By Delle Willett

In early October, the San Diego Architectural Foundation (SDAF) recognized this year’s best and “not-so-best” projects throughout San Diego County at the 43rd Annual Orchids & Onions Awards.

The projects awarded Orchids and Onions were nominated by the design community and the public. A jury made up of architects, landscape architects, interior designers, a historic preservation architect, a developer, a visual artist, an architecture professor and a student conducted a day-long tour of short-listed projects, followed by deliberations. This process resulted in this year’s awards.

Schmidt Design Group (partnering with Site Design Group) won an Orchid for their Linda Vista Skate Park for placemaking, and Grounded Landscape Architecture won an Orchid for C3 Bank Encinitas.

The jury was captivated by the Linda Vista Skate Park, which one juror likened to “a beautiful, functional sculpture.” They enjoyed the 100-ft-long bridge over the skate park, which provides both public access to the recreation center and a stellar place to view the skateboard aerials below. But the jury agreed that, most importantly, it is just great placemaking, creating a space where kids can have fun without digital distractions. Another juror summed things up by saying, “This is to skate parks what Torrey Pines is to golf courses.”
Rich Risner of Grounded Landscape Architecture said the C3 project was a challenge because the majority of the landscape is on a podium with two stories of parking garage below. The concept was for a unique, tough, drought-tolerant, exterior shell opposing the soft, lush, simplistic, interior “atrium spaces” with a slight Japanese flair. These spaces are useable for employees to relax outside and regain a little clarity before they head back inside and get back to work.

The jury overwhelmingly agreed that C3 Bancorp’s new headquarters looked nothing like any bank that they had ever been to. With its “beachy and coastal” vibe, the jury applauded the building’s beautiful, well-executed form; even the parking area is stunning. Nothing was spared in the design, and the gain for Encinitas is huge.

Orchids & Onions is an educational and fundraising program of the San Diego Architectural Foundation (SDAF), 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.