Store given designation at SD Architectural Foundation annual awards
By Anthony King | SDUN Editor
At the 2012 Orchids & Onion awards ceremony and silent auction held Thursday, Oct. 11, the season’s annual list of architectural and design winners and losers were announced. Winners, called “Orchids” included the Chicano Park restoration and losers, or “Onions,” included the Miramar College campus.
In Uptown, the newly completed Vons Mission Hills located at 450 University Ave. was awarded an Onion for both architecture and design. Described as a suburban grocery store “plopped … on top of a parking garage in Mission Hills” on the Orchids & Onions website, the store opened March 29 after years of planning and months of construction.
The San Diego Architectural Foundation (SDAF) did give credit to the designers as well as Vons owners for working closely with the community, which included the Mission Hills Town Council, Uptown Planners, the San Diego Planning Commission and the City Council.
The main complaint against the 58,000-square-foot store was the structure’s parking garage, which sits slightly below street level, allowing for added light and ventilation. “The possibility for an interesting, active and vibrant street scene is now non-existent,” the website states.
Mark Fehlman, president of the Mission Hills Town Council during the design process, posted a comment on the Orchids & Onions website before the awards were announced, saying it would be a “huge mistake” to award the project an Onion.
“The community of Mission Hills and a panel of architects, landscape architects and urban planners worked on this project with Vons and their architects from the beginning, and approved the final design,” Fehlman wrote. “Although it is not the ideal sidewalk oriented, small-scale retail that we all love, it was a compromise that balanced street orientation, scale, parking, art and the goals of Vons.”
What began in the 1970s, the Orchids & Onions awards were purchased by SDAF in 2004 and re-launched in 2006 as an educational tool and fundraiser for the nonprofit. SDAF uses the awards to educate and promote outstanding architecture, planning and urban design in the San Diego region.
For the awards, SDAF selects a jury of design professionals and artists to determine the winners and losers based on public nominations. This year there were 149 nominations: 134 Orchids and 15 Onions, of which the Mission Hills Vons store was one.
The 2012 jury included Robin Wilson Carrier of Robin Wilson Interior Design, Nathan Lee Colkitt of Colkitt & Co., Catherine Herbst of Rinehart Herbst, Marcie Harris of Marcie Harris Landscape Architecture, artist and designer Christopher Puzio, and Gregory Strangman of the LWP Group.
Several other locations in Uptown were nominated for awards this year, all Orchids, however there were no other winners. Among the nominees were D Bar and Snooze restaurants in Hillcrest, the Big Front Door restaurant on Park Boulevard, the IBEE Tree mosaic at the Alice Birney School in University Heights, the Hillcrest Pride Flag monument, the Sharp Memorial Hospital green roof in Bankers Hill and the Aldine Drive Slope Restoration Project in Talmadge.
In North Park, the retail center that includes the Fresh & Easy grocery store on University Avenue was nominated for an Orchid, as was the Media Arts Center’s “Take Back the Alley Project” the Seven Grand Whiskey Bar, and the three restored Class 1 streetcars, among others.
This year saw the first time the public could vote on all of the People’s Choice nominees, 21 in total. In previous years, public vote was limited to one project. Program co-chair Pauly De Bartolo said in a press release, “This new feature of People’s Choice voting encourages more public input, thereby offering the citizens of San Diego even more of a say in what they like and don’t about how San Diego is designed and developed.”
The Orchids & Onions awards were held at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego in La Jolla, Calif. Sam Zien, host of “Sam the Cooking Guy,” was master of ceremonies.
2012 Orchids & Onions official selections
Grand Orchid: Chicano Park Restoration
Grand Onion: Miramar College Campus
People’s Choice Orchid: San Diego County Operations Center Campus
People’s Choice Onion: City Heights Family Health Center
High Tech K8 Chula Vista
UCSD Medical Education and Telemedicine Building
Harbor Aquatic Center Restroom Facility
Ocean Beach Comfort Station
Charles David Keeling Apartments at UCSD
Charles David Keeling Apartments at UCSD
SDG&E Innovation Center
City Heights Family Health Center
Architecture & Urban Design:
Vons Mission Hills
Demolition of Star Building
Demolition of Aztec Center at SDSU