Balboa Theater

The San Diego Architectural Foundation will hold its annual OH! San Diego (Open House San Diego) event Friday, March 6, to Sunday, March 8, and the event is free for all visitors. 

The festival will offer tours of San Diego’s most iconic buildings and residences including normally exclusive locales such as Scripps Institution of Oceanography and the Salk Institute. 

The event will consist of nine separate hubs in neighborhoods such as Downtown, Bankers Hill, Barrio Logan, Balboa Park, Point Loma and La Jolla. These hubs will serve as a jumping-off point to tour the neighborhood, and visitors are free to choose whichever neighborhood they would like to tour. 

Carol Chin is the program director for OH! San Diego and is excited about the upcoming event. 

“Open House San Diego 2020 is almost here, and it will be the fifth open house event that the San Diego Architectural foundation has hosted,” Chin says. 

“We’re excited to have over 100 sites and tours for the event this year, in nine neighborhoods, the newest of which is Coronado. What people can expect is an opportunity to visit sites of architectural interest, historic interest, cultural interest and just the chance to talk to the people who work there. Also, to learn something new about San Diego, and discuss these things with the fellow San Diegans and even visitors from around the world.” 

Attendees will be able to go inside buildings that are not usually open to the public, and some of them are residences. Some are new and have not been seen before, while others are historic landmarks with a long history in San Diego. Some of the locales include the Villa Montezuma Museum in Barrio Logan, The Balboa Theatre Downtown, The Conrad Prebys Performing Arts Center in La Jolla and the Hawthorne Inn in Bankers Hill.

Maps and souvenir programs will be available at the neighborhood hubs as well as event T-shirts featuring the Hotel Del Coronado in tribute to the addition of Coronado to the tours. The tour is part of an international network of tours, which started in London, England, 27 years ago. Chin noted that visitors from around the world come to San Diego for the tour, and have also participated in the other festivals. She says they even show up with shirts and bags from the events. 

“San Diego is part of a broad, worldwide family of cities who put on the shows, and it’s a way to do cultural tourism to these cities while they host their events,” she says. 

“It’s a great way to learn about other cities and other countries and it fosters understanding. We have events in England, Mexico, Spain and Italy, but in the United States, only four cities host these open houses. This includes New York, Chicago, Atlanta and San Diego; so we’re in very good company.”

San Diego Architectural Foundation is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to promote architecture and educate the public about planning and urban design. It is also well known for its annual Orchids & Onions awards, where it honors the best as well as the worst of San Diego’s new designs. Visitors of all ages are encouraged to tour the sites and enjoy San Diego’s rich heritage and even participate in photography and drawing contests.

The event relies heavily on volunteers, so San Diegans are encouraged to go to the website and sign up to volunteer. Chin herself was originally a visitor who later volunteered before being named the program director.

“I think what’s really neat is that visitors become volunteers, and they repeat year after year because they believe in the program itself. We do rely on volunteers since we have 100 sites, so we need an army of, say, 350 to 400 volunteers, and that’s a great way that you can get involved, make new friends and just be an ambassador to San Diego. And here in San Diego, everybody is impacted by our architecture, whether they know it or not, and that’s the beauty of open house San Diego.”

San Diego Architectural Foundation’s OH! San Diego (Open House San Diego), sdarchitecture.org/openhousevarious times Friday, March 6, to Sunday, March 8.