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By Miriam Raftery

Photo, top: Ilan-Lael Center; bottom: Borrego Springs Library


October 5, 2019 (San Diego’s East County) – The annual Orchids & Onions Awards have presented coveted “Orchid” awards to two East County projects.  


The Ilan-Lael Center in Santa Ysabel built by Hubbell and Hubbell Architects received the award for collaborative architecture. The County’s Borrego Springs library, park and Sheriff’s office designed by RNT Architects received an Orchid architectural award.

According to the Orchids & Onions website:


The Ilan-Lael Center, Santa Ysabel


Nestled within the hills of Santa Ysabel, California, a circular series of buildings, the Ilan-Lael Center, has been built by Hubbell & Hubbell Architects. Housing the Ilan-Lael Foundation, the center provides a space for people from all walks of life to find common ground through the arts. Through workshops and retreats, the heart of the center is rooted in the appreciation for nature supporting its life, as well our own.


These structures feature the firm’s ability to make resilient designs come to life, utilizing low-impact materials such as insulating concrete forms, a recycled foam, and natural plasters. Distinguished by the property’s characteristically fluid roofs, the design heavily focuses on the sun and wind patterns while embracing a central courtyard, encouraging interaction. The three structures, consisting of an office, a gathering room, and an archive, revolve around the focal point, a mosaic adorning a bronze plate scripted with James’ mantra, “Trust Life.” The 2019 completion was celebrated with the final addition of the “Jewel Box,” a beautifully intricate greenhouse and thinking space, embellished with local stones flanked by stained glass doors, located between two structures. Hubbell & Hubbell has provided, once again, a space to create and pursue positive change.


Borrego Springs Library, Park and Sheriff’s Office


The library acts as the social and civic hub that will connect the residents of Borrego Springs. The design celebrates the unique environment and ecology of the desert, the dark sky and star-gazing and the uniqueness of the history of this desert community.


The proposed library design incorporates inviting social plazas and gathering spaces, both interior and exterior, to be utilized by the community groups. Site-specific design elements act as hosts for educational opportunities by incorporating constellation mapping and references to local historical cultures.


The overall form of the building is a rectangle with a nearly flat ramada-style roof, which functions as an all-encompassing shading strategy. Inspired by the local natural environment’s colors and textures, the exterior finishes complement the natural surroundings. The primary cladding materials are weathered steel, stucco, and natural stone all in hues that complement the surrounding mountain colors. The northern façade is primarily glazed and shaded by the roof to allow unobstructed views towards Indianhead Peak. The strategy also brings indirect natural lighting deep into the interior spaces reducing the need for artificial lighting. The southern façade is predominantly opaque with playful small apertures to reduce heat gain and unwanted harsh southern sunlight.


The Orchid awards honor the best new architectural projects in our region, while the Onions recognize the worst.  No Onion awards were presented for East County projects this year.


View a full list of the 2019 Orchids & Onions Awards winners at

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