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In San Diego Architecture, Orchids Outweigh Onions

October 8, 2018 1:49 p.m.

In San Diego Architecture, Orchids Outweigh Onions


Laura Warner, architect and chair, San Diego Architectural Foundation's Orchids & Onions awards

Ben Dalton, architect and vice-chair, San Diego Architectural Foundation's Orchids & Onions awards

Related Story: In San Diego Architecture, Orchids Outweigh Onions


This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

This is KPBS midday edition. I'm Maureen Cavanagh. Just about everywhere you go in San Diego right now there's construction of one kind or another. Charley lines are being built. The freeways are being expanded. And lots of buildings are going up. The new architecture is changing the landscape of San Diego. So is that good or bad. Apparently it can be both according to the San Diego Architectural Foundation. They've just held their annual orchids and onions awards bestowing orchids for great new architecture and onions for not so great. Joining me are Laura Warrener architect and design partner for city works and chair of this year's orchids onions. Laura welcome to the program. Thank you very much. And also here is vice chair of the event Ben Doulton architect with Miller Hall partnership. Ben welcome. Thank you. Great to be here. Now Laura I think everyone whether you're an architect or not has strong opinions about new buildings.

How does the Architectural Foundation choose which buildings to evaluate well what are they we want to do is really focus on what does quality mean and how do we create a place that's memorable that people want to return to. That really is a backdrop for people's lives and that enriches their lives and who votes on these nominations.

Ben right. So both the nomination process and the voting process is not done with them. The San Diego Architectural Foundation Board the jurors that are selected to do the voting and the public does the nomination.

There's also the People's Choice Award which is the second part of our awards process and to the people the projects that are nominated by the public also get voted on by the public in addition to the jury voting.

Well tell us some of the big orchid winners of this year.

Laura So one of the big winners was the California Superior Court in downtown San Diego really beautifully designed building in terms of the mass scene and the civic quality that it has the fit and finish of it.

And were there any surprises.

What surprises I had was it didn't seem like there was as much attention that could have been put on to downtown buildings. So we probably had three or four buildings that were focused on and we have such a fast growing downtown. It would have been nice to see a little bit more focus on that. I guess that was a surprise for me.

Now Ben there were 16 Orca's awards and only four onions. Why do you think there were relatively few not so great buildings as San Diego design improving.

Yes I think the Sandigo design is improving. It's fantastic to go on the jury tour and go visit all of the projects that get nominated. There is a lot of development happening and it's encouraging to see the great work that's coming out.

You know Laura you don't have to be a major public building to be noticed downtown like the Superior Court building Oceanside high school performing arts center. What made that also won an orchid. What made that a winner.

Well I was really impressed with Janet requires the architect to design this project. She really took into consideration the fact that this is the gateway into Ocean side's downtown into Oceanside generally. Also the program that was developed includes the community in it. So it's really a community gathering space in addition to being a place for the high school students to learn about performing arts. That's one of the criteria that we have is how well does it service the community. Does it really bring the community together and the complex city of that kind of building a performing arts center is is pretty astounding and it was very well done. It's the spaces are very nice the the the shape of the building the drama the building and I think really fits and expresses what the building does.

And you guys also handed out an orchid for landscape design. Is that unusual.

It's pretty common. There's a few different criteria or categories I should say with them. The award ceremony and landscape is always one.

OK so Africa rocks one this year why did they happen.

You know I think it's a place the zoo in general is loved by the public in Africa rocks is one of their largest projects that they've done in the past decade. Really getting back to a quality zoo experience and I think the public has really appreciated that.

Now Laura of course what people really wait for are the onions which buildings got a thumbs down from the organization. So tell us about some I know that there was a people's choice and given to a new apartment building in Hillcrest.

Yeah that was an interesting project and I have to say you know anybody who's worked in the profession for any amount of time they probably have worked on an onion it's really a group effort. You know the architect the owner the developer the community and there's a lot of constraints on that in the contractor and so you know the projects that make it to be an orchid often everything is just really working right for the project that was in Hillcrest. There are some people who really love that project as a community gathering space for the gay community and then there's other folks who didn't like it because of the finish of the metal panels or they just didn't like the color red. So the point of the whole process is to really have that discussion about what makes for good good architecture and I would say that the things that they really hit on that was working was a community gathering space but some of the aesthetics and the fit and finish were the things that were contested.

So that is the goal then been to get this conversation going on what really makes a great building great architecture.

Absolutely. That's really well. Our goal is to facilitate a conversation not to drive the conversation and the product you just mentioned dial up on Hillcrest was a really great example of something that got nominated for both an onion and an orchid. It was ultimately chosen peoples choice for an onion. But it facilitated a great conversation with the jury. And I think with them the award ceremony and we hope that that continues so that people start to expand what good architecture means to them and start to really look at how it addresses the community that isn't as well as just the look and feel of the building because it's more than a beauty contest.

Laura can you point to an example of the orchid and onions awards influencing Design in San Diego.

It is helping to shape the discussion whether you're in the office doing design work or you're a contractor on the site or your community member taking a look at your community and deciding whether those projects are good or not. What we really want to do is elevate the conversation beyond how many parking spaces or how much traffic there is to what is the quality of this space and how how do I feel in this space and does it really make my life better.

As members of the architecture and design community you both must be aware of the controversy that erupted over removing some of the Venturi Scott Brown architecture at the new entrance to the Museum of Contemporary Art La Jolla location. Is that renovation likely to be on your orchids and onions review list. When completed do you think Laura.

I think there's a high probability of it. I think it's probably as controversial as the Eitel billion that's in Hillcrest it's such an important part of the community it's become such an icon. And I think people will have to do some thinking about how do we preserve our community character and our past but also say something about what is it to be in San Diego and 2018.

We'll have to wait till next year then. I've been speaking with architects Laura Warner and Ben Dalton chair and vice chair of this year's Orchids & Onions awards. Thank you both very much. Thank you. Thank you.