It's no secret San Diego has the best weather. Each month we ask one of our favorite San Diegans:

What else makes this city great?


Pauli Faktor + Jason Smith

Architectural Designers,  X-Pollinate Studio,  Live: North Park
Work: San Diego
How Long: 10 years + 6 years

Where did you grow up?
Pauli: I was born in Odessa, Ukraine, which was still considered the USSR when my family came to the U.S. We briefly lived in Vienna and Rome, eventually settling in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I grew up in a suburb right on Lake Michigan. It was a bit of a culture shock to my parents, coming from this bustling European cosmopolitan city, but I loved growing up a Midwesterner. It was home to me.

Jason: We both grew up around the Great Lakes. I grew up in Grand Rapids, Michigan. I think our Midwestern sensibilities helped spark our friendship when we met in architecture school here in San Diego. Both Milwaukee and Grand Rapids are great post-industrial communities in the midst of an urban revival, so from the urban activist perspective, we’re both very loyal to our hometowns.

What brought you to San Diego?
Pauli: I initially came to San Diego for work in non-profit management after a short stint in NYC. At that time I had already begun to suspect that my scattered inquiries into all humanities — particularly socio-political and art-related subjects — would culminate in the study of architecture and design. So a year into my life in San Diego I made the shift, and spent three years in grad school at the “other” New School, in the “other” East Village.

Jason: I was ready for the next step in my education. I wanted an adventure and a city that was an unknown, with no existing social network. After architecture school at the University of Michigan, I spent a few years working in Ann Arbor, Detroit and Grand Rapids. Then came time to pick a coast.

Besides the weather, why do you continue to call San Diego home?
Pauli: Since launching our design practice last year, we’ve experienced first hand what it means to be creatives in this city. We’ve both been witnessing San Diego changing so rapidly — culturally and professionally — right in front of our eyes, and we feel deeply grateful to play a role in reshaping our community and environment.

Not to mention that on a personal scale, living here for the past decade has allowed me to gather and find my people. I’m now a part of what seem like unbreakable communities: my circle of friends, the yoga and meditation community, and of course the design community. Being a part of them is potent and meaningful to me.

Jason: Both of us are passionate about conducting ourselves and our business in a cross-disciplinary manner. We are interested in more than the aesthetic; we love the political and social implications of design. That’s one of the reasons we are interested in underutilized public space. Pauli’s thesis was all about finding strategies to enable the “re-citizenation” of the urban fabric by designing inhabitable urban installations. Last year she realized her first “alley intervention” in North Park (Editor’s note: the location of URBANIST’s 2017 print guide cover photo). This type of work is precisely what we find so meaningful about operating in San Diego – to actively take part in a dialogue of shaping San Diego and witnessing its evolution.

As far as Southern California is concerned, San Diego has been relatively under-invested. And that’s rapidly changing. It’s full of young, open-minded creatives who are passionate about entrepreneurship and taking chances with new ideas and that’s an ideal environment for us to be establishing a design studio in. We’re acutely aware of how rapid growth can displace people and bring inauthenticity to cities. And as San Diego continues to revitalize its urban core and surrounding neighborhoods, there is constant opportunity for new, intelligent strategies for revitalization to emerge. We’re committed to and excited to take part in it.