A Bouquet of Orchids and a Whiff of Onions


Published:

(page 1 of 3)

When it comes to San Diego’s Orchids & Onions awards, ugly is in the eye of the beholder. Okay, these annual celebrations of local design are about beauty, too. But let’s face it: The Onions are lots more fun than the Orchids.

Take University City’s Mormon Temple—the towering, ersatz-Gothic edifice that looms over Interstate 5. Back in 1992, the year it was completed, O&O judges awarded it a big, fat, pungent bulb. At the time, I quoted one of the critics as suggesting the Mormons ought to subscribe to the theory of “separation of church and interstate.”

A couple of years earlier, I’d described a terminally garish, pink-stucco condo project near the Mormon Temple on Nobel Drive in University City (poor UC) as looking “like an explosion at the Pepto-Bismol factory.” The design judges confirmed that assessment with an Onion for the project later that year.

One nominee in the early ’90s met with a groundswell of public support. A critic nominated Tom Werner and his colleagues, then-owners of the San Diego Padres, for an Onion in the “Historic Preservation” category. “Werner’s design for redefining—or, more correctly, demolishing —this San Diego institution,” the ballot read, “is worthy of the same public censure reserved for those who destroy significant historic buildings.” (The Padres survived; Werner & Co. did not.)

In the early years, judging of San Diego’s Orchids & Onions awards—established in 1976—was done by a fairly equal mix of laymen and design professionals (most of them members of the American Association of Architects or the American Planning Association). Over the years, professionals began to dominate the judging. But for the past few years, while professionals have continued to sponsor the awards, judging has been exclusively by laymen.

This year’s panel includes a lawyer, a banker, a member of the media and an electrician from a county Indian reservation, among others. And overall responsibility for the awards falls to steering committee chair Alexandra Elias of the Centre City Development Corporation.

In this month’s issue of San Diego Magazine, we’re publishing photos of some of the just-awarded 1999 Orchids & Onions. In addition, we’re celebrating some past winners that still surround us, to cheer us or confound us.

More »Related Stories

Wake Up And Smell the Coffee

As American coffee culture moves past the nonfat vanilla lattes toward a more elevated brew, San Diego is right on trend

Top Doctors 2014

732 physicians voted on by their peers in 71 specialties

Scat! San Diego Jazz

Psst. The local jazz scene is exploding, making San Diego the center of West Coast Jazz

Most Popular

  1. Secret San Diego
    Psst! You didn’t hear it from us, but this town has all kinds of "hidden gems" (yes, we said it). And we’re not talking ghost stories at the Hotel Del.
  2. FIRST LOOK: Bottega Americano
    With Bottega Americano opening this weekend, Downtown gets its first gourmet food hall
  3. FIRST LOOK: Fairweather
    Anthony Schmidt tackles "sunny" vacation drinks at Downtown's new patio bar
  4. 5 Reasons to Visit the ‘Coastal Living’ 2014 Showhouse
    For the first time ever, ‘Coastal Living’ selects a California home for its annual showcase, and it just so happens to be in Coronado.
  5. ROAD TRIP: Convivia
    One of the most exciting new trends has been the collaboration of San Diego and Baja chefs. Now a new restaurant in Valle de Guadalupe gives that movement a permanent home.
  6. Best of San Diego 2014
    Our annual list of the best of the best in San Diego right now — with an emphasis on the now.

Promotions

Best of Ensenada 2013

Where to eat, drink, sleep & play

Hawaii: Island Fresh

A handy guide to Hawaii's farmers markets

Connect With Us: