Spotlight on Orchids & Onions Sponsor Perkins & Will

Kay Kornovich and Ryan Bussard

Orchids & Onions 2020 is upon us, and we couldn’t be more excited! In anticipation of SDAF’s biggest fundraiser of the year, taking place tomorrow, we connected with one of Orchids & Onions’ key 2020 sponsors, Seattle-based Perkins & Will (their Center for Novel Therapeutics is up for an Orchid this year!).

Here, Perkins & Will Principal, Managing Director Kay Kornovich, NCARB, RA, LEED AP, and her colleague, Design Director, Principal Ryan Bussard, AIA, LEED AP, talk about what drives the Perkins & Will mindset, why the firm chose to sponsor Orchids & Onions 2020, and how the Perkins & Will mission aligns with that of SDAF.

Empathy is front and center on your home page. Why?

RB: Design is a holistic vision. It’s very hard to do well without empathy. Listening to the community, listening to our users, it all informs our architectural vision and professional relationships. Each of the buildings we create has a story. Each client has a story. Through empathy, we can gain a better understanding of our clients. It allows us to do better, more meaningful work.

Living in the time of Covid-19, this feels like the moment when we all need to step up and be more empathetic. At Perkins & Will we have an initiative called JEDI. It stands for “justice, equality, diversity and inclusion.” We’re very strong on inclusion and equity, and we take it very seriously.

Perkins & Will’s goal is to design places that make a positive difference in the world. What are some of the ways architecture and design can achieve that?

Perkins & Will designed the i3 Illumina Campus in UTC. This photo shows the Eastern view from the 805.

KK: First of all, I love designing science buildings. I’ve been doing it my whole career. Someday we will have a cure for cancer, and I hope to design that building. Life sciences is my passion. Through sustainability, and by designing for resiliency, we can make the world a better place.

It can start on a smaller scale just in terms of the materials we use or thinking about orientation, the way the building is programmed or laid out on the site. We strive not to disturb the natural landscape and use natural materials whenever possible.

 RB: How far can we push ideas in terms of resilience and sustainability to make a positive difference for our clients? That’s a priority for us. Researchers’ findings are inspiring us to do better work, and hopefully that is felt in the buildings and environments we design. In places where groundbreaking research is performed, our design helps researchers achieve their goals, and they’re important goals. So our creative vision and a client’s mission statement must be closely aligned.

What led you to Orchids & Onions 2020?

The Center for Novel Therapeutics in La Jolla is nominated for an Orchid.

RB: While Perkins & Will is based in Seattle, we have worked on projects in San Diego for nine years. Our Center for Novel Therapeutics in La Jolla is nominated for an Orchid this year. The interesting part of it is, we don’t even know who nominated us. Orchids & Onions is a program we’ve always admired. A number of our clients hold it in very high esteem, and they have told us fun stories from the past.

KK: I really appreciate the Onions part of it, too. To be good stewards of architecture and the environment, we have to hold each other accountable. We have to not only celebrate the great, but stop and say, “Hey, you can’t put this in our environment.”

RB: Orchids & Onions pays close attention to placemaking. It asks the hard questions and pays attention to what’s important to individual communities. Through the Orchids & Onions program, the bar is being raised. It inspires architects to think more critically about the ways their projects impact the community.

How do the Orchids & Onions’ and Perkins & Will missions complement one another?

Sensitivity to the environment is important in Perkins & Will’s projects, as seen in their Center for Coastal and Deltaic Solutions in Baton Rouge, La.

KK: There’s a parallel in terms of design excellence and attention to continuous improvement. Our firm has a Biennale where all of our offices submit work that they think is good. Some of it gets critiqued by outside jurors. We also have peer review that critiques each office’s work. If it’s not up to par, the work needs to be improved and the quality of excellence raised.

RB: The Biennale looks at the best of the best. We also have The DEAR  (Design Excellence Annual Review) Report once a year. It’s feedback on our portfolio that is much like a crossover between Orchids and Onions. We get critiqued on a work in progress by a school of architecture jury. It gives us a moment to reflect and give an honest appraisal of the work.

Why did you choose to become an Orchids & Onions watch party sponsor this year?

KK: We really look up to the Orchids & Onions program and feel it’s important to highlight good design as well as projects that weren’t thoughtful enough in their approach. We have been watching the program since about 2012, when we first began working in San Diego. We’re proud to support it this year as a 2020 sponsor and nominee.

All photos by Nick Merrick.

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