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4 Cool Reasons to Get Excited About Orchids & Onions 2020

As SDAF’s flagship gala of the year approaches on October 1, we can’t help but feel a tad bit stoked about it. After all, Orchids & Onions 2020 is a San Diego tradition 44 years in the making, and we have yet to meet an O&O we didn’t like. Even …

As SDAF’s flagship gala of the year approaches on October 1, we can’t help but feel a tad bit stoked about it. After all, Orchids & Onions 2020 is a San Diego tradition 44 years in the making, and we have yet to meet an O&O we didn’t like. Even with all of the epic moments of Orchids & Onions past — Chippendale dancers, memorable upsets, San Diego luminaries (we’re looking at you, Todd Gloria) — this year’s gala holds a special place in O&O history. That’s because it’s our first all-virtual event, of course. And the first time it’s been free for SDAF members.

But there’s a lot more than that to make Orchids & Onions 2020 one of our most legendary.  Here are 4 things to love about this year’s gala.

Teen Jury. This is definitely the year of “O&O firsts,” and the teen jury, called “Teen Vote” is right up there with the best of them. Orchids & Onions always has given the public a chance to have a voice in shaping San Diego’s built environment. At long last, Teen Vote gives local youth a say in it as well. In collaboration with A Reason to Survive (ARTS), we assembled a teen jury and asked them to cast their votes on the very same shortlist our main jury deliberated on. To find out if the teen jury and main jury saw eye to eye, register for the virtual gala on Oct. 1 at www.orchidsandonions.org/tickets!

Making a Difference. Over the summer, SDAF expressed a desire to do more to promote racial equity. Backing our commitment with action, we are collaborating with the San Diego Chapter of the National Organization of Minority Architects (SDNOMA) to create a new scholarship for a minority student interested in pursuing an architectural career. You can support the effort, too! It’s as easy as attending this year’s Orchids & Onions gala and participating in our fundraising drive that night. Every donation will help bring about more racial equity in a profession that really needs it. Read more.

People’s Choice Voting Will Be Live. In 2020, there are five finalists for the People’s Choice Orchid and Onion — three short-listed Orchids and two short-listed Onions. Projects were shortlisted based on those receiving the most comments, likes and shares across SDAF’s social media channels and nomination pages. For the first time, attendees of the virtual awards gala will be able to vote on the final Orchid and Onion People’s Choice winners during the event on Oct. 1 By attending, you can play a part in choosing your favorite. Check out the shortlist here and get ready to vote for your top picks on Oct. 1!

A cool virtual cocktail demo. There are just two days left to order your Orchids & Onions food and drink kits, so better get on it! By purchasing your kits by the deadline, Sept. 25, not only will you be supporting small local businesses, you’ll also be opening the door to a fun time.  At 6:30 p.m. on Oct. 1, Snake Oil Cocktail Co. mixologist Frankie Thaheld kicks off O&O by leading us in a demo of the night’s signature cocktails.

With pre-ordered kits in hand, attendees will learn how to make two signature cocktails: an Orchid (vodka or bourbon, smashed blueberry, dried lavender, pressed lemon, cane sugar, club soda) and an Onion (vodka or bourbon, tomato water, muddled green onion, sea salt, honey, pressed lemon). Buy your kit here to be part of the fun!

There’s a lot more where this came from, too! We have other surprises in store that you won’t want to miss. Register for Orchids & Onions 2020 today! We look forward to seeing you there!

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With the Help of a New Fundraising Platform, Supporting SDAF is Easier and More Fun

At Every.org, the mission is to bring nonprofits and donors together in a joyful nonprofit experience. That means uniting users and charities through top-tier fundraising technology to drive a nonprofit’s success. In partnering with the Every.org fundraising platform to host Orchids & Onions 2020, SDAF is supporting a fellow nonprofit, …

At Every.org, the mission is to bring nonprofits and donors together in a joyful nonprofit experience. That means uniting users and charities through top-tier fundraising technology to drive a nonprofit’s success.

In partnering with the Every.org fundraising platform to host Orchids & Onions 2020, SDAF is supporting a fellow nonprofit, and they’re supporting us. Because when you register for Orchids & Onions on the Every.org site, you can donate to SDAF at the same time, supporting us in our mission to inspire San Diegans to discover the value of thoughtful design in the built environment.

“We wanted to create an experience that was easy and fun for donors and still gave nonprofits what they need,” says Rahul Gupta-Iwasaki, co-founder of Every.org. “Every donation can create a ripple effect. By making their donations visible to the public on the Every.org website, donors are making a public statement of support for organizations like SDAF and inspiring others to give to the cause. They’re sharing their voice, and that drives more donations, and ultimately, more trust for the nonprofit.”

By using Every.org to register guests for Orchids & Onions 2020, SDAF is introducing registrants to a positive, interactive experience that lets them engage with other users, get excited about the gala, and donate to SDAF at a challenging time for charities and small businesses.

The Every.org team

In 2020, Orchids & Onions is going virtual for the first time, and it promises to be a fun, interactive gala that engages our audience in new, exciting ways. In other “firsts,” attendees at the Oct. 1 gala will vote on the People’s Choice Orchid and Onion awards live at the event. SDAF also is using its 44th annual gala to help fund  our new collaboration with SDNOMA — a scholarship for a minority student interested in an architectural career. By attending Orchids & Onions 2020, guests will be able donate to the scholarship drive in real time while the event is happening.

“It’s really fantastic that SDAF is seizing the moment and the greater awareness around the racial inequities that have existed in our society for so long to create positive change in the architectural space by partnering with SDNOMA,” Gupta-Iwasaki says. “As an organization that values equity and inclusion ourselves, Every.org is proud to play a role in promoting the cause.”

You can play a role, too, by joining SDAF for Orchids & Onions 2020! Register today for our most vital fundraiser of the year. With your support, together we can inspire San Diegans to see the value in the built environment, and create a more equitable world.

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New Scholarship Will Promote Diversity in Architecture

After George Floyd’s death and the protests against police brutality that followed, the San Diego Architectural Foundation (SDAF) expressed its support for the Black Lives Matter movement and a desire to do more to support diversity in architecture. As a first step toward bringing those commitments to life, SDAF is …

After George Floyd’s death and the protests against police brutality that followed, the San Diego Architectural Foundation (SDAF) expressed its support for the Black Lives Matter movement and a desire to do more to support diversity in architecture.

As a first step toward bringing those commitments to life, SDAF is collaborating with the currently forming San Diego chapter of the National Organization of Minority Architects (SDNOMA) to create a scholarship for a minority architectural student. SDAF’s Orchids & Onions event, coming up on Oct. 1, will give attendees the opportunity to participate in a live fundraising drive to support the new scholarship fund.

Michael Robinson AIA, NCARB

In celebration of the collaboration, we interviewed Michael D. Robinson, AIA, NCARB, an architect of African-American descent and future president of the SDNOMA Board of Directors. Robinson, principal at Robi4 Architecture & Planning, is licensed as an architect in California and Tennessee and serves on the AIA San Diego Board of Directors. Here’s what he had to say about SDNOMA’s goals in San Diego, the scholarship’s importance and partnering with Orchids & Onions 2020.

NOMA’s San Diego chapter initiated its launch in July of 2020.  What does the chapter aspire to achieve here? SDNOMA aspires to provide an opportunity for minority architects to be recognized so that people know we are here and that we exist. It’s especially important for children and students pursuing a career in architecture to see people who look like them. When they feel represented in this career field, they believe they can achieve success within it. When they see someone who looks like them — someone they can emulate — it puts their dreams within reach.

Another one of our objectives is to identify designers who want to network and join together to create change. We advocate for increased fellowship, inclusivity, diversity, equity, and excellence in design. Typically, we would do that in person, but during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic we will interact in a virtual environment. We will also seek to engage with prospective students, whom we hope to mentor, in fun virtual exercises.

What are some of the early initiatives SDNOMA is championing? One of our early initiatives is our “Project Pipeline” program, which we’ll begin by working with middle school students. The aim of this program is to empower youth in middle and high school to affect change in their communities through design. Students will use the city as their classroom and connect with professional designers and planners in San Diego.

What do you want people to know about the new scholarship? The merit-based scholarship will support one minority student, a graduating high school senior beginning their first year of architectural studies. It’s really exciting that Orchids & Onions attendees will have the opportunity to donate to it, as the scholarship will be a first for SDNOMA. In addition to financial support, we will maintain contact with the scholarship recipient — a form of community support that will help to provide a pathway to the student’s success.

Why is Orchids & Onions a good forum for unveiling the scholarship? Orchids & Onions is an exceptional event, and we’re very proud that SDAF and its flagship program would consider partnering with us in this way. Orchids & Onions sets the benchmark for high-quality design in San Diego. Linking the SDNOMA scholarship to the gala is a great way to bring diversity to SDAF’s signature event. I think it sends the message that the architectural landscape here is shifting, and that’s a wonderful thing to see. It also aligns well with our mission to inspire youth. Ideally, we’ll be able to maintain a relationship with Orchids & Onions while partnering with other SDAF programs in the future.

Robi4 Architecture and Planning provided architectural services for the Pinch District Pedestrian Bridge in Memphis, Tenn., which has not yet been built.

What are some of the challenges minority architects face in the industry? Architecture is a predominantly male and predominantly white profession. If you look at the demographic breakdowns of licensed architects in the U.S., 20 percent identify as female; 1 to 2 percent identify as African-American; and 0.3 percent identify as African-American women — a double minority. People of color remain challenged in securing and creating opportunities to gain the skills necessary not only to work in a firm, but also to become licensed as architects practicing under their own tutelage.

Self-actualization should be the goal. Minorities remain short of role models. So, if you can bring together professionals who can impact youth as role models and mentors, it can give them the guidance and influence they need to realize their goals. A built-in mentorship program also can help challenge them in the ways they need to grow and sustain an architectural career.

How will this scholarship help them meet those challenges?  Our primary goal is to inspire youth and to work with them however we can. We believe this scholarship will be an excellent step in that direction. The scholarship aligns closely with NOMA’s mission to empower local chapters to foster justice and equity in communities of color through outreach, community advocacy, professional development, and design excellence. It will be an excellent way to jump-start our efforts in San Diego, to help foster a social infrastructure that meets the needs of everyone in our community, regardless of race.

Learn more about SDAF’s exciting new collaboration with SDNOMA in our press release.

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The SDAF Volunteer Whose Heart Beats for a Border Town

Carolina Salgado loves building community, whether she’s south of the border or north of it.  On a Tijuana hilltop with one road in and one road out, Carolina Salgado spent the fabled days of her youth. It was the kind of idyllic upbringing where kids played in the street and …

  • Carolina Salgado loves building community, whether she’s south of the border or north of it. 

On a Tijuana hilltop with one road in and one road out, Carolina Salgado spent the fabled days of her youth. It was the kind of idyllic upbringing where kids played in the street and biked around the neighborhood. Where grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles lived just blocks away. Where everyone knew everyone.

The small Mexican community had one main street, one park, “one of everything, basically,” Salgado says. “Once you were up there, you didn’t need to go down for anything else.”

The soft-spoken Salgado, the daughter of an architect, developed a love of design early, thanks to her father’s influence. Girlhood memories of shadowing her dad at construction sites and translating for him during client meetings instilled in her an interest in architecture that never left.

Carolina Salgado

As San Diego’s first-ever Design Week approaches Sept. 9-13, Salgado’s desire to use architecture to build thriving communities reminds us how impactful design can be. What’s more, her longtime support of the San Diego Architectural Foundation (SDAF) as a dedicated volunteer shows that building community often unfolds deliberately — one small step at a time.

 

Forging Her Own Path, Building Community on the Job

Salgado’s walk in the footsteps her her father, Gustavo, began at the University of San Francisco, where she earned a degree in architecture with a focus on community design. Today, she works as a designer and project manager at a small San Diego design/build firm, where she designs residential models and savors the opportunity to learn along the way.

“I love the evolution of the design process,” she says. “It’s fun for me to be immersed in a tight-knit architectural community like San Diego’s. A sense of community really drives my professional goals. I love the whole idea that anything you design comes alive in the community, affecting how people live, work, play and feel. It’s a challenge and responsibility that excites me.”

Seeing an opportunity in green initiatives, Salgado is preparing to take the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) exam and looks forward to learning more about sustainability in the built environment. Acquiring sustainability expertise will empower her to develop green communities on both sides of the border. Returning home to contribute to more sustainable neighborhoods in Tijuana would be most gratifying of all, she says.

Volunteering Broadens Her Network

Salgado at Joshua Tree National Park

If Salgado is driven by a desire to build stronger communities, she also feels a sense of community through SDAF, where she’s volunteered for PechaKucha Night (PKN) on several occasions. On Oct. 1, she’s looking forward to volunteering for SDAF’s flagship event, Orchids & Onions, as it goes virtual for the first time.

By now, 44 years since it began, Orchids & Onions has become a cherished San Diego tradition, known as much for celebrating vaunted design as for holding architects accountable for their design decisions.

Orchids & Onions is vital to San Diego’s design community, because it really shows the level of excellence we should be reaching for as designers,” Salgado says. “As a young designer, it fuels my vision for what’s possible. Even the Onions are important. In them is the simple truth that we can always learn from our failures and strive to be better. And there’s a lot of value in that as well.”

A staunch supporter of nonprofits, Salgado was drawn to SDAF through the social nature of its events and the warmth of its people. She’s volunteered for SDAF regularly for the last two years and is looking forward to seeing what inspiration Orchids & Onions provides this fall.

“I like any experience that opens my eyes and helps me gain a new perspective,” she says. “With SDAF, it’s a learning experience just being there. One that has helped me grow. One that has given me a vision for what’s possible.”

Orchids and Onions 2020 is looking for volunteers to help with this year’s event. If you’re interested in helping out, email alicia@sdarchitecture.org.

Featured photo by Jim Brady  of Brady Architectural Photography. All other photos courtesy of Carolina Salgado.

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A Shared Mission to Design with People in Mind

NewSchool of Architecture & Design has joined Orchids & Onions 2020 as the title sponsor. In appreciation of that, we take a look at the longstanding relationship between our two organizations, one deeply rooted in a shared passion for San Diego’s built environment. We caught up with NewSchool’s Head of …

NewSchool of Architecture & Design has joined Orchids & Onions 2020 as the title sponsor. In appreciation of that, we take a look at the longstanding relationship between our two organizations, one deeply rooted in a shared passion for San Diego’s built environment.

We caught up with NewSchool’s Head of Marketing & Communications, Jessica Nielsen, to ask what’s behind the relationship and why Orchids & Onions is a program worth supporting. Here’s her take on it all.

Orchids & Onions has been a San Diego tradition for more than 40 years. Why does the program hold value? Orchids & Onions not only celebrates great design, but it also engages the community around the built environment. It keeps architecture and design relevant, celebrating notable design achievement. By also encouraging education and accountability, it helps bring about a design community we can all be proud of.

What is NewSchool’s driving philosophy on design? NewSchool’s mission is to nurture and inspire design-minded learners to become citizen architects and designers. Our graduates demonstrate a firm foundation of critical thinking, ethical behavior, and a culture of professional practice on their way to becoming socially responsible leaders of change for our global society. We embrace a human-centered approach to design, focused on design inquiry and design thinking. Our philosophy is to design for people, to ensure the built environment serves human needs.

Our beloved late President and Chief Academic Officer, Marvin J. Malecha, FAIA, DPACSA, brought our “Human-Centered by Design” focus to NewSchool five years ago. We honor his passing by translating his guiding focus into NewSchool’s four foundational pillars: Data & Technology, Community Engagement, Human Welfare, and Environmental Empathy, all which rest on preparing our graduates for professional practice in a constantly evolving world.

Marvin Malecha at a NewSchool awards ceremony in 2019

NewSchool has had a longtime relationship with the San Diego Architectural Foundation (SDAF), and we see a lot of those same values reflected in SDAF programs, such as Orchids & Onions, which allows the people to hold design accountable to their human needs.

Why does NewSchool believe it’s important to support a community-based architecture and design awards program like Orchids and Onions? It goes back to human-centered design, the notion that the community should have an active voice and influence upon how the built environment should be shaped and what it should reflect. And if we’re designing with a human-centric approach, it is vital for the community to be part of the conversation.

NewSchool is celebrating its 40th anniversary this fall. What do you want people to know about it? This is a time to reflect not only on our past but also to look to what the future holds for our institution. Founded by architects in 1980, we view ourselves as a critical piece of the fabric of not only the San Diego community, but the global design community at large. Our alumni, students, faculty, and staff have influenced and helped shape the built environment that is San Diego and beyond. We have expanded our disciplines beyond the borders of Architecture, introducing new programs in Interior Architecture & Design, Product Design, Graphic Design & Interactive Media, and Construction Management. We look at the evolution of technologies and society, and of education itself, and we promote a truly interdisciplinary, interconnected approach to design thinking.

We’re looking forward to celebrating and commemorating not just our legacy and how we’ve evolved, but also where we’re going in the years ahead, as we continue to impact the architecture, design and construction communities. We look forward to designing our future with quality, integrity, and creativity as a design-minded community.

We will be hosting a series of events over the coming months, starting with a virtual alumni panel event in November. We will share more details on our website and social media outlets soon.

Like our NewSchool counterparts, SDAF aims to ensure that the built environment serves human needs. You can help us meet that goal by engaging with this year’s Orchids & Onions nominees and liking, commenting and sharing your favorites before September 1!

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Using Design to ‘Build Bridges’ at the Border

From the start, Tariq Jaber was a living incarnation of a topic that would become increasingly important to him — borders. Years later, as a 2019 Pillars Scholar at the NewSchool of Architecture & Design, the topic would inform his study and channel his focus. Jaber visited several international borders …

From the start, Tariq Jaber was a living incarnation of a topic that would become increasingly important to him — borders. Years later, as a 2019 Pillars Scholar at the NewSchool of Architecture & Design, the topic would inform his study and channel his focus.

Jaber visited several international borders as part of his Pillars Scholarship, a collaboration between NewSchool and the San Diego Architectural Foundation (SDAF). Through the scholarship, Jaber sought to conceptualize better solutions for U.S.-Mexico border control than simply building a wall.

Seeing the Promise for More Humane Solutions

“How can we create borders that help people rather than keep everybody out?” says Jaber, a 2020 NewSchool graduate. “That was the question I explored. How can we design a border that addresses humanitarian issues and treats its users with dignity? A lot of division arises when borders are created, figuratively and literally. I wanted to create a wiser, more humane solution for the U.S.-Mexico border than simply putting up a wall.”

In his Pillars Scholarship study, a look at comparative approaches to border control, Jaber visited the borders of Palestine and Israel; North Cyprus and South Cyprus; and Syria and Turkey. While he had saved to go to Israel, the scholarship funds allowed Jaber to explore multiple countries and push his research further. In the process, he glimpsed unexpected complexities, witnessed a refugee crisis, and felt moved.

It was all part of his quest to understand how a border impacts a community’s social, economic and moral well-being. Traveling by plane, ferry, train, bus and on foot, Jaber’s observations were striking.

“Some communities are shut off,” Jaber says. “They don’t have proper sewage, water and electrical systems. Garbage trucks can’t even access them. Those communities were hurting tremendously while others with more visitors and better access to services, such as Bethlehem and Ramallah, were thriving.”

In Cyprus, the United Nations created a buffer zone that splits the island in half. It stretches 112 miles in length and extends from 4 feet to 4 miles in width. Within that zone is a town where citizens from North Cyprus (controlled by Turkey) and South Cyprus (controlled by Greece) can visit without a visa. In that structure, Jaber saw promise for the U.S.-Mexico border. A shared zone at our southern border would allow families to interact and visit with one another.

“It would solve a lot of humanitarian issues and allow people to meet with dignity,” says Jaber, who conceptualized an architectural design based on the idea. His circular design resembles a jumbo donut or Apple’s Cupertino campus. One half would be the American side, the other the Mexican side. Jaber envisions hotels in the shared zone so families can spend additional time with each other without needing a visa.

A Mission Rooted in Personal Experience

Jaber’s quest to understand a border’s impact is as personal as it is academic. He himself is a product of one of the borders he studied — the Palestine-Israel border. Born in Jerusalem (in Israel), Jaber grew up in Palestine. At age 8, he moved to the U.S. with his family. With siblings who were born abroad and in the U.S., Jaber is acutely aware of the experiences that shape their perspectives. Making life more equitable for others always has been of interest to him, because he’s a product of inequities in his own family.

Jaber, along with two of his sisters, was born overseas. He feels an ideological divide between himself and his younger siblings, who were born in the United States and experience it as their homeland.

“Some of us are more connected to our Palestinian culture and our roots, and some of us aren’t,” he says. “My two sisters and I speak Arabic, the native language. We understand our parents better, are more tied to the issues. We also tend to be more understanding of people’s suffering. When we see that suffering on the news, it hits home for us.”

As a product of the border experience, Jaber feels compelled to create thoughtfully designed border communities that solve problems. As a designer, he feels a duty to design facilities and environments that enhance lives and bridge cultures.

“Using my talents to enhance quality of life for others has always been of interest to me,” he says. “I’m looking forward to seeing what the future holds.”

To learn about another NewSchool grad’s international experience, read about 2019 Pillars Scholar Jessica Patrick and her study in Santiago de Compostela, Spain.

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A Seat at the Table

At McCullough, India native Maha Balachandran finds acceptance and success.   When Maha Balachandran said she was pondering a career in architecture, her family wasn’t exactly thrilled. In Chennai, the southern Indian city where she was born and raised, carrying on the family tradition of teaching or engineering was a …

At McCullough, India native Maha Balachandran finds acceptance and success.

 

When Maha Balachandran said she was pondering a career in architecture, her family wasn’t exactly thrilled. In Chennai, the southern Indian city where she was born and raised, carrying on the family tradition of teaching or engineering was a more popular choice.

But architecture?

“As a profession, architecture has yet to be acknowledged strongly in India,” Maha explains.

Nonetheless, Maha eventually convinced her family of her passion. Having grown up observing the degradation of open space in her homeland, Maha felt concerned — and a pull toward the landscape. The memory stuck with her. Even now, as an associate in the Northern California office of San Diego-based McCullough Landscape Architecture, Maha approaches projects with the thought “how can we maximize the open space here?”

Maha joined McCullough, a valued partner of the San Diego Architectural Foundation (SDAF), in 2012. With her she brought an eye for detail and an understanding of the design process.

Multiculturalism Embedded in Company Culture

McCullough specializes in landscape architecture, environmental planning and urban design. For a company with just 12 employees, it has a notably diverse work force. Nearly everyone employed there outside of its leaders, Catherine and David McCullough, has some sort of foreign background. Nicaragua, Cuba, Mexico, Colombia, Germany and Russia, all are represented. Not to mention, the entire staff is bilingual or trilingual.

Maha herself seems to be a citizen of the world, having lived in India, Finland, Canada and the U.S. She brings a unique global perspective to her role, and it’s one she cherishes.

When she moved to the United States with her husband, Arun, she wasted no time in immersing herself in the community here. As a newcomer to any city, taking the initiative to connect with others is instrumental, she says.

“Establishing a sense of belonging in your own neighborhood can be an important first step toward change,” she says. “I take responsibility for putting my best foot forward, even if change doesn’t happen. The world’s not going to come to me.”

Maha brings that same initiative to her work, believing that communication is the key to success in everything. In the new conversation taking place on race and equality, Maha says that with globalization, diversity is something that should be spontaneous. “It’s a sense of belonging, a sense that you acknowledge the other person as a human being.”

Diversity at McCullough only has enhanced the business model there, Maha says. It’s facilitated collaboration, evoked innovative perspectives, and contributed to a portfolio the whole company can be proud of.

“Having different perspectives at the table gives birth to new ideas,” she says. “Every firm should collaborate this way. It shouldn’t even be a question.”

Learn more about the philosophy behind McCullough Landscape Architecture.

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A Behind-the-Scenes Look at Orchids & Onions 2020

With Orchids & Onions 2020 just two short months away, our flagship event of the year will be here before we know it! Not even a pandemic is going to stop this celebration from happening. What’s more, Covid-19 has inspired us to put a creative spin on 2020 festivities, so …

With Orchids & Onions 2020 just two short months away, our flagship event of the year will be here before we know it! Not even a pandemic is going to stop this celebration from happening. What’s more, Covid-19 has inspired us to put a creative spin on 2020 festivities, so we can bring you an “O&O” unlike any other.

Orchids & Onions Co-chair (and SDAF Board Member) John Martinez presents a glimpse into planning the 2020 event, dishing on what San Diego can expect from the awards banquet this year — and why it matters.

What are some of the challenges and opportunities of planning a virtual event?

Orchids & Onions 2015 at the San Diego Museum of Art

The hardest thing is orchestrating an event of this size and scope virtually. It’s unchartered territory for us. While on the surface it appears that the pandemic limits what we’re able to achieve in comparison to years past, that’s not the case at all. Going virtual provides us with a unique opportunity that we haven’t had before. It’s causing us to think outside the box and be creative. And that’s fun. By creating an exciting virtual event full of surprises we can expand our audience and reach people that may never have attended Orchids & Onions, and it will be exciting to see where it takes us.

What are some of your favorite moments from years past?

Two years ago when Eitol won the People’s Choice Onion, they turned the tables and surprised everyone with a huge celebration on stage that included sparklers, glitter, even some male strippers! They recognized the opportunity to turn lemons into lemonade and have since hosted great SDAF events at their location, which has become a neighborhood icon.

Can you speak to the planning that goes into it?

It may surprise people that the event planning begins a full year prior to awards night. So many dedicated volunteers spend hours a week, for months on end, organizing the jury selection, promoting nominations, building the website, contacting the nominees, and preparing for this special evening.

What does Orchids & Onions achieve for the local design world?

We love the conversation that happens because of O&O. Too often this dialog only takes place in our design silos, and O&O’s mission is to open that discussion and give voice to the public so everyone that is actually affected by our built environment has an opportunity to offer their opinion.

John Martinez

How has it evolved?

This is the first year we have gone virtual and what an exciting time it is to view, network, and discuss the pros and cons of our communities on a platform that is open to everyone.

Why is it important in 2020?

We’ve all felt the physical distance, seen the empty offices, unoccupied restaurants, and vacant plazas over the past few months. Let’s come together through this virtual event to celebrate the buildings and spaces we all look forward to coming back to.

Why shouldn’t it just be Orchids?

It’s a great question, and we’ve heard it in years past. Unless we can have an open and respectful discussion about the criticisms of some of our spaces, can we ever improve? Can we truly understand what’s good without having a conversation about what’s bad? This may be relative, but a huge opportunity becomes not so much in what we say but in how we listen, learn, and improve with one another.

What do you want people to know about this year’s event?

Be prepared to be surprised. This will be unlike any Orchids & Onions we have ever had!

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How SDAF’s BEEP Program is Inspiring the Next Generation

At the root of Laura DuCharme Conboy’s architectural career is a simple love. A love for making things. It goes back to her high school drafting class, where she developed a passion for drawing. Whether she’s crafting 3-D cakes in the kitchen or designing award-winning, high-end residences, Conboy long has …

At the root of Laura DuCharme Conboy’s architectural career is a simple love. A love for making things. It goes back to her high school drafting class, where she developed a passion for drawing. Whether she’s crafting 3-D cakes in the kitchen or designing award-winning, high-end residences, Conboy long has found fulfillment in fashioning the built environment at all levels.

Eventually, her passion led to a career, and as the owner of DuCharme Architecture, an SDAF partner, her business has thrived for 29 years. Conboy also is a San Diego Architectural Foundation board member. She has a vested interest in bringing a love of architecture to the next generation, and she’s doing it through SDAF’s Built Environment Education Program (BEEP) for kids.

“Design happens at the micro scale or the macro scale, whether it’s a culinary dish or a house,” Conboy says. “The evolution of an idea is motivating, and it’s rewarding to see it executed.”

At its heart, BEEP is a program at the “micro” level, engaging youth in hands-on activities such as sketching and small-scale construction projects.

“Learning to sketch engages their minds,” Conboy says. “BEEP sets out to make kids aware of the world surrounding them, to look at things more closely when they walk into a space and become aware of how it makes them feel.”

BEEP’s signature event of the year, KidsSketch (hosted as part of OH! San Diego), attracted more than 60 youth to Coronado and La Jolla, as students in grades 3 to 12 turned out to sketch nearby buildings and structures. The goal is to inspire young minds to care about the built environment, so that as they grow they can have a voice in how their communities develop.

During San Diego Design Week this September, representatives from SDAF’s BEEP program will lead kids in building geodesic domes, like the ones made famous by acclaimed architect Buckminster Fuller. The participants, however, will be making the domes on a much smaller scale, from toothpicks and gumdrops.

For her part, Conboy savors the chance to share her enthusiasm for architecture with young people, letting them know how rewarding the profession is, and how interesting life can be when you understand your surroundings.

A geodesic dome project with the Brownies

While the BEEP program may not impact San Diego’s actual built environment anytime soon, it’s about inspiring kids to think about their potential impact on the built environment earlier in life.

Says Conboy: “Hopefully our impact will be felt when young people look up from their devices at the world around them, become concerned and interested, and then realize that they can shape their own built environments in the future.”

Learn more about SDAF’s Built Environment Education Program here.

 

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San Diego Architectural Foundation is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to education and promotion of outstanding architecture, planning and urban design throughout the San Diego region.

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