2013 Orchids & Onions; it’s a wrap…


After nine months of planning sessions (or beer fueled creative get-togethers, depending on the week), the San Diego Architectural Foundation’s 2013 ORCHIDS & ONIONS Award Ceremony & Silent Auction went off without a hitch last week on Thursday, October 3rd.


Having been involved with this great program for a few years, I am extremely proud of this years contingent of volunteers as we saw a big challenge ahead of us. For the first time in many years, the O&O team was without rock stars Leslee Schaffer (recently departed ED of SDAF) & Ivana Vinski (SDAF Director & O&O Event Co-Chair/Co-Ordinator). Sites set, SDAF designated my fellow Co-Chair Craig Howard & I the task of ensuring not only a successful event, but one that continued the tradition of San Diego’s most anticipated party for the creative community & an award ceremony that could both celebrated the Orchid additions to our community, while tastefully handing out Onion’s too.

Where to start with Craig?…A recent graduate from the NewSchool of Architecture & Design (NSAD), SDAF Director & member of the DBRDS team, Craig is a seasoned veteran of the O&O experience & he diligently set out to create a team of volunteer rock stars all invited to play very specific roles in the planning. Pulling in fellow recent graduates & current students, Craig used his NSAD resources & showed phenomenal leadership liaising with everyone involved & putting in the long (very long) hours after work & on weekends to ensure that everything was done & that everyone was being supported. I look forward to working with this lad for many years to come.


The first of these key teams that Craig pulled together was our ‘Graphics & Marketing’ team who consisted of Lauren Pasion, Melina Aluwi, Daniel Ordonez, Kate Johnson & Yolanda Campbell (all below, minus Yolanda who could not make the event). This team was challenged with the task of taking the existing O&O branding graphics & reinventing them for the 2013 program. The ‘vinyl bobble’ was shortly presented & the team simply set about doing their thing. Meeting after work hours & in addition to our standing weekly O&O volunteer meetings, this bunch of self driven individuals saw no issues, only solutions as they worked their way through an ever-growing list of marketing collateral needs, all while dealing with the multiple revisions to ensure names, spelling & sponsor logos were all correct. Thank you to each of you for the tireless efforts. I am so inspired your passion for the program & thankful for your flawless team commitment & collaboration.

IMG_9723(Dan, Lauren, Kate & Melina)

Screen shot 2013-10-07 at 7.22.52 AM

Our Silent Auction team of Mikaela Rosvall & Monika Banakaite (below) were simply amazing. This dynamic duo found time during their day jobs to send hundreds of emails, make many phone calls & follow up with a very long list of previous donators to the O&O Silent Auction. In addition, both ladies (along with Craig) took hours out of their weekends & many late nights (including here in the DBRDS office) to collate packages, make fancy presentation bags, layout their own little graphic tags & shop for supplemental presentation items all to ensure that the 2013 O&O Silent Auction raised money for SDAF. The amount of personal time dedicated to this effort is priceless. The entire SDAF Board of Directors thanks you!


My event planning team – Gretchen Sorenson & Andrea Hammann – you ladies rock! Gretchen brought amazing experience always questioning to various teams ensuring a conversation was taking place between the various teams, while Andrea brought a bright-eyed enthusiasm that she used to simply get things done. Thank you to you both for the great ideas & for finding solutions. I am grateful for your participation. (some how our photographers missed you in the photos…but that doesn’t mean we don’t love you!)

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A special mention to Sasha Pisch. This crafty lad accepted our challenge to find a way to present the 15 or so Jury ‘Napkin Sketches’. With access to the NSAD workshop & some spare plastic, he created a very sexy way to display the sketches. Sasha’s dedication to the cause didn’t even fade as the connection pieces he ordered did not show up until half way through the event pre-party…so as everyone else ate & drank during the party, he sat there putting each frame together…solid, solid dedication. Thank you! Here is Sasha, along with our ‘Vanna White’, the always entertaining Ms. Julia Cota…



My Jury Tour team – Chuck Crawford, your ability to spark dialogue on the tour is crucial. You get the creative juices flowing for a Jury who mostly just met each other…thank you. Dedicated SDAF Director Jerry Shonkwiler, thank you for participating in the day. You got a glimpse into how much effort goes into just one of the many components to a successful O&O event. I hope you enjoyed the experience & we hope to have you involved again next year. Suzanne – I dont know how you can scribble a thousand notes on a moving bus, but you did it. Thank you for listening to our jury & transcribing so thoughtfully their considerations of each project. You are an amazing writer (not to mention your always provocative music selections) & we are a better team for your involvement. Our videographer Lauren Pasion & our photographer Jackie Kowalik (below) – both of you wonderful ladies played a huge part in capturing the moments of the Jury (in addition to helping out with other many things!)…thank you.



To ALL of our volunteers, thank you. Each week you came & participated. Everyone had a role, no one was left out. This event simply does not exist without volunteers. Giving up every Thursday night to come & be part of the programming is one thing, but to take complete ownership of your various tasks & to pull it all off is absolutely amazing. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

To the SDAF Board of Directors for participating in many ways – whether it be through fundraising & sponsorship efforts, or turning up early to help set up or staying late to help  breakdown, you know who you are & you all played a key role in the success. Thank you.

Our ‘Core’ Committee of SDAF President Maxine Ward, SDAF Directors Suzanne Clemmer & Perriann Hodges & Photographer Darren Bradley – you guys are the dream team. From all angles you kept Craig & I on task; supporting throughout every step you all played key roles in the success of this event. Our program should not simply say ‘Co-Chairs’, it should state ‘TEAM’…I love working with each of you…let’s do more good things together.




(this is a perfect shot of Suzanne (third from right) doing her thing…she is a note taking machine!)


Our esteemed Jury of Design Professionals; I put you through the ringer making you sit & vote online for hours, then dragging you around to 24 site visits in one day (a Saturday no less!), then locking you in a room for 4.5 hours as you worked your way through the short list of nominations during the deliberations, all to select the official 2013 O&O Awards…you took it all in stride. I could not be happier to have met you all…you’re all good peep’s.

Eric Naslund – Principal at Studio E Architects & Chair of the San Diego Planning Commission

Frank Wolden – Founding Principal at Skyport Studios & Adjunct Professor at the NewSchool of Architecture & Design

Viveca Bissonnette – Interior Designer; Principal at Hollander Design Group

Brian Garrett – Landscape Architect; Project Manager at LandLAB

Gina Champion Cain – Developer; President & CEO at American National Investments & Owner of the Patio on Lamont in Pacific Beach

David White – Artist; Founder of Agitprop Gallery in Barrio Logan

Alex Hempton – Urban Planner; Membership Direction for the San Diego American Planning Association.

A special shout-out thank you to Richard Messenger also from GoldField Stage Co. For the fifth time Richard has been our bus driver on the tour, we like Richard & we like that Richard dig’s architecture.

A huge thank you to our gracious Emcee for the evening…the One, the Only, Sam ‘The Cooking Guy’ Zien! A witty chap, doing this for the third time Sam knows EXACTLY how to speak to the creative community. Lay-person observations combined with perfectly executed humor makes Sam a rock star host to any event. We love Sam, & we know our audience loves Sam. A bonus with having Sam involved is what we like to call ‘The Cooking Guy’s Classy Critiques’…this year it was Urinals, and it was hilarious.
Thank you to our Backstage crew. Lead by Darren Bradley who directed the ceremony, we had SDAF President Maxine Ward running around lining up the presenters & Jackie Kowalik providing the Voice of God(ess). Darren, who literally split his head open (needed several stitches in my opinion) insisted that the show must go on & lead a great evening regardless of the gash in his forehead. Our Upstairs crew also (Lauren, Melina, Dan & Suzanne) – you all played a ‘behind the scenes’ role to ensure the presentation went smoothly & without any hiccups. Well, there was that one time…but lets not go there.
To the San Diego Museum of Art, Balboa Park & your entire ‘Special Events’ Planning team…thank you. As the pressures of putting this show on crept over me, you were great to deal with & we are certainly pleased we could host our event in your stunning venues.
Thank you to all of our official Photographers. Lead by committee chair Darren Bradley, you all provided fantastic photography of this years crop of Orhcids & Onions. Our photographers this year included Darren Bradley, Mike Torey, Jim Brady & studioMAHA.
To the whole crew from Stone Catering Co. – thank you! This is the 3rd time collaborating with you on the O&O event & you seem to outdo yourselves every year. I had so many people tell me how amazing the food was…if only I had time to taste some! Susan & Linda – you ladies rock.
Mike McAllister & team at Hold It Home Contemporary – you guys did it again. The VIP furniture selections & arrangement was second to none. You are a huge supporter of SDAF & we are proud to collaborate with you. Again, you went above & beyond the call, providing solutions to every challenge from screening elements to on-stage lighting – you don’t know how to say no, it may not even be in your vocabulary, you just find solutions. I look forward to working with you & sending you a lot of business for the coolest modern furniture & stylings in town! Did I mention these guys support SDAF every year for nothing? Super, super nice crew…go check out their store in Mission Valley, you WILL NOT be disappointed.
(Todd from Q&A with Michelle & Mike McAllister of Hold It Home)
(Sam ‘The Cooking Guy’ & Kevin deFrietas relaxing pre-event on the VIP lounges)
THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU to Tito Taing & the entire reproHAUS team. Your amazing in-kind sponsorship of the O&O event & your flawless ability to produce our programs, event graphic boards, set decor as well as allowing our volunteer committee to host our meetings in your space, it truly appreciated. You consistently provide SDAF with your support & are an absolute rock model of what it means to ‘give back’. We are super, super thankful for your generosity.
Thank you to Chris Roberts of AV San Diego for your lighting! The event was perfectly lit with your uplighting layout!
Thank you to Robert at Co-Merge for allowing us to host key private meetings (our Jury Deliberations & the final presentation run through) meetings in the large conference room. With the level of secrecy that we pride ourselves on so that the award winners are not leaked prior to the event, it is critical for us to have a secure & private space to do these meetings…and you ALWAYS say yes. Thank you.
Thank you to our DJ Marc Abouaf & crew to playing killer tunes throughout the event. Beyond being a great real estate agent (call him, he’s damn good), your a wicked DJ & we are lucky to have you part of the team for a second year running.
Thank you to all of our sponsors – without you there is no program. We are ever so grateful for your participation & belief in the Orchids & Onions dialogue. From our title sponsor the NewSchool of Architecture & Design (for I think the 7th year straight!) to our In-Kind sponsors (like Stone Brewing Co.), you are all appreciated & we look forward to a continued relationship with you all to ensure the programs continues with many years of success. Also to all of our Silent Auction donators – thank you.
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Congratulations to all of the Orchid winners. You are all so deserving of this award for your contribution to San Diego’s built environment. Whether it be a grand civic project like the new Federal Courthouse, or the interior design of the community coffee house ‘Coffee & Tea Collective’, you are all fantastic.
Thank you to Interim Mayor Todd Gloria for coming to present the 2013 People’s Choice Orchid to Stone World Bistro & Gardens, Liberty Station & to CEO Greg Koch for not only coming to collect the award, but for being a long time supporter of SDAF.
To all of our award presenters, thank you for participating in the night. Your support on the night tells us that you believe this program & that SDAF is truly doing some positive. We are motivated by your kindness & will continue to ask you to be involved. Our presenters included Dr. Steve Altman, SD Planning Director Bill Fulton, AIA San Diego ED Bastiaan Bouma (Bastiaan & I below) & others.
To our event photographers Jon Tiffin, Michael Wilby & Jeff Taitano who captured the night for us…your photographs are fantastic & will help SDAF further fundraise for future events.
A very special thank you to the two Onion recipients who came to not only collect their award, but to provide insight into your project & process. This is what O&O is all about, understanding & importantly continuing a dialogue about our built environment whether they be good or, not so good. Kudos to you for coming & participating.
Finally, I want to thank Jeff Durkin from BreadTruck Films for collaborating with us (& Craig for helping out) to make a special tribute video to the late Graham Downes who passed away earlier this year. Jeff interviewed many of Graham’s close friends including Jonathan Segal, Brett Miller, Greg Strangman & others to capture the essence of Graham which we played at the event. Introduced by Jonathan on stage, the tribute was moving, celebratory & told a story of a contributor to San Diego’s built environment who left a great legacy of works not only through his build forms, but also through the passion & education that he instilled in many of us.
All that being said, the 2013 Orchids & Onions event was a massive success, but only because of the amazing collaborations by everyone involved. It would be impossible to do such an event without the dedication of many…and we were certainly overwhelmed by the response.
Thank you to everyone who participated, you have made this year absolutely memorable for me & I could not be prouder of our combined efforts. Thank you.

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