Orchids & Onions

2020 Orchids & Onions Highlight San Diego's Best, Worst Architecture and Design

Everyone knows awards season is actually year-round, of course, so it's no big surprise that it's time for this year's Orchids & Onions architecture and design awards, the annual event when San Diego County's pre-eminent urban planners, engineers and draft-board types trot out their favorite -- and least favorite -- new local developments.

The fine folks running the awards put it this way: "Orchids & Onions is an educational and fundraising program of the San Diego Architectural Foundation, a 501(c)3, nonprofit organization with a mission to educate and promote outstanding architecture, landscape, interior and urban design to improve the quality of life for all San Diegans," a news release connected to this year's awards states.

Sure, that and occasionally throwing some high-end shade.

The winner of 2020's Malone Grand Orchid was the Center for Novel Therapeutics, in La Jolla: "This is structurally fascinating. Elegant and engaging. The use of materials is incredible. Innovative design, also encouraging innovation within. High-performance all around — generous, well-lit common areas, patient-centered design. Very well detailed."

This year's Grand Onion went to the apartment building at 1836 Columbia St., in Little Italy. The judges didn't mince words: "It has absolutely no redeeming value whatsoever. The way it touches the ground is so bad it can’t even be fixed. Looks like a bubble diagram that skipped the architecture/design part and went directly to construction."

For the first time, Orchids & Onions handed out a Teen Choice award Orchid, which also went to the Center for Novel Therapeutics. And it was a grand slam for the Teen Onion, which went 1836 Columbia St. as well.

In addition, organizers were set to reveal the first-ever People's Choice Awards on Thursday night, which will be announced at the virtual gala that kicked off at 9 p.m.

Check out a gallery of 2020 Orchids and Onions below:

Photos: 2020 Orchids & Onions Highlight San Diego's Best, Worst Architecture and Design

Here's a complete list of the 2020 Orchids & Onions:

Malone Grand Orchid

Center for Novel Therapeutics

9310 Athena Circle, La Jolla

Owner/developer: BioMed Realty

Architect/designer: Perkins & Will

“This is structurally fascinating. Elegant and engaging. The use of materials is incredible. Innovative design, also encouraging innovation within. High-performance all around  — generous, well-lit common areas,  patient-centered design. Very well detailed.”

Grand Onion

Apartments at 1836 Columbia Street

1836 Columbia St., San Diego

Owner/developer: Steve Parikh

Architect/designer: DESS Partners

"It has absolutely no redeeming value whatsoever. The way it touches the ground is so bad it can’t even be fixed. Looks like a bubble diagram that skipped the architecture/design part and went directly to construction.”

Architecture – Orchid

Mesa College Fine Arts Building

7250 Mesa College Drive -FA103
San Diego

Owner/developer: San Diego Community College District

Architect/designer: Hanna Gabriel Wells

“This is the direction a lot of architecture needs to go in terms of saving our resources. All the time, money and C02 that was expended in this concrete structure is now saved and reused for another 20 or 30 years.”

Architecture – Orchid

BioLegend Campus

8999 Biolegend Way, San Diego

Owner/developer: BioLegend, Inc.

Architect/designer: Delawie

“Great transformation from a tilt-up industrial campus.”


Architecture – Orchid

Chula Vista Fire Station No. 10 at Millenia

1715 Millenia Ave., Chula Vista

Owner/developer: City of Chula Vista / SLF IV - Millenia, LLC

Architect/designer: Jeff Katz Architecture

“Elegant and functional. I love that they are not scared of color! Perfect for the community. It does what a good civic project should do.”

Architecture – Orchid

East County Assessor, Recorder, County Clerk (ARCC) and Archive

10144 Mission Gorge Road, Santee

Owner/developer: County of San Diego

Architect/designer: The Miller Hull Partnership

“An incredible, sustainable and thoughtful project that will stand beautifully the passage of time. It is impressive how much they could do with limited financial resources. We need more outstanding civic buildings like this!”

Architecture – Orchid

Louisiana

2305 University Ave., San Diego

Owner/developer: Jeff Svitak

Architect/designer: Jeff Svitak

“All around exceptional housing solution. We need to raise the bar by celebrating projects like this. Smart, well crafted, outdoor oriented, and design-inspiring space. It makes you want to be there.”

Architecture Onion

BLVD North Park Apartments

2020 El Cajon Blvd., San Diego

Owner/developer: HG Fenton

Architect/designer: Architects Orange + Foundation For Form

“It really should have had quite a bit of editing.  Please spend a little more time thinking through the impact it has on the community. It could have been more welcoming along the sidewalk - the dentist office and storefront facades are very lackluster.”

Architecture Onion

Hampton Inn and Suites San Diego Airport Liberty Station and Townplace Suites by Marriott

2211 Lee Court, San Diego

Owner/developer: InnerMountain Management and the Corkey McMillin Companies

Architect/designer: Degan & Degan Architecture and Interior Design

“If not offensive, it’s at least passive aggressive. Missed opportunity along the waterfront. The sea of cars and choice of materials and color feel more appropriate for a self-storage development than a fine hotel in sunny San Diego.”

Architecture Onion

Lofts on Laurel

2466 1st Ave., San Diego

Owner/designer: JANCO Development

Architect/designer: H2 Architects

“There's a huge missed opportunity for a project like this to contribute to the neighborhood and the community it's sitting in. I think the lack of façade elements, missing rooftop screens and scant landscaping make this one look like an example of very bad value engineering.”

Historic Preservation – Orchid

The Guild Hotel

500 West Broadway, San Diego

Owner/developer: Oram Hotels

Architect/designer: PGAL+ Sormeh Rienne

“This is the building that had the human touch to it.  It didn’t scream at me.  It has a small scale and is very well composed.”

Historic Preservation – Orchid

Laundry Building at the Hotel Del Coronado

1500 Orange Ave., Coronado

Owner/developer: BRE Hotels and Resorts

Architect/designer: obrARCHITECTURE

“I love how they saved the clothes rack. What I appreciate about the interiors is that they’ve done a lot to make sure they’ve treated it so you really understand what the bones of that space are.  I agree that there’s a lot going on there, but it also feels temporary to me and flexible.” 

Historic Preservation Onion

Chula Vista Library South Branch

389 Orange Ave., Chula Vista

Owner/developer: City of Chula Vista

Architect/designer: No Architect Involved

“It’s the COVID mask in front of this building. They took the easiest way out in terms of executing this. It could have been done much better. This is a jewel of architecture in Chula Vista from a renowned Mexican architect. It’s a slap in the face.”

Interiors – Orchid

Broadstone Makers Quarter Common Areas

1601 Broadway, San Diego

Owner/developer: Broadstone

Architect/designer: Paul Basile, BASILE Studio

“It has a dark perspective, parts of it, but I really do like the level of detail in it.”

Interiors – Orchid

Fit Plunge

3115 Ocean Front Walk, San Diego

Owner/developer: Pacifica Real Estate Services

Architect/designer: Jules Wilson Design Studio

“They did something kind of magical because a space like this typically feels sterile, and this doesn’t. It’s just great.”

Interiors – Orchid

Louisiana

2305 University Ave, San Diego

Owner/developer: Jeff Svitak

Architect/designer: Jeff Svitak

“This is somebody who is creating an interior environment for a use, extremely thoughtful and detailed.”

Landscape Architecture – Orchid

Civita Park Phase 2

7960 Civita Blvd., San Diego

Owner/developer: Sudberry Properties

Architect/designer: Schmidt Design Group

“I like the thoughtful integration of history, natural elements in the playground and educational signs. I really appreciate that there is a place for everyone in this park and that it celebrates the out of doors in Mission Valley.”

Landscape Architecture – Orchid

Kaiser Permanente San Diego Medical Center

9455 Clairemont Mesa Blvd., San Diego

Owner/developer: Kaiser Permanente

Architect/designer: Spurlock Landscape Architects

“Kaiser should be commended for providing this much site area to the public for a wonderful wellness garden.”

Landscape Architecture – Orchid

UCSD Tata Hall for the Sciences

UCSD Revelle College Neighborhood, San Diego

Owner/developer: UCSD

Architect/designer: Spurlock Landscape Architects

“I think this is a very sophisticated project.”

Miscellaneous Onion

Campland by the Bay Lease Extension

2211 Pacific Beach Drive, San Diego

Owner/developer: City of San Diego

“(An Onion) will be a nice present for the birds. This has to be stopped and this preserve has to be saved. Any solution here deserves way more thought and its ecology should be taken into consideration.”

Urban Planning – Orchid

UCSD Mesa Housing Pedestrian Bridge

Miramar Street, La Jolla

Owner/developer: UCSD

Architect/designer: Studio E Architects

“Walkability is important to honor.  An elegant project.” 

NEW CATEGORY: TEEN VOTE

Teen Orchid

Center for Novel Therapeutics

9310 Athena Circle, La Jolla

Owner/developer: BioMed Realty

Architect/designer: Perkins & Will

Teen Onion

Apartments at 1836 Columbia Street

1836 Columbia Street, San Diego

Owner/developer: Steve Parikh

Architect/designer: DESS Partners

Here's a link to this year's nominees.

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