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 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.” 


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.


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

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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