La Jolla’s ‘The Map’ and UCSD’s North Torrey Pines Living and Learning Neighborhood win architecture awards

The Map of the Grand Canyons of La Jolla depicts marine life inhabiting La Jolla's underwater park and ecological reserves.
(Daniel K. Lew)

Two projects in La Jolla won big at the San Diego Architectural Foundation’s 2021 Orchids & Onions awards Oct. 21.

UC San Diego’s North Torrey Pines Living and Learning Neighborhood won an Orchid for architecture and received the Teen Jury Award.

The Map of the Grand Canyons of La Jolla won in the miscellaneous category.

This year’s winners of Orchids (“best”) and Onions (“worst”) were chosen from 107 nominations in the categories of architecture, historic preservation, interior design, landscape architecture and miscellaneous.

Orchids & Onions began in 1975 as an educational program to raise public awareness and appreciation for the design and development of built projects that improve the quality of life of San Diegans. Orchids honor design excellence in projects completed in the past three years.

For the second year in a row, the event committee assembled a teen jury and asked the members to cast their votes based on the same short list used by the main jury of architecture and design professionals.

The Map of the Grand Canyons of La Jolla

A year after it opened at Kellogg Park in La Jolla Shores, The Map of the Grand Canyons of La Jolla (often referred to simply as “The Map”) claimed its Orchid.

Designed by Robin Brailsford and Wick Alexander, The Map includes hundreds of thousands of tiles embedded in the ground to make up a 2,200-square-foot LithoMosaic containing more than 100 life-size mosaics of creatures found just offshore, as well as markers of significant underwater canyons and varying shades of blue to mark ocean depths. Information panels include photos of the species found in The Map and QR codes to scan for more details.

The project was shepherded by the Walter Munk Foundation for the Oceans as a way to honor the famed oceanographer, who died in February 2019 at age 101. Munk’s widow, Mary Coakley Munk, is a founding board member.

Coakley Munk said the Orchid award was “a total surprise” and that she was “thrilled and extremely grateful for everyone who made it such a wonderful project.”

“It’s a wonderful honor and tribute to the entire community and all those who made it a reality,” including San Diego city staff, Scripps Institution of Oceanography personnel, fabricators, architects, landscape architects, construction crews, community supporters and more, Coakley Munk said.

“It’s especially wonderful that it was recognized because it is being used as part of a virtual field trip for schools across San Diego and Los Angeles. It’s a wonderful educational plaza and hopefully will help all of our visitors have a greater appreciation of what lies offshore and the urgency to take better care of it.”

The first iteration of The Map was installed in September 2008 under the auspices of Friends of La Jolla Shores, with areas of increasingly deeper shades of crushed blue glass to show depth and more than 300 two-dimensional, bronze life-size replicas of the native species — all covered in a laminating product called Lithocrete.

However, soon after its opening, The Map started to crumble and the city of San Diego closed the area in late 2009. The Map’s fabricator, T.B. Penick, repaired it in April 2010, but it started deteriorating again. In fall 2012, the city again closed the area, calling it a safety hazard.

It was rebuilt over almost three years and opened in October 2020.

North Torrey Pines Living and Learning Neighborhood

UCSD North Torrey Pines Living and Learning Neighborhood
UC San Diego’s North Torrey Pines Living and Learning Neighborhood won a 2021 Orchid award for architecture as well as the Teen Jury Award.
(Darren Bradley)

UCSD’s North Torrey Pines Living and Learning Neighborhood at North Torrey Pines Road and Muir College Drive on campus was designed by HKS Architects, Safdie Rabines Architects and OJB Landscape Architects.

The project, billed as “the largest in the history of the architecturally acclaimed campus,” provides the new home for Sixth College. The neighborhood includes two academic buildings (one for social sciences and one for arts and humanities), four residential buildings with 2,000 beds for undergraduates, a 1,200-space underground parking area, an auditorium, a market, a dining hall, retail space and a craft center.

The residential areas opened in fall 2020 and other areas opened this fall.

“We’re very happy and proud of this award because we put a lot of effort to come up with a project to reach everyone,” said Ricardo Rabines of Safdie Rabines Architects. “This project gives us the opportunity to design for different generations. … We want our design to reach every single person and to have people feel like this is home, a place for their future and their community. The idea was to create an energetic village. [UCSD students and faculty] live there, work there, study there, practice there. It’s an active cultural center, and we had never done that on the campus. I found this project extremely exciting at this type of scale. We’re happy to have it recognized.”

UCSD Chancellor Pradeep Khosla said in a statement that “we are thankful for this recognition from the San Diego Architectural Foundation. With each new project, our vision of serving students and making UC San Diego a preferred destination for the greater community is strengthened. North Torrey Pines Living and Learning Neighborhood and UC San Diego Park and Market are both environments where students discover and grow, where scholars and researchers collaborate to solve problems and where the broader community can come to recharge and expand their knowledge.” ◆