Landscape Design Earns ‘Orchid’ in San Diego

San Diego Architectural Foundation honors Carlsbad project for creating a diverse blend of outdoor spaces

The landscape design of LIFT, a two-building complex in Carlsbad, California was honored with an Orchid Award in the San Diego Architectural Foundation’s Orchids & Onions awards, the group’s annual tribute to the best and worst in local architecture.

LIFT’s landscape design unites offices, restaurant and retail spaces with a diverse blend of outdoor public areas, creating a vibrant sense of community. The design takes advantage of the coastal climate and makes sustainable water treatment a centerpiece of a people-oriented space. The mix of spaces reflects the client’s goal to develop a sense of a neighborhood, with places to stroll, dine, hang out, meet with colleagues or soak up the sunshine.

“We worked closely with LIFT to create special places that reflect their philosophy,” Rocio Gertler, landscape design director at LPA, says. “The project has become a community hub, providing diverse places for people to work and play.”

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A fundraiser for the Architectural Foundation, a non-profit focused on educating and promoting outstanding architecture, landscape, interior, and urban design, the Orchids and Onion awards have developed into San Diego’s most-discussed architecture event. Projects are nominated by the public and then reviewed by a multi-disciplinary jury to decide if the projects are worthy of an orchid or an onion. Orchids exemplify good place making, contribute to the surrounding context, add community character and show respect for materials and the community, according to the group’s criteria.

The centerpiece of LIFT’s design is a linear water feature that doubles as a required bio-retention pond. The space is flanked by a succession of weathered steel screens to create an outdoor living room. One side of the water feature is lined with offices, which extend outward with shaded seating alcoves and planters full of drought-resistant flora. At the opposite side, an entry plaza with amphitheater-style seating and fire pits provides a separate entry experience for the office users.

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The central plaza is lined with outdoor restaurant seating areas, marked with large fire pits that act like a central fireplace at a ski resort. At the end of the plaza, a multifunctional lawn area with twinkling lights overhead provides a children’s play area or, with the help of a built-in projector and screen, a backdrop for evening movies. Two freestanding wood structures with hanging chairs and a table is used as garden meeting rooms.