WEB EXTRA: Workbook: Restaurant Design: Cannonball Makes a Splash in San Diego

Light fixtures inspired by beach balls are one of the many exuberant touches at Cannonball, a rooftop restaurant by the beach in San Diego. Image courtesy Colkitt&Co.

There is something uniquely American about the beach and backyard culture created here. One look at a striped beach ball or a vinyl pool lounger brings back a flood of memories—lazy days spent at the beach or lifeguarding at the neighborhood pool or cooking up a barbeque as the sun set. For Cannonball, in San Diego at historic Belmont Park, architect Nathan Lee Colkitt, of Colkitt & Co., wanted to translate those memories into a lively new rooftop restaurant. 

The story begins nearly a century ago, when Belmont Park opened, featuring one of the country’s original wooden rollercoasters. A giant pool, fed by the ocean, called the Plunge, also drew crowds. Some boom years along with many bust years followed. With new ownership, though, the park is once again poised to reclaim its place as part of San Diego’s beach culture.  

Enter Colkitt, part of team that included Hollis Brand Culture and onairosdesign, tasked with creating the design concept and transforming a forgotten rooftop into a restaurant with an aquatic feel. “The rooftop was kind of tubbed,” says Colkitt, “and came up on an angle. It feels like a pool, so we said, “What if we did this like a pool?’” It proved to be the perfect idea. The owners, Eat.Drink.Sleep had wanted to do a sushi place, so the fit was ideal.

Nods to the beach and backyard abound. The chairs are vinyl classics, made by the company responsible for the tens of thousands that have dotted pool deck and lawns for years. They’ve been customized, though, with a palette of blues. Pool lane dividers do duty here as accents on the ceiling, adding a dose of color. Pool tiles appear and some of the surfaces have been covered with the same material that lines swimming pools. 

Elsewhere, touches that read more directly beachy come in to play. The roof of the bar features a tile roof that would look right at home along the Pacific Coast Highway. On the floor, self-leveling tiles in shades of blue radiate out and conjure up a sense of light hitting the ocean.

While the choices could have ended up mundane, they instead read as witty and fun. The restaurant, notes Colkitt, “Fits in and feels like it’s timeless.”

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