Corner Office: We Take 5 With SDAF’s Managing Director, Lauren Cook

January 20, 2022

Modern office building architecture with sunlight
Lauren at Point Loma Nazarene University’s Science Center. Photo by Tomoko H. Matsubayashi, connect with her at

In a profession as collaborative as design, it is crucial to raise awareness, give back, and get involved with the nonprofit organizations dedicated to making positive change. Enter Lauren Cook, Managing Director of the San Diego Architecture Foundation (SDAF).

“Community is what makes us so special,” says Cook, who lives in South Bay.

With 28 years of experience in the non-profit sector, Cook dedicates her time, knowledge, and resources to supporting the SDAF community, which relies on the tireless efforts of hundreds of volunteers to orchestrate a calendar buzzing with events.

Raised in Jamaica, the daughter of missionaries, Cook is passionate about increasing awareness and diversity, intersectionality, and inclusion through open dialogues to inspire the next generation of change agents. Or at the very leastadmirers of design. Cook was reared on helping others: she is the Executive Director of Survivors of Suicide Loss San Diego and worked previously in development for PROMISES2KIDS. She brings dynamic experience in the built environment space, having worked alongside the Southern California Rental Housing Association, the San Diego Green Building Council, Citizens Coordinate for Century 3 (C-3), and Uplift San Diego.

“Membership is really about inclusivity,” she says. “Our events reflect every nuance of design and give everyone a part in creation. Architects visualize a structure and then builders bring it to life. Landscape architects harmonize it with the environment and interior designers/artists continue the flow with paint, textiles, art, lighting, sound and much more. We are a community organization because that is what design is. Communal creation.

Person in front of entrance to modern building
Lauren at Point Loma Nazarene University’s Prescott Prayer Chapel. Photo by Tomoko H. Matsubayashi, connect with her at

Here, we sit down with Cook on OH! San Diego 2022, the World Design Capital designation, her newfound sketching prowess, and why Point Loma Nazarene University is a must-see for any architecture lover.  

WDC 2024 is a huge deal. Why? It’s a fascinating partnership with Tijuana. I was pretty honored to be one of the people from an organization who was asked to be in the room when the consortium pitched our region to the WDC delegate, who had just come in from Russia. After AIA, SDAF had the most tenure with almost 45 years in existence. The designation allows us to be a recognized globally as a leader in transborder design. Throughout 2024, an international spotlight will fundamentally strengthen design values across our region, raising awareness and collaboration. The WDC amplifies existing initiatives and strengthens alliances across policy, social change, culture, and infrastructure.

Save the Date  OH! San Diego is such an incredible program and again – is part of worldwide series of these community events. This year on March 18th-20 we are doing a “collection” of neighborhoods featuring different communities in the region. They are diverse, special and offer a unique flair. We’re also leaning into a sub theme of transit to explore our public access in San Diego. Think walking tours, bike tours, trolleyaccessible neighborhoods. It’s all about connectivity.

The perks of membership? They are numerous. For one, SDAF’s general membership is free, which is not typical. The board voted last year to remove any barrier to the San Diego design community. We want families, young people, old people, ANY people, to have access to architecture and design. We also have a VIP membership that allows members to support us while accessing some dynamic programs which are designed with them in mind. Every month, we provide something for community members to participate in.

BEEP’s KidSketch? It’s a new way of seeing. Learning how to sketch has forced me to slow down and really look at structures. And each one has an amazing backstory! I haven’t missed a sketch since September of 2020. And I now have three sketches on my phone that I will promptly show you if you ask. It’s one of SDAF’s rockstar programs, and we recently secured a county grant to ensure its foothold for generations to come.

You graduated from Point Loma Nazarene University. Tell us about the award-winning architecture scene here. The property has a long history and was originally a theosophical society. They have created some incredible buildings, most notably the spectacular Greek Amphitheater. Recently Carrier Johnson + CULTURE designed two buildings (shown): the Prescott Prayer Chapel and the Science Center. The chapel is lovely and has this stirring effect when you enter. I love the science building because such care has been taken to make it fit with the land and space. Firsttime visitors here always say “I had no idea this was all here!

Finish this sentence. Design is… For everyone.

People sitting in chairs having a conversation in front of a modern office building
Lauren & Gillian at Point Loma Nazarene University’s Science Center. Photo by Tomoko H. Matsubayashi, connect with her at

Interview & write up by Gillian Flynn, connect with her at

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