The Hotel del Coronado is an architectural icon of the island, but did you know it was the Del’s Laundry Building that won a publicly nominated Orchid Award for its recent renovations?

For the past decade the San Diego Architectural Foundation (SDAF) has run the Orchids & Onions program which turns to the public to nominate the buildings that make San Diego memorable in either a good…or not so good…way. According to SDAF’s website, the aspects that make a building an Orchid are as follows: “Exemplifies good place making, i.e. it is a functional and memorable place or space to be, contributes to its surrounding context and adds to community character, skillfully and thoughtfully detailed and crafted – showing respect for materials and the community, expresses something relevant to our time and place – San Diego, 2019 as well as its function, provides social and economic benefit to San Diegans, encourages social interaction or a quiet moment, elicits a sense of civic pride, is technologically or environmentally innovative, and supports community building.”

David Marshall of Heritage Architecture & Planning served as the historic consultant on the Laundry Building project and was pleased to hear about the positive reaction from the public to the updates made to the building. “I read about it on the O&O website after the ceremony. Anyone from the public can nominate an Orchid or an Onion. Thankfully people love the Laundry Building, so we avoided the dreaded Onion Award.”

Working with OBR Architecture, Marshall helped modernize the building to be used as an administrative and event space over the course of about a year. “Our goal was to modernize the building and create an attractive work environment while celebrating the building’s character and history.”

Originally built in 1919, the Laundry Building served as a laundry facility for not only the hotel but for residents of Coronado until 1940. During this time laundry trucks would make their rounds across the island delivering laundry to and from the building. In 2018 development on renovations began as part of the Del’s $200 million Master Plan to expand and redevelop the hotel. The renovation team presented their plans for the Laundry Building as part of the Del’s Master Plan to the Coronado Design Review Commission. With Marshall’s background as current Chair of the American Institute of Architects San Diego Preservation Committee, the history of the building was never neglected in the process of redesign. “The most important historic features we preserved were the red brick walls, wood windows and clerestory rooftop windows. We also were able to retain many of the interior features, like the wood floors, signs, office partitions, and the overhead laundry conveyor system which is quite a conversation piece,” Marshall notes. “Luckily it wasn’t in the way and now it looks like an elaborate contemporary art installation.”

That said, there were elements that were in need of repair and necessary updates that were worked into the existing structure. According to Marshall, “The biggest change was revealing the red brick front façade which had been painted white many years ago.” Aside from broken bricks and mortar that needed replacing, as well as new electrical, lighting, and air-conditioning elements, Marshall also mentioned the way the space was changing purpose for some interior additions. “Modifications to the interior were more dramatic because the use had changed from laundry to offices. Restrooms, meeting rooms and a kitchen were added…the building was seismically retrofitted, too.”

Renovations were completed in July of 2019 and Laundry Building is currently in use as an administrative space while work on other buildings of the Del are underway. “Once the building has completed its time as construction offices,” Marshall says, “it will be opened up as an event space for hotel guest and others. I think it will be a popular spot for dinners, meetings and even wedding receptions. The Laundry Building has so much character and so many stories to tell.”

The Laundry Building’s lauded Orchid Award would suggest the public is eager to enjoy the fresh appeal of this historic space as well.

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