OH! San Diego Born from One Woman’s Vision

Susanne Friestedt

With OH! San Diego 2021 consuming our attention, our minds also are on the origins of the program here in San Diego. As with everything worthwhile, OH! San Diego didn’t happen on its own. Here’s how OH! San Diego came to be, and the woman who made it a reality — Susanne Friestedt, Urban Change Agent.

Susanne is a native San Diegan and Point Loma resident. Founding OH! San Diego was her way of giving back to her hometown in a meaningful, lasting way. Inspired by a visit to Open House London and Melbourne, Susanne set out to bring the program to San Diego, making it the third U.S. city to be recognized as an Open House Worldwide city.

Over the years, OH! San Diego has become an integral part of that broader international community, one that celebrates architecture, urban design and the built environment. As a global network, Open House Worldwide fosters a dialogue about architecture, design and the challenges facing our cities. San Diego’s contribution to the network is a free, annual public showcase that promotes appreciation of San Diego’s urban environment through behind-the scenes access to, and information about, buildings and public spaces in San Diego neighborhoods.

Rather than starting a new non-profit to operate the program, Susanne approached SDAF to serve as OH! San Diego’s umbrella organization. She worked closely with then-SDAF board president Maxine Ward for more than three years to design the first Open House San Diego. The inaugural Open House program, held on October 17, 2015, featured 41 sites in downtown San Diego and Barrio Logan.

The program grew with each passing year, and in 2020, hosted more than 8,500 site visits to 89 sites in nine neighborhoods: Bankers Hill, Downtown, Gaslamp, East Village, Barrio Logan, Balboa Park, Point Loma, La Jolla and Coronado.

Susanne has been integrally involved in Open House every year. She built and ran the program committee, identifying new sites and handling public relations and community outreach. In 2021, in addition to advising the Planning Committee, Susanne chose to share her commitment to the program by becoming the Neighborhood Sponsor for La Mesa.

“I have been proud to work closely with Susanne over the last six years to develop this lasting and impactful program in San Diego,” says 2020 OH! Chair Maxine Ward. “Her passion for her hometown and for sharing its achievements with others has inspired so many.”

Because of her role as founder of OH! San Diego, Susanne knows that wherever she travels, she is a part of the Open House Worldwide family.

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