just what to say , you know , is really. So when I was in Helsinki , you know , the Helsinki World Design Year , capital year was heavily funded by the state and by the city , and they use it as a platform to totally rethink development , like I said , especially certain neighborhoods , downtown neighborhoods. And so , you know , that was one opportunity. And that is something that I have seen , you know , and so it really depends on the city , quite honestly. Yeah.

S3: Yeah. Yeah.

S1: Well , it sounds like you'll be featuring the book at Design Week later this year. Can you tell us more about that ? Yeah.


S2: So we are on September 13th. So it's part of the World Design Capital. There's a pavilion that is built. And so this year's pavilion is built first in San Diego in front of the San Diego Museum of Art , and they'll be moved to Tijuana , I believe in front of scoot. And and it's designed by the architects at Helio. It's very cool , very exciting. And that will be a place where there'll be , uh , free public conversations about design. And so we are hosting one on September 13th. It's a panel discussion involving some architects and landscape architects of recent projects in Tijuana and San Diego. And we'll be having a discussion about not just the work that they have done , but , um , the design process and working in the public sector and the public sphere. And also just how do we want our public spaces to be designed moving forward ? Great.


S2: Com and that has the full list because we're adding more books and bookstores as we go. But you can find it as the book Catapult in South Park , joyride at the New Children's Museum in Balboa Park at the MinGW DMA and Mopar , and the visitor Center downtown at the library shop and then Art Alexia in North Park , the Visions Museum of Textile Art and Liberty Station , the Museum of Contemporary Art in La Jolla , and the Oceanside Museum of Art. And if you're in Tijuana. Laura at Matisse's studio has been absolutely amazing and is carrying the book.

S1: Oh , great. And of course , we will list those locations on our website , KPBS. Org.


S2: I learn ? That is.

S4: A great. Question.

S2: Question. You know , I , like you said I grew up here and I thought , I , I thought I had a pretty good handle on San Diego , Tijuana history and , you know , and then when you start doing this kind of research and you start writing about it and you start really piecing things together , you realize there's so much that we don't know. And especially growing up here in so much I did not learn in school. And so it has been a very interesting educational experience , I will say , in terms of the relationship between Tijuana and San Diego , how they have informed the growth of each one , I think has been very interesting. I think particularly , you know , about the hotel del Coronado. You know , the hotel del Coronado has been in various financial situations throughout its history , and it was basically saved by the growth of Tijuana as a destination for tourism , you know , and one Tijuana was growing that supported that basically got Hotel Del out of a , you know , a Dire Straits. And so I think that back and forth relationship , um , you know , throughout history has been very interesting. I had a kind of a little bit of understanding , but as you read more about these places and the people and the characters who have been involved in developing them , it starts to create a very rich and interesting and complex picture.

S1: I've been speaking with Megan Groth about her new book , Places We Love. And Megan , thank you so much for joining us.

S2: Oh , thank you so much for having me.

S1: That's our show for today. I'm your host , Jade Hindman. Thanks for tuning in to Midday Edition. Be sure to have a great day on purpose , everyone.

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Author Megan Groth pictured with her book "Places We Love"
Photos courtesy of the author
Author Megan Groth and her book, "Places We Love," are pictured side by side.

Think about your favorite public space in San Diego. Maybe it’s the Imperial Beach Pier or your local skate park. Or, perhaps, your favorite space is across the border in Tijuana.

A new photo book titled “Places We Love” celebrates free and accessible spaces in the San Diego Tijuana region. On Midday Edition Wednesday, we speak with the author about the book and why the featured places are important to our region. 


Megan Groth, author and architect