6 Questions with O&O Juror Stacey Pennington

As part of the 2020 Orchids & Onions jury, Stacey Lankford Pennington brings to the table a deep background in urban planning. Having received her Master in Urban Planning from Harvard University Graduate School of Design in 2005, she’s been billed by Bisnow Commercial Real Estate News as one of the “50 Most Influential Women” in the field.

A recipient of the Harvard University Frederick Sheldon Traveling Fellowship, Pennington is the president and founder of SLP Urban Planning and in 2020 is serving on the Orchids & Onions jury for the first time.

We talked with her about exceptional design, why it matters, and the role Orchids & Onions plays in it all.

Tell us about SLP Urban Planning. I launched the firm in 2006 after falling in love with the pace and insight of the real estate development world. My firm always has focused on sustainability and urban engagement. I love the opportunity to think through what would be best for the community. There’s a magic that occurs in spaces and how they are defined and shaped by the users themselves, and that magic is the foundation for all the work we do at SLP Urban Planning.

What projects have you worked on that have contributed to the shaping of the urban environment? My most recent project has been the Strategic Activation and Site Enhancements at Seaport Village. Another key project that I’ve been really involved in is Makers Quarter and the transformation of the Upper East Village.

When I first got involved in 2012, this part of the East Village was a void in San Diego’s urban fabric. It was a part of town that didn’t have a strong connection with the community. I led the effort to create immediate change, with the objective of bottom-up community engagement and testing ideas to inform the future. The effort included the transformation of an asphalt parking lot into downtown’s first community garden. It also included SILO, a dirt lot turned into an outdoor community and arts venue.

Why is thoughtful design important in San Diego? It’s the backdrop for how people live their lives. A place-based and community-based approach to thoughtful design and architecture contributes to the richness and character of San Diego. The more we can elevate thoughtful design, the more we can grow as a city and region.

 What is an Orchid or Onion in your view? An Orchid pushes the limits of what placemaking in community means. It represents spaces that have gone above and beyond in engaging community, asking the right questions and challenging all preconceptions. An Onion demonstrates that the team saw a challenge and decided not to address it. They didn’t even ask the questions.

Why is the Orchids and Onions program important? The Orchids & Onions program is so important for our region. It shapes and reinforces the quality of architecture and community engagement. It’s a tradition in the built environment that celebrates the wins and losses. That power of contemplation and reflection is crucial, and for those shaping the built environment every day, it’s critical to have an open forum like this. It also invites the public to be involved, and that dialog is the magic of design in and of itself.

What made you want to be a juror in 2020? This is an exciting year to be a juror. It’s been a strange one to say the least. With coronavirus and important discussions around race and equality, our day to day work is at the center of it all. We’re holding those parameters up with the utmost respect. Being a juror is an opportunity to embrace the challenges of this year and have a voice.

For more on Orchids & Onions 2020, check out this year’s nominees and get ready to vote in August.

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