California Tower at the San Diego Museum of Man: Grand Orchid.
Mike Torrey Architectural Photography California Tower at the San Diego Museum of Man: Grand Orchid.


On Thursday evening, the San Diego Architectural Foundation (SDAF) ranted and raved about the city's built environment at its annual Orchids and Onions awards ceremony, held at the San Diego Museum of Art. The Orchids went to projects in San Diego County that benefit their communities socially, culturally, economically, or aesthetically. An onion, on the other hand, recognizes "something [that] is too ugly or too out of scale, or the style doesn’t fit in with its context," SDAF vice president Craig Howard wrote in an email to ARCHITECT. This year's crop included 12 Orchids and five Onions chosen from a total of 79 finalists.

The iron gate at the Ballast Point: Onion, miscellaneous.
Andy McRory Photography The iron gate at the Ballast Point: Onion, miscellaneous.


This year’s Grand Orchid, or top honor, went to the California Tower at the San Diego Museum of Man, which re-opened to the public this year after spending 80 years out of commission and following a $750,000 renovation by San Francisco–based Architectural Resources Group's Kitty Vieth, AIA. The jury wrote that the historic preservation project "provides a fresh perspective on the city of San Diego and provides an opportunity for more history to be made in this already historic structure." The People’s Choice Orchid went to the Building AZ at Qualcomm Pacific Center Campus, designed by BNIM Architects. Meanwhile, the People’s Choice Onion recognized Theta Chi Fraternity's house at San Diego State University, which the jury called "bulky" and "in awkward juxtaposition to the surrounding community." 

San Ysidro Land Port of Entry, designed by The Miller Hull Partnership: Orchid, architecture.
Darren Bradley Photography San Ysidro Land Port of Entry, designed by The Miller Hull Partnership: Orchid, architecture.

Established as an educational and fundraising program for the nonprofit SDAF to encourage practical discourse about the built environment, the awards recognize San Diego projects completed within the last three years. The public nominates projects that are then evaluated by a jury of professionals in the design and construction industries. Categories include architecture, landscaping, interior design, historic preservation, and miscellaneous, the latter of which includes public art and architectural lighting.


The Patio on Goldfinch, designed by David Michael-Tecture, Phillip Cudaback-Lahaina Architects, Kristen Victor of Sustainability Matters, Bea Arrues, Urbane Boheme, and Dominique Houriet of [oo-d-a] Studio: Orchid, interior design.
Mike Torrey Architectural Photography The Patio on Goldfinch, designed by David Michael-Tecture, Phillip Cudaback-Lahaina Architects, Kristen Victor of Sustainability Matters, Bea Arrues, Urbane Boheme, and Dominique Houriet of [oo-d-a] Studio: Orchid, interior design.

This year’s jury included Carrier Johnson + Culture principal Gordon Carrier, FAIA; Schmidt Design Group principal Glenn Schmidt; RJC Architects principal Janene Christopher, AIA; James Denton Design principal James Denton; sculptor John Oliver Lewis; Hitzke Development Corporation president Ginger Hitzke; La Jolla Historical Society executive director Heath Fox; and San Diego city planner and SDAF member Nick Ferracone.

Check out some of this year's Orchids and Onions below.

Smarts Farm, designed by Humane Smarts: Orchid, miscellaneous.
Mike Torrey Architectural Photography Smarts Farm, designed by Humane Smarts: Orchid, miscellaneous.
The Quad, designed by Safdie Rabines Architects: Orchid, architecture.
Mike Torrey Architectural Photography The Quad, designed by Safdie Rabines Architects: Orchid, architecture.
Kettner Exchange, designed by Bluemotif Architecture, [oo-d-a] Studio, and Tecture: Orchid, architecture.
Andy McRory Photography Kettner Exchange, designed by Bluemotif Architecture, [oo-d-a] Studio, and Tecture: Orchid, architecture.
Pier South Resort, designed by Durrall Design Consultants and Deutsch Architects: Onion, architecture.
Andy McRory Photography Pier South Resort, designed by Durrall Design Consultants and Deutsch Architects: Onion, architecture.
Quartyard, designed by RAD Lab: Orchid, miscellaneous.
Darren Bradley Photography Quartyard, designed by RAD Lab: Orchid, miscellaneous.
J. Craig Venter Institute, designed by ZGF Architects: Orchid, architecture.
Darren Bradley Photography J. Craig Venter Institute, designed by ZGF Architects: Orchid, architecture.
Underbelly, designed by Basile Studio: Orchid, interior design.
Darren Bradley Photography Underbelly, designed by Basile Studio: Orchid, interior design.
Townhomes on Lincoln Avenue, designed by Abe Toussi: Onion, architecture
Darren Bradley Photography Townhomes on Lincoln Avenue, designed by Abe Toussi: Onion, architecture
San Diego Mesa College Math + Science Complex with landscape design by Wimmer Yamada and Caughey: Orchid, landscape architecture.
Andy McRory Photography San Diego Mesa College Math + Science Complex with landscape design by Wimmer Yamada and Caughey: Orchid, landscape architecture.

Sofia Lofts, designed by Soheil Nakhshab: Orchid, architecture.
Darren Bradley Sofia Lofts, designed by Soheil Nakhshab: Orchid, architecture.


Note: This post has been updated to correct that the People's Choice Onion went to Theta Chi Fraternity, not the demolition of downtown buildings, as previously stated.