2022 Nomination Rules

Your nomination must have been received by the deadline to be considered for the Orchids & Onions program.

Nominating Orchids & Onions: what you need to know.

  1. You may nominate as many projects as you wish.
  2. Orchids & Onions will now accept nominations for civic-based master plans and public policies. Projects currently under construction do not qualify for any award but master plans and policies may remain unbuilt. 
  3. Only projects are awarded, not individuals, firms, or organizations.
  4. Onion nominations for all categories will be accepted and the Jury will evaluate and coordinate “design trends” from the list of nominations to be awarded. Projects &/or policies may be nominated as either an Orchid, or Onion, or both.
  5. The jury reserves the right to award no project in any specific category if it does not meet the qualifications for the award in that category.
  6. Collect as much information as possible about the project you are nominating. We need the facts before your submission can be published.
  7. Nominations cannot be posted without accompanying photos, so take your camera for a walk and capture a few photos that illustrate the reason(s) for your nomination. We do not accept renderings or sketches of built & completed projects.
  8. Please be patient, once your nomination is submitted, we will fact-check before posting.
  9. Please keep your nominations and your comments respectful; mind yourself!
  10. We are looking for honest critiques about why nominations should be considered for O&O awards. An off-hand one liner about why you think a project is ugly or beautiful simply won’t cut it. Please provide valid arguments for your nominations. We will follow up with nominators if we think more information is required for a nomination. All excerpts will be limited to 200 words.
  11. Submission of digital photos with the nomination is required. 8MB Total Limit Please do not submit copyrighted materials.
  12. All nominations must be received by July 10, 2022.

You may submit projects in the following categories:

  • Architecture / Public

– Civic, Commercial, Institutional, etc.

  • Architecture / Private

– Mixed-use or Multi-family Housing (10+ units)

– Infill Housing (2-9 units)

– ADU’s (not single-family houses)

  • Historic Preservation & Adaptation 
  • Interior Design
  • Landscape Architecture
  • Public Policies (may be any level of policy proposal or adoption from the State all the way down to Community Plan).
  • Public Art
  • Architectural Lighting
  • Miscellaneous (the jury may move to an existing category or create a new category to qualify a nomination)

To be eligible, a project:

  • Must be located in San Diego County
  • Must not be a single-family residence. Multi-family projects (2+ units minimum) are accepted.
  • Must be completed, and been so within the last 3 years
  • May be a rehabilitated building or structure

What Makes a Project an Orchid or an Onion?

Making San Diego an even better place then it already is by designing and building inspiring spaces and places, starts with thinking about the elements of design. Here are the criteria that are used to evaluate projects. 


  • Exemplifies good place making, i.e. it is a functional and memorable place or space to be
  • Contributes to its surrounding context and adds to community character
  • Skillfully and thoughtfully detailed and crafted – showing respect for materials and the community
  • Expresses something relevant to our time and place – San Diego, right now, as well as its function
  • Provides social and economic benefit to San Diegans
  • Encourages social interaction or a quiet moment
  • Elicits a sense of civic pride
  • Is technologically or environmentally innovative
  • Supports community building
  • Promotes sustainability 


  • The opposite of an Orchid (see orchid qualities above) 
  • A missed opportunity 
  • A blight or eyesore that shows a lack of commitment to quality design and our community
  • An example of poor construction methods
  • Ignores neighborhood and community context

Your Nomination

After submission, nominations with photos will be reviewed by the committee (please allow at least 72 hours) for accuracy and will be posted on the website for all site visitors to view and comment on. The nominator remains anonymous. Check back in regularly to see what projects are most talked about! Comment on and share your favorite nominations!

* Only publicly funded projects &/or policies (Community Plan, City/Council &/or State) will be published & considered as potential Onion recipients. The jury will also select “design trends” among the nominations received. 

Public Comments

Please remember to keep comments respectful. Abuse, personal attacks, or threats will not be tolerated under any circumstances. Orchids and Onions/the San Diego Architectural Foundation is entitled to fully or partially edit or remove any post, and apply restrictive measures on participants.