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Coming on Strong: Urban Designers Gather for Strong Town event and Ponder “Stroads”

  “If you need a sign to tell people to slow down, you’ve designed your street wrong,” said Charles Marohn to an intimate crowd on November 18th at the San Diego History Center. On this night, SDAF sponsored a ULI (Urban Land Institute) speaking engagement and book signing with Charles …

 

“If you need a sign to tell people to slow down, you’ve designed your street wrong,” said Charles Marohn to an intimate crowd on November 18th at the San Diego History Center.

On this night, SDAF sponsored a ULI (Urban Land Institute) speaking engagement and book signing with Charles Marohn, founder, president and podcaster of Strong Towns, a grassroots organization that supports a drastically different model of development for America’s cities, towns, and neighborhoods.

Marohn was on tour with his current book, “Confessions of a Recovering Engineer: Transportation for a Strong Town.” As someone who reexamines transportation infrastructure—and its values and assumptions—for a living, it seemed fitting that he commandeered the ever-widening Interstate 5 to reach his final destination at Balboa Park.

Having spent two decades analyzing urban growth patterns as a land use planner and Professional Engineer (PE) licensed in the State of Minnesota, Marohn believes the post-World War II approach to town and city planning has led to debt problems, wasteful infrastructure investments and seemingly incurable congestion.

As a country, the US is good at construction and building things like “stroads,” he said, which creates an illusion of wealth. Cities favor mega-watt, large-scale finished projects over more organic, incremental growth. Changes as small as road width, for example, can make cities more vibrant.

“A stroad is a street/road hybrid. I have often called it the ‘futon of transportation alternatives’. Where a futon is an uncomfortable couch that also serves as an uncomfortable bed, a stroad is an auto corridor that does not move cars efficiently while simultaneously providing little in the way of value.”


So, what makes a strong town? Towns must prioritize human mobility to solve congestion. Walkable cities lead directly to growth, Marohn said. Building downtowns and neighborhoods with complex street design can make a local economy thrive. To the landscape architect’s delight—not just any design will do.

“A sidewalk or a path does not make a place walkable. A comfortable and safe walking experience does,” he said.

Marohn has built a vibrant online community around his new vision of urban development that breaks with modern practices. He authored “Thoughts on Building Strong Towns” — Volume 1 and Volume 2 — as well as “A World Class Transportation
System.”

In synopsis – a Strong Towns approach:

  • Relies on small, incremental investments instead of large, transformative projects
  • Emphasizes resiliency of result over efficiency of execution
  • Is designed to adapt to feedback
  • Is inspired by bottom-up action and not top-down systems
  • Seeks to conduct as much of life as possible at a personal scale
  • Is obsessive about accounting for its revenues, expenses, assets and long-term
    liabilities
  • Understands why the conventional approach to solving chronic transportation
    problems—as well as the latest fads—are actually making things worse
Write up by Gillian Flynn, connect with her at https://gillianvflynn.com/

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Beyond the Buildings: Dennis O’Connor and his Acre of Awesome

    Acre of Awesome might be one of the most sustainably driven venues to host Pecha Kucha Night in San Diego. Ever. When the pandemic hit, Dennis O’Connor, co-founder of Thorn Brewing, had already planned to “re-craft” overstocked beer into a new line of spirits. He anticipated an average …

 
 
Acre of Awesome might be one of the most sustainably driven venues to host Pecha Kucha Night in San Diego. Ever. When the pandemic hit, Dennis O’Connor, co-founder of Thorn Brewing, had already planned to “re-craft” overstocked beer into a new line of spirits. He anticipated an average of 2-4 trucks a month to dabble and experiment. Instead, he was facing down 4-6 trucks a week of unused, about-to-expire beer. And so, the revolutionary ReBru Spirits was born.
 
“I unrolled my camping mat and I was sleeping at the distillery,” says the North Park native and CEO of San Diego Taxman. “The pandemic absolutely accelerated our plan.”
 
The Barrio Logan compound became an R&D lab for sustainability and indoor-outdoor food and beverage concepts. The team worked 24-7 to conjure craft gin, vodka, and limited-edition whiskey from unsold craft beer. To date, the distillery has processed over 400,000 gallons of repurposed beer—or 3.2 million pints—destined for landfills. Their efforts have lessened the burden on municipal wastewater treatment facilities and mitigated the impact on local ecosystems. And they’ve wooed judges along the way: their refined small-batch vodka and gin has won eleven awards in four competitions.
 
Meanwhile, as local restaurants were racing to create more outdoor dining space, O’Connor was repurposing more than beer alone. He was buying furniture and equipment at a clip from local restaurant auctions.
 
“We never could have planned for this layout,” says O’Connor of the historic Fraser’s Boiler Service building that houses the ventures. “The design almost created itself.”
 
Acre of Awesome combines several different establishments in one: there’s Thorn’s 30-barrel brewhouse and tasting room, featuring signature and seasonal brews like Coconut Porter, Guava IPA, and Hard Ginger Beer. Add to the list Kové Hard Yerba Mate: a new twist on a classic South American beverage, it is available on tap and in to-go four packs.
 
Here on National Avenue, sustainability is no mere buzz word. It’s the main ingredient. On any given night, the outdoor pizza restaurant churns out wood-fired pies utilizing spent grains in the crust. And the barbeque establishment—serving pulled pork, brisket, smoked turkey, and ribs—provides the charcoal and charred oak to filter and flavor the spirits.
 
“It was a pure passion project,” says O’Connor. “It wouldn’t have become such a dynamic space so quickly if it wasn’t for COVID allowing us to work on the business instead of in it.”

Interview & write up by Gillian Flynn, connect with her at https://gillianvflynn.com/

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SDAF’s Legacy Film Series – Alison Whitelaw, FAIA

Earlier this year I set a goal to expand SDAF’s legacy through a film series celebrating several directors, both past and present, who have contributed 10+ years with the foundation. Inspired by commemorative films on Bob Mosher and Graham Downes, I thought “why wait until we have lost these wonderful …

Earlier this year I set a goal to expand SDAF’s legacy through a film series celebrating several directors, both past and present, who have contributed 10+ years with the foundation. Inspired by commemorative films on Bob Mosher and Graham Downes, I thought “why wait until we have lost these wonderful people, let’s celebrate them now!”  

And so, with the support of current Directors Michelle Harrison McAllister and Mike Thorpe who offered to contribute the funds needed, along with San Diego’s OG architecture and design filmmaker – Jeff Durkin of Breadtruck Films – we secretly arranged a day of filming to surprise some of SDAF’s finest. 

This week I’d like to share the first of those eight new films, hot off the heels of her AIA San Diego 2021 Robert Mosher Lifetime Achievement Award, we present this wonderful short film of Alison Whitelaw, FAIA. In addition to an immensely successful career and practice, over the years Alison has also been President of the AIA San Diego, AIA San Diego’s Women in Architecture, and she was the first woman President of SDAF, serving on our board in various roles for 10 years. Alison continues to contribute to our region as a founding member of the Academy of Neuroscience for Architecture.  

I am thrilled to celebrate Alison for being a trailblazing architect and her contributions to San Diego’s built environment. Thank you Alison!  

Oh, and keep checking in each month to see who we highlight next.  

Pauly 

P.S. check out this great post from AIA San Diego on Alison too!

Watch the video!

 

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Beyond the Buildings

  This is the first in an SDAF series exploring the people and companies behind San Diego’s built environment.   “It’s a unique little industry,” says Aaron Pebley, a senior project manager with KPFF Consulting Engineers. This is the understatement of the year, considering a recent feather in the KPFF …

 
This is the first in an SDAF series exploring the people and companies behind San Diego’s built environment.
 

“It’s a unique little industry,” says Aaron Pebley, a senior project manager with KPFF Consulting Engineers. This is the understatement of the year, considering a recent feather in the KPFF cap is the IQHQ RaDD (Research and Development District), the biotech “city” slated for Downtown San Diego’s waterfront. With 22 offices throughout the country—and six in California alone—KPFF creates central arteries for higher tech buildings like IQHQ’s RaDD. In San Diego, the firm is synonymous with our life science campuses, leveling up the homegrown sector. Alongside RaDD, the firm is also busy revving up adaptive reuse in Sorrento Valley. Here, we take five with Pebley…

Overarching challenge. These life science buildings need to be high-performance, and they demand so much flexibility for their lab tenants. The infrastructure that is required to support these buildings is far, far more involved than any typical office building.

Give us an example. We get an opportunity to really dive into the vibrational characteristics of the structure itself, ensuring sensitive lab equipment won’t be impacted by a vibrating floor. Imagine you are in an open office and your co-worker comes hustling down the hallway and you can feel the floor bouncing slightly as you sit in your chair. That can’t happen in a lab!

So…IQHQ Research and Development District. It really feels like a new identity is being established for downtown San Diego’s waterfront with this development, and IQHQ has the potential to serve as a lynchpin for even more life science development. Beyond the life science sector, it will also hopefully create momentum for other office and hospitality projects downtown. Downtown has been waiting for quite some time for a new market sector to plant its flag there, and with this project it appears that may finally be happening.

“Sky’s the limit in Sorrento Valley.” This corridor is really coming to life with adaptive reuse of the existing building stock there. So many existing buildings are getting significant overhauls to reuse them for life science tenants. It’s great to see some older buildings get a new life for state-of-the-art research companies.

Office perks. Many of these companies have high profile talent and clientele, and they want to go big on amenities as a way to integrate work/life. Integrating fun design elements from restaurants and breweries to fitness centers and bocce ball courts into the fabric of these beautiful buildings is always a challenge we love to solve as structural engineers!

Interview & write up by Gillian Flynn, connect with her at https://gillianvflynn.com/

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Getting Schooled: SDAF and NewSchool of Architecture & Design celebrate 10+ years of O&O

Creative partnerships can last a lifetime. That’s the drive behind the longtime collaboration with SDAF and the NewSchool of Architecture & Design. For more than 10 years, NewSchool has been the title sponsor of the annual Orchids & Onions, SDAF’s largest single fundraiser.  The innovative school, established in Downtown San …

Creative partnerships can last a lifetime.

That’s the drive behind the longtime collaboration with SDAF and the NewSchool of Architecture & Design. For more than 10 years, NewSchool has been the title sponsor of the annual Orchids & Onions, SDAF’s largest single fundraiser. 

The innovative school, established in Downtown San Diego in the late 80s, demonstrates the critical role architecture and design have in our city, and relishes bringing community into the curriculum wherever possible. Orchids & Onions, meanwhile, continues to provide a fresh, relevant platform to reintroduce the design conversation. It serves as a unifying call to action for students: come out of your silos and engage in the local context of the built environment. 

Mission accomplished. The greatest indicator of the partnership’s success is Orchids & Onions participation. This year alone, there’s SDAF Director John Martinez (Class of 2012), serving as the O&O Chair; and the jury features three NewSchool alumni, including Rachelle Domingo-Rogers (2004)  Katinka Read ( 2011) and Lucy Campbell, the current NewSchool librarian. 

“One of the interesting things about Orchids & Onions—it’s not just about design and aesthetics but making better places to live in San Diego,” says Campbell. “It’s great to see NewSchool having such an impact. We get to complete the circle.”

The partnership propels design conversations toward the future―working on building long-term solutions now while sparking action in the classroom, and the community beyond. It also provokes students to reassess and update their design strategy in response to the changing environment. 

More than anything, it’s about finding connection. Over the years, some 50-plus students and alumni have served on O&O committees and juries, according to SDAF President Pauly De Bartolo. “It’s been years of blood, sweat, tears,” says De Bartolo, “and it’s always fun collaborating with NewSchool faculty and staff as we’ve curated the O&O program, its been an amazing relationship.” 

NEW CONCENTRATIONS AT NEWSCHOOL

As San Diego continues to be a global hub and convergence point of entrepreneurs, technocrats and creative minds, NewSchool is expanding its future field of study. In 2022, the school is adding new concentrations: sustainable design and technology, urban design and development, sustainable adaptive reuse, and digital products and experiences. The school offers a range of degrees for students looking to advance their careers in architecture, construction management, graphic design and interactive media, interior architecture and design, and product design.

NEXT STOP: PORTLAND

In the 21st century, few architecture problems are straightforward. For a recent collaboration, NewSchool students extended their core knowledge into a new city, Portland. Teaming up with an S.D. architecture and engineering firm, Mackenzie, students helped reimagine and reconfigure the ODOT blocks in Portland’s Central Eastside Industrial District. It presented students an opportunity to learn about urban analysis, site selection criteria for resilient urban development, design parameters, and design methods and tools. 

The students based their proposals on real client needs and constraints within Portland’s municipal code, and received input from Rich Mitchell, contributing faculty at NewSchool and former president of Mackenzie. 

“Preparing undergraduates to enter the architecture and design industry must go beyond developing classroom learning, hyper-visual projects, and mastering the latest digital programs,” says Mitchell. “Practice-ready students must be able to convince stakeholders that their proposed vision is addressing community needs.”

Interview & write up by Gillian Flynn, connect with her at https://gillianvflynn.com/

Photo List

1. (top of post) – the 2013 O&O crew consisting of NSAD Alumni Craig Howard, Perriann Diaz (Hodges), Daniel Ordonez, Lauren Kim, Paison) & Melina Aluwi.

2. (below) – Lauren Kim (Paison), NSAD Class of 2012 heads up the backstage production of O&O 2013

3. The entry light sculpture at O&O 2013 by the NSAD student volunteer committee

4. Former NSAD faculty member Chuck Crawford & NSAD alumni Ivana Heslop (Vinksi) at O&O 2011. Chuck was the O&O Jury Liaison for 3+ years and Ivana managed the event preparation for 7+ years as well as being an SDAF Director from 2012-2013.

5. Faculty member Elana Pacenti speaks on behalf of NSAD as Title Sponsor of the O&O 2013

6. Jury Tour Napkin Sketches framed by NSAD students for the 2016 O&O Silent Auction

7. 2016 O&O, the first event to be curated in the Horton Plaza Park, Co-Chaired by NSAD alumni Perriann Diaz (Hodges) & Lauren Kim (Paison)

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Using design to elevate the San Diego lifestyle

  With an upbeat sense of community design, Michelle Harrison-McAllister creates West Coast interiors that revel in the unexpected.   “We take our relaxed environment seriously,” says Michelle Harrison-McAllister. “And there’s a new wave of residents and companies who are elevating San Diego’s lifestyle as the design centerpiece.“   The …

 

With an upbeat sense of community design, Michelle Harrison-McAllister creates West Coast interiors that revel in the unexpected.

 
“We take our relaxed environment seriously,” says Michelle Harrison-McAllister. “And there’s a new wave of residents and companies who are elevating San Diego’s lifestyle as the design centerpiece.“

 

The SDAF board member says it’s an ideal time to toast the architects and designers  who continue to shape our environment and the spaces that define it.

 

On this day, Harrison-McAllister is wearing her signature bold spectacles and a red kaftan while kicking up her heels on a neo-leather recliner.  She has mastered the art of making interiors playful yet warm, giving us a wholly modern vocabulary for comfort along the way. Founded in 2000, Michelle Harrison Design is a boutique firm specializing in lifestyle design for multi-family communities, commercial and office space.

 

The designer has spent two decades cultivating a community sensibility while keeping us guessing. The through line is her eye-catching practicality, expressiveness and proactive commitment to local collaboration.

 
“It’s all about our city and what makes it tick,” she says. “The design reinforces community by subtly reflecting it.”
 

Case in point: Casa Lago, an apartment complex next to the  Olympic Training Center in Eastlake, unites style and function.  An open floor plan creates communal spaces ideal for cooking and kicking back while two fitness rooms redefine the gym experience. A weight room is emblazoned with American murals while a cardio space is more organic thanks to greenery from Tend Living.

 
“The energy of a space can transform someone’s experience in it,” she says.

A self-described art-obsessive, Harrison-McAllister inserts local talent wherever possible. For Cielo in Little Italy, the lobby serves as a mini museo, featuring the work of San Diego artists. The overall design is modern and artful. Never stuffy.

 

A native New Englander raised in Coastal Connecticut, her designs convey a viable connection to place. Vida North Park is functionally hip. A bike storage doubles as a repair space; and the mod pool and lobby area feature an array of high-designed nooks to host everything from hipster happy hours to zoom calls.

 
Other S.D. projects show off a contemporary sensibility, and eye for unusual accents. At Broadstone Little Italy, she tapped into the barefoot lifestyle of Capri for interiors that marry European design with beachy SoCal. And at Broadstone Makers Quarter, she warmed over steely masculine design with whimsy and rock ‘n’ roll (bathrooms are plastered in speaker wallpaper).
 
Off-duty, Harrison-McAllister opts for floor-to-ceiling neutrals. Her home is awash in calming hues of cream, porcelain and muted beige. “My personality is so colorful. I love the tranquility of a blank canvas.”
 

Interview & write up by Gillian Flynn, connect with her at https://gillianvflynn.com/

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2021 Orchids & Onions Jury Tour; a tale of a tour.

 On Saturday July 31st, our esteemed panel of Architects, Designers, Developers & Artists took off for a 21-stop tour around the county to experience in person the top-crop of this year’s Orchids & Onions nominations. In addition to our jury of design professionals, which you can read all about here, …

 
On Saturday July 31st, our esteemed panel of Architects, Designers, Developers & Artists took off for a 21-stop tour around the county to experience in person the top-crop of this year’s Orchids & Onions nominations. In addition to our jury of design professionals, which you can read all about here, we were joined by SDAF VIP Member Lucy Campbell, Head Librarian at the NewSchool of Architecture & Design and our volunteer committee consisting of 2021 O&O Chair John Martinez, SDAF Directors Anne Militante & Roger Showley, Lead Photographer Ian Patzke, Sponsorship Coordinator & Photographer Jim Brady and our newest volunteer Nadine Viola who is the Business Development & Design Specialist at R&R Construction. Needless to say it was a rowdy crew ready for a busy day roaming about the county.
 
 
Starting at Balboa Park the first stop was at the San Diego Zoo which set us behind schedule from the very beginning. Having run a tight-ship on these O&O tours for a record 8-years now, I’ve become quite the herder when it comes to keeping our Jury on track, but starting this one late tested the very depths of my patience. All was eased when only 5-stops into the tour a gentle call for mimosas was suggested while we visited the Portside Pier, to which I was more than happy to oblige.
 
We looped through downtown and zipped off to south county to see the new First Station 5 in Chula Vista. Lunch was enjoyed nearby at Hungry Hank’s on Third Avenue who made some pretty fantastic sandwiches as the crew sat outside and debated the first few tour stops before we headed over to Bonita to see the new Library interiors. Unfortunately as Covid seems to be still causing havoc, the library was closed (on a weekend?!?) but we were able to make an impromptu stop at the Bonita Museum & Cultural Center, which was not one of the tour nominations but was a welcoming bathroom break. We made some new friends with the folks there, said our ‘thank yous’ and headed back out on the road.
 
An obligatory mid-tour cocktail was in order and so we overstayed our welcome at Realm of 52 Remedies as I convinced the staff to knock out not one but two ‘tasting’ cocktails to keep the crew fueled for the remainder of the tour. Up next was the High Tech High Campus in Mesa we then were headed towards Kellogg Park at La Jolla Shores to check out a wonderful boardwalk mural, little was I thinking when I planned the tour that mid-afternoon on a Saturday would be a terrible time to drive a 25-passenger bus into La Jolla Shores, but our fearless bus driver Kathryn was up for the challenge.
 
 
The largest project on the tour was the 10-acre North Torrey Pines Living & Learning Neighborhood at UCSD. Guided by Architects Ricardo Rabines & Eric Lindebak we could have spent 3-hours walking just this one stop, but we were behind schedule, so off we went to our last stop before heading back to Balboa Park.
 
One of the personal reasons I got involved with SDAF was to get to hang out with some of the city’s best Architects & Designers and while the Orchids & Onions program isn’t short of it’s controversy, for me it’s a chance to geek out with new friends & respected colleagues and this year was no exception. We ended the day with dinner & drinks at The Corner in Bankers Hill. Stories were told, napkins were sketched on and at some point Dave confused us all talking about full body scanning…an awesome Saturday in my book.
 
Photos by Ian Patzke Photography – check out his work @ian.patzke on the Gram.
 
Pauly.

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Napkin Sketch: Marvin Malecha

  One of my favorite parts of being involved with SDAF has been the opportunity to get to connect with some really wonderful people in our industry. I’ve built friendships throughout various creative disciplines and been able to connect with some amazingly talented folks that I otherwise may never have crossed paths …

 

One of my favorite parts of being involved with SDAF has been the opportunity to get to connect with some really wonderful people in our industry. I’ve built friendships throughout various creative disciplines and been able to connect with some amazingly talented folks that I otherwise may never have crossed paths with. Coordinating the Orchids & Onions jury for as many years as I have has given me a special opportunity to also put each one of these people to work on one of my favorite creative pastimes, the napkin sketch. Years back I decided that a mandatory part of participating in the O&O Jury Tour was to provide at least one napkin sketch regardless of whether you were part of the jury, or one of our volunteers. It was just a way to remind everyone of the fun of being creative, a simple drawing, something quick, not polished.

As the team prepares this year’s unique O&O program (oh, this is going to be a fun one!) I’ve been reflecting on past years experiences. While looking back through some of the napkin sketches done by jurors on our annual O&O Jury Tour I came across this gem by Marvin Malecha, FAIA who was, at the time, president of the NewSchool of Architecture & Design (NSAD).

Softly spoken but always with a sharp and detailed opinion, Marvin was an absolute delight to meet on our 2017 tour. He thoughtfully discussed each award based on our award criteria and its individual merits. He especially connected with our young student juror and he doodled this napkin sketch after visiting the Japanese Gardens at Balboa Park.

I was deeply saddened to hear of Mavin’s passing in 2020, but his legacy in our industry as well as his leadership at the NewSchool will live on for years to come. Our organization is better because of Marvin’s leadership in ensuring a deep partnership between SDAF and NSAD. It was an absolute pleasure to get to know Marvin through our partnership over the years.

To learn more about Marvin’s legacy, NewSchool issued this statement which includes more of his sketches.

Pauly.

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