Orchids & Onions

Orchids & Onions is a multifaceted educational and fundraising program of the San Diego

Architectural Foundation (SDAF), intended to encourage public awareness and discourse about San Diego’s evolving built environment.

While serving as SDAF Managing Director in 2004, the organization purchased O&O from the American Institute of Architects’ San Diego (AIASD) chapter after years of dormancy. Politically tricky to begin with, O&O had realized its inevitable potential to incense AIA’s own members with public determination of their (or anyone’s) work as an “Onion.” The issues were further compounded by an awards/fundraising gala that had over the years digressed to featuring caustic, humiliating and offensive “humor.”


Represented by former City Architect Michael Stepner, FAIA, the SDAF worked with an ad-hoc committee for over a year to develop guidelines for a program intended to educate, engage, and raise awareness about the value of the built environment; the SDAF mission. Essential to the success of the “reinvented” program would be maintaining the respect and dignity of all participants and projects.

Under the leadership of FCS, O&O relaunched championed by a dedicated volunteer committee in 2006. Over the next 7 years, FCS oversaw (some might say policed) the program with a revolving committee, working to ensure the 2004 guidelines adopted by the board of directors were followed. In 2011, O&O was brilliantly rebranded by artist Terri Beth Mitchell. The awards gala would go on to become and remain the SDAF’s largest and most successful fundraising event, often with as many as 500+ guests (at least) through the 2013, when our contract concluded. Through its ups and downs, the program remains intact and popular.

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