Orchids & Onions People’s Choice Winners of the Past

As we encourage you to engage with your favorite 2020 nominees for Orchids & Onions 2020 — to like, comment and share to support your pick for the People’s Choice winners — we wanted to show you why it all matters. Here, we look at some of our favorite People’s Choice winners from the last 10 years. They’re winners we may not necessarily have chosen ourselves. But you did, and that’s the point.

Orchids & Onions People’s Choice winners celebrate the public’s role in helping shape San Diego’s built environment. It’s your city, after all, and your opinion matters. Take a look at some of your top (and some controversial) picks from the last decade.

People’s Choice Orchid Winners


2010. Elephant Odyssey, San Diego Zoo

The new 7.5-acre habitat was praised for creating a journey through time, highlighting animals of the past, present and future — such as elephants, lions and horses. The project is the largest single design and construction project ever undertaken by the San Diego Zoo. Its architecture was lauded for “carefully and ingeniously responding to the needs and scale of the animals.” While the public loved the elephant exhibit, not all of the jurors were as impressed. “We are not giving an Orchid to something with fake rocks,” one of them proclaimed. Um, yes we are.

2014. La Jolla Shores Lifeguard Station

Photo by Darren Bradley

The architectural beauty of this lifeguard station, designed by RNT Architects, is a testament to its important function — saving lives.

2016. Sempra Energy Headquarters Building

Sempra Energy’s San Diego headquarters, also known as the Cisterra Tower, was designed by Carrier Johnson, an SDAF partner. According to Sempra Energy’s website, the 16-story building has a 52-kilowatt solar panel system and overall energy use has been reduced by 29 percent, compared to similar buildings in the region. The structure also was designed for optimal water efficiency, and has been awarded Gold Certification by the U.S. Green Building Council’s  Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program.

2018. Brandon-Beaver Building Renovation — Bankers Hill

Photo by Jim Brady

In 1963, renowned San Diego modernist architect Homer Delawie, A.I.A., designed the Brandon-Beaver Building. Originally a medical office building, it served the community for over 50 years. Over time, the building was infilled, overgrown with vegetation, and became a visual blockage from the neighborhood to the canyon beyond. The building eventually was purchased and renovated in 2017, maintaining the neighborhood scale of the building. The mid-century modern architecture was preserved, and the building became transparent by adding windows on all sides and removing all the interior walls. The renovation was designed by domusstudio architecture, and the repurposed building has revitalized the neighborhood at the end of Third and Olive.

People’s Choice Onion Winners


2011. Pacific Highway Inactivity

In comments given in bestowing the award, the public had this to say: “San Diegans have been debating the future of the gift of our bayfront since before the Nolan Plan of 1908. And yet today Pacific Highway sits vacant, an occasional shortcut for the traffic weary commuter; a place that no dog walker dare tread — much less someone looking for a glass of water or a pack of gum or even directions.”

2016. Hilton Garden Inn Downtown/Bayside

San Diegans were not fans of the hotel’s design, thinking it more an eyesore than an asset.

2017. San Diego International Airport Car Rental Facility

Photo by Ian Patzke

Is there anything positive to be said about a parking garage’s design? If so, no one could think of it in time for the 2017 awards.

Who will win the coveted People’s Choice Awards in 2020? It’s all in your hands! Have your say here and make sure to like, comment and share your top picks. The photos with the most engagement will win this year’s People’s Choice Orchid and Onion.

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