OH! is the enthusiastic acronym for Open House – an international public education program with the mission to educate and engage the public about the best of the city’s architecture, urban design, and built environment.
Over the weekend of March 6-8, close to 100 public and private buildings throughout San Diego will be opened to the public and staffed by volunteer docents. The OH! citywide initiative is one of the hallmark programs of the San Diego Architectural Foundation (SDAF), a local nonprofit that shares the OH! mission of fostering greater understanding and appreciation of architecture and design. SDAF President and Architect Margit Whitlock explains why OH! San Diego is such a valuable opportunity for the community.
“San Diego is a beautiful treasure to be embraced,” says Margit. “OH! San Diego offers a free opportunity for San Diegans to engage, explore, enjoy and appreciate the built environment within their city.”
The Open House concept originated in London in 1992. Since then, it has evolved into Open House Worldwide and now features in 47 cities around the globe. San Diego joined the Open House Worldwide collective in 2014, making it the 3rd U.S. city to participate, following New York and Chicago. Atlanta joined the collective in 2017.
OH! San Diego founder, Susanne Friestedt, explains her motivation for bringing OH! to San Diego: “As a third-generation San Diegan and life-long Point Loma resident, I founded OH! San Diego to give back to my precious hometown in a meaningful, lasting way,” says Friestedt. “This unique international concept works so well in our Open House Worldwide sister cities. To successfully implement it right here in San Diego is extremely gratifying. I applaud all our amazing OH! San Diego sites for graciously providing such rich visitor experiences.”
Coronado is the newest neighborhood to feature as part of the OH! San Diego weekend, thanks to a partnership with the Coronado Historical Association and Coronado Arts Commission. CHA Executive Director Christine Stokes explains how each of the participating organizations share a similar mission.
“The mission of the OH! program aligns with our work at the Coronado Historical Association because it celebrates Coronado’s history and architecture. As a center of community history in Coronado, CHA is excited to showcase some of our most vibrant and engaging buildings and illustrate how they have shaped what our community is today.”
OH! San Diego Program Director, Carol Chin says including Coronado in the collection of participating neighborhoods really strengthens the OH! program reach.
“There’s something for everyone at the OH! Coronado sites,” says Carol. “From historic tours at the Hotel Del Coronado to architect-led tours at the Coronado Public Library and John D. Spreckels Center & Bowling Green. There will also be SDAF KidSketch activities for the kids at the Coronado Club Room and Boathouse. It really is a community-wide program for all.”
Carol is quick to add that a city-wide event of this scale wouldn’t be possible without the extensive network of 350+ volunteers who participate year after year. Carol, who started as an OH! neighborhood coordinator volunteer in 2016, has led and grown the program since she became the program director in 2017.
“OH! San Diego volunteers are the ambassadors for the program,” insists Carol. “We are extremely grateful for all who give of their time.”
According to SDAF Board Director and OH! San Diego Event Chair, Maxine Ward, the event is also made possible thanks to the financial support received in the form of grants, donations and sponsorships.
“The fact that we are able to open 100 sites to the public completely free of charge is really exceptional,” says Maxine. “It takes a lot of support from the community, and we are grateful to our sponsors for making it possible.”
Each year, OH! has grown in reputation and in numbers. With the addition of Coronado, it is expected that more than 5000 visitors will participate. Karl Strauss Brewery in Pacific Beach will host a OH! Launch Party on Sunday, February 9th to promote the event and showcase the sites to be featured.
Sponsorship and volunteer opportunities for the weekend are still available, as are tickets for the February 9th launch party at Karl Strauss Brewery. For more information, visit www.sdarchitecture.org.