By B. J. Coleman
Downtown San Diego received cascades of recognition and praise for recent development projects at the San Diego Architectural Foundation’s (SDAF) 42nd annual Orchids & Onions Awards Ceremony on Oct.4. Assembly member Todd Gloria served as emcee during the evening ceremony, sharing award announcements with SDAF presenters handing out 20 awards. The event was held at the U.S. Grant Hotel, which once earned an Orchid award for its historical renovations and restoration.
This program educates and encourages discussion about the built environment in San Diego County, with a special emphasis on engaging members of the public outside the design and architecture industries. The festive, convivial gathering kicked off with mingling, sampling small-bite appetizers from the Grant Hotel kitchen, and imbibing beverages that included the event’s signature vodka-based cocktail garnished with an orchid. The pre-ceremony business mixer also featured a building-hat contest.
A total of 118 nominations were under consideration by this year’s SDAF panel of nine jurors, who judged the nominated projects. The juror panelists, mostly drawn from architecture and design professions, were: Jennifer Ayala, Roxanna Kreisler, Jorge Gracia, Andrew Malick, Amelia Capron, JT Barr, Mary Michaelsen, James E. Watts, and Jason Anderson.
Architect Laura Warner was chairing the Orchids & Onions Awards Ceremony for the first time.
“I am very excited to be chairing this event,” Warner said. “This is about recognizing inspiring design, committing ourselves to the craft, and pushing the information and discussion out to the public. Organizing this event takes a lot of work from many volunteers, but this is definitely worth it to put the effort in.”
Sixteen nominees earned Orchids as winners for outstanding design and construction. Four of the awards were Onions, defined as “missed opportunities” for what might have been superior project implementation.
Downtown San Diego architecture and art garnered fully half, eight of the Orchids. The prized recognition as an Orchid award-winner went to projects the juror panelists found notable for a sense of place relevant to San Diego 2018, “place making” within the existing context, innovations, and benefits to individuals, the community and civic pride.
Juror Mary Michaelsen, a senior interior designer, described some of the criteria for judging among the nominated projects.
“I examine my personal feeling as I approach the space and experience a connection to the space,” Michaelsen said. “And as visiting jurors we have dialogue about what everyone is feeling.”
In the entryway to Downtown, the Pacific Gate statue and surrounding plaza received an Orchid for public art, for its airy structure and multicultural references. The new Superior Court of California, in the heart of Downtown, received an Orchid for architecture recognizing designer/architect Javier Arizmendi. The IDEA 1 Mixed Use Project on Park Boulevard took an Orchid for urban design, acknowledging designer/architect Ben Dalton.
San Diego International Airport’s Terminal 2 Parking Plaza was another Orchid winner for public art, for the outstanding use of the building’s exterior by artist Mark Reigelman. Africa Rocks! at the San Diego Zoo won for landscape architecture, with nods to Quince Farm Studio and ELM Environments.
Projects in Little Italy took home three Orchids. The newly developed Bayside Fire Station #2, from designer/architect Rob Wellington Quigley, won for architecture. Two new restaurants received Orchids for interior design. Those winners were Nolita Hall (from architect/designer Tecture) and Born and Raised Restaurant (by architect/designer Paul Basile/BASILE Studio).
The Orchids & Onions Awards Ceremony is one of four big events staged by the San Diego Architectural Foundation each year.
—B. J. Coleman is a local freelance journalist and editor/staff reporter with 22nd District Legionnaire. B.J. can be reached at email@example.com.