Orchids, Onions & Opportunities
Celebrating the great (and not-so-great). What does San Diego think about the latest contributions to the built environment?

We’re taking a break

There’s only so much an intrepid band of volunteers can do. Sadly we don’t currently have the capacity to continue this important program. If you believe in the legacy of our Orchids & Onions program and the valuable lessons that can be learned from it, then volunteer to help! Please contact us at

Learn more about this legacy program

In 2012 SDAF created Orchids, Onions & Opportunities as a follow up program to our annual Orchids & Onions program, which recognizes the good, the bad and the ‘could be improved upon’ in San Diego’s built environment.

Orchids & Onions no longer accepts nominations for unbuilt projects, but it is a critical part of the San Diego Architectural Foundation’s mission to encourage public dialog on such projects, as this is where the most influence for change lies. It is easy to assume that the quality of our buildings and our urban design is beyond our control or in someone else’s hands. But the reality is that we all play a role in shaping our built environment, either by demanding excellence or settling for mediocrity, or worse.

Orchids, Onions & Opportunities was comprised of an original exhibition peppered with interactive public participation. The exhibition presented challenges, realities, inspirations and possibilities as they relate to the design, development and use of public spaces within our region and provided numerous opportunities for you to chime in and let us know what you think.

The Reality: What could have been done better?
Using examples of prominent Onions since 2006, we addressed how they have detracted from San Diego’s public realm.

The Inspirations: Who is doing it well?
We provided case studies of projects from cities around the world that have had profound success in the development of their public spaces.

More Reality: What are we currently doing or considering?
We illustrated some of the plans currently on the table and /or approved and underway for San Diego’s public realm.

The Possibilities and Opportunities: What should we do next?
We highlighted some of the big civic issues that San Diego was wrestling with, such as to build or not to build a new stadium, the convention center expansion and how to deal with the removal of cars from Balboa Park’s Plaza de Panama.

Why did we do this?
Orchids & Onions promotes design excellence and is our region’s most visible, popular and effective vehicle for stimulating community awareness and response to San Diego’s built environment. Our goal was that this new aspect of the program, which takes both a closer look and offers a broader perspective of the challenges we face, would further facilitate community engagement. It did.

The exhibition was on public display in a storefront space in downtown San Diego for 4 months. During this time we hosted several receptions and a PechaKucha Night in the space. It had us dreaming of our own storefront for architecture and design.

Upcoming Events

Context Vol. 5
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San Diego Architectural Foundation



P.O. Box 122228
San Diego, CA 92112-2228
Federal Tax ID: 95-3513927

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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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