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 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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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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