The Coast News Group
C3 Bancorp headquarters in downtown Encinitas won in both architecture and landscape architecture categories. Courtesy photo

Local bank recognized as one of best architectural projects in county

ENCINITAS — The careful design of an Encinitas bank recently wowed jurors and was selected as one of the county’s best architectural projects this year.

C3 Bancorp won two Orchids at this year’s Orchids & Onions awards ceremony put on by the San Diego Architectural Foundation. The 43rd annual ceremony was held earlier this month at the US Grant Hotel and was emceed by State Assemblyman Todd Gloria.

A total of 14 projects were awarded Orchids or Onions in the architecture, interior design, landscape architecture, public art, place making and architectural detail. Orchids are awarded to projects that are considered to be functional, memorable, technologically and environmentally innovative, and that elicit a sense of civic pride. Onions are the opposite of orchids and are handed out to projects that are poorly constructed, lack functionality, are made with cheap or faux materials, are out of scale or are badly proportioned.

The bank received one Orchid for best architecture by Brett Farrow and one Orchid for best landscape architecture by Richard Risner. Farrow said this was his first collaboration with Risner, who he knows from other civic volunteer efforts in the Encinitas/Cardiff community as well as from his local surf spot.

“This is one of my favorite awards and to receive both the architecture and landscape architecture is definitely a big honor,” Farrow said this week. “There are so many design decisions that go into a project, thousands quite literally, and to have that effort given recognition by fellow professionals and the public is both a validation of the hard work and, to be honest, the struggle to have a design realized as conceived.”

Farrow describes the bank’s design as modern, utilizing big glass, operable windows, and usable outdoor spaces, which he says makes sense given the area’s Mediterranean climate.

“To me, modern is an approach more than a style,” Farrow said. “Finding elegance in simplicity and expressing the honesty of materials is to me what this is all about.”

A total of 118 projects were in the running this year. The projects awarded Orchids and Onions were nominated by the design community and the public. A jury made up of architects, landscape architects, interior designers, a historic preservation architect, a developer, a visual artist, an architecture professor and a student conducted a day long tour of short-listed projects, followed by deliberations. This process resulted in this year’s awards.

Along with the jury selected awards are the People’s Choice awards. One Orchid and one Onion were selected by the public through an online voting process.

Laura Warner, co-chair of the Orchids & Onions Program, said the jury overwhelmingly agreed that C3 Bancorp’s new headquarters looked nothing like any bank that they had ever been to. She said the jury applauded the building’s beautiful, well-executed form and stated that even the parking area is stunning.

“These are the juror’s comments — ‘It’s sleek and modern with the exposed concrete structure. However, the wood accents and operable glass windows provide warmth and a hint of the salty, ocean air, giving the space a “beachy and coastal” vibe,’” Warner relayed.

She said the purpose of the Orchids & Onions program is to engage the design community and the public-at-large in an ongoing conversation about the benefits of thoughtful and well-designed places and spaces. “This program is not intended to be a beauty contest, rather a discussion about what type of places we want as the backdrop for our lives and memories,” Warner said. “It also recognizes the committed and hard-working teams that make these inspiring places and spaces possible.”

Farrow, who also won an Orchid in 2017 for his own development, the Quonset Project, aka Campfire, in Carlsbad Village, said he gives credit to the San Diego Architectural Foundation for connecting the public to the design professions in a fun and meaningful way.

Farrow said he also credits the city of Encinitas Planning Department for letting architects give expression to their art and for taking chances on a design departure from the safe and normal.

And he credits his client.

“The client really got behind the project, didn’t compromise and the building echoes their own company culture and a desire for an employee lifestyle ethos that is based on health and a positive workplace environment,” Farrow sai