5 Favorite Moments from Orchids & Onions 2020

Well, another Orchids & Onions gala is in our rearview mirror, and from beginning to end, this year’s awards had us craving more, more, more. As our first-ever virtual honors, Orchids & Onions 2020 proved to be among the most unique in recent memory. That largely had to do with you, of course, our exceptional SDAF community. Here are 5 of our favorite things about Orchids & Onions 2020. What do you say, can we do it all again tomorrow?

The support of the SDAF community. 2020 seems to be a year where, let’s face it, we could all spread more love. And boy did you deliver! With more than $7,000 raised in the SDAF/SDNOMA scholarship drive for a minority architectural student, we definitely felt the outpouring of goodwill, San Diego. Thank you for your incredible generosity. Your help means that a minority architectural student will get a special opportunity to carve a path in the design industry, and that wasn’t guaranteed before.

The Teen Jury. In the past, Orchids & Onions was an adults-only affair. But 2020 isn’t like other years, and neither was O&O 2020. The Teen Jury, assembled in collaboration with the nonprofit A Reason to Survive (ARTS), added a youthful spark to this year’s event. The teens showed that though they’re young, they do have an eye for impressive design.

In scrutinizing the nominees for this year’s crop of Orchids and Onions, the Teen Jury, on its own accord, selected the same winner for the Malone Grand Orchid (Center for Novel Therapeutics) and the Grand Onion (Apartments at 1836 Columbia Street) as the main Orchids & Onions jury. While the outcome was purely coincidental, it proved that youth,  like adults, know a good design when they see one.

The People’s Choice live vote. In Orchids & Onions’ 44-year history, the People’s Choice Orchid & Onion never have been voted on live during the gala…until now. With so many notable People’s Choice nominees this year, it was anybody’s guess who would walk away with this coveted prize. 2020 shortlisted nominees for the People’s Choice Orchid included The Jackson mixed-use community, the Children’s Workshop, a private school for kids with special needs, and Audeo K-5 Charter Homeschool. Midway through the gala, it looked like Audeo would walk away with the People’s Choice Orchid. But the Children’s Workshop, featuring architecture by SDAF Board Member Kevin deFreitas, snuck in from behind to take the prize.

Shortlisted nominees for the People’s Choice Onion included The Lofts on Laurel and BLVD North Park Apartments. The Lofts on Laurel took the final honors (and not in a good way). It seems the audience was not impressed with the project’s design or the fact that it overlooks, of all things, a parking lot. We can’t say we blame them.

The Children’s Workshop was specially designed to meet the needs of kids with autism and other developmental challenges. Photo by Darren Bradley.

Juror insights. It’s one thing to hear what everyday folks prefer in a design. It’s something else to learn the opinion of a professional. Hearing the insights of 2020 jurors such as landscape architect Rocio Gertler and urban planner Stacey Lankford Pennington enhanced the audience’s understanding of 2020 projects and educated attendees on why projects were so worthy of praise or criticism.

Marti Krane. The evening’s announcer added a dramatic (and comedic) tone to this year’s awards, and we loved it! It wasn’t so much what she said, but how she said it. With quirky quips geared at Onion winner the Chula Vista Library South Branch (“an Orchid winner that’s gone stinky”) or double-Orchid winner The Louisiana, which nabbed honors for architecture and interior design, Krane brought levity to our 44th annual gala at a time when we needed it most.

What were your favorite moments from Orchids & Onions 2020? Send us an email at and let us know!

Contact Us

San Diego Architectural Foundation



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

Sign Up

Stay on top of your Architectural news

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.

Get in the Mix