David Baker Architects

Shotwell Design Lab

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Exterior from across Shotwell Street : Sydney Harbor Bridge paint with micaceous oxide flakes sparkles subtly in sunlight or streetlight. A new custom gate onto the pedestrian passage replaces the standard garage roll-up door.

Shotwell Street in the evening.

Custom modern aluminum front door leads to the upstairs apartment.

The state of Shotwell in 2013. Image: Matthew Millman

David Baker's home and workspace, two levels share an austere-yet-quirky yard and freestanding woodshop. The modest living quarters flank a sun-filled multipurpose room that extends onto a glass deck. Downstairs houses a private apartment and art studio-gallery space that opens to the street.

The modern gate to the former carriageway is fabricated from aluminum and the sustainably grown tropical super hardwood ipe by Greg Kice and Julianna Sassaman.

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View from the front apartment out to the Zero Cottage. Image: Matthew Millman

Great Room


At the top of the stairs is a large room with an asymmetrically sloped high ceiling. It's a very flexible space with functional service areas—a kitchen, pantry, office, and library—located behind shoji screens fabricated from fiberglass, bamboo, and aluminum.



Dining room table designed by David Baker, fabricated by Thomas Jameson in 1989.

Ceiling storage turns bikes into sculpture.

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Kitchen with Shoji doors closed partially to screen but allow access.



The kitchen, pantry, office, and library zone runs the entire length of one wall and is screened from the big room with fiberglass, bamboo, and aluminum screens that can be arranged for different degrees of permeability.


The kitchen is linear and re-arrangable.

Inset shelf in the bathroom.

Light comes in from a high skylight along the curved tile wall.



The bathroom is small in floor area, but has a tall ceiling with a daylight scoop at the top.


Plyboo bathroom casework.

Plyboo shelves in the pantry.

Built-in plyboo bed has large storage drawers underneath.

Custom Bamboo


Interior doors, shelves, and furniture are fabricated from plyboo, a plywood made from sustainable fast-growing bamboo.


The courtyard in 2013. Image: Brian Rose

Urban garden: Plants thrive on the sunny glass deck.

Permeable landscaping captures stormwater for reuse.



The rear yard is landscaped with permeable surfaces as a rain garden. Storm water runoff from the roof is directed to rusting steel planters filled with bamboo and horsetail plants, where it is allowed to infiltrate the natural water table.

The rear deck surface is textured glass, which allows maximum light to penetrate into this space with high concrete walls on two sides.

The WHY sign is part of the iconic 17 Reasons Why sign that used to be on top of a building at 17th and Mission streets. It is being saved for future installation in a public space.


Glass deck from below.

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The Schoultz mural in the passage looking back towards the new Zero Cottage in 2013. Image: Matthew Millman



This passage originally allowed horses to get the rear yard stable. Now it is the entry to the Courtyard and Zero Cottage.


The passage was originally for horses to the stable in the rear. Image: Matthew Millman

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Andrew Schoultz mural in passage to rear courtyard.

Andrew Schoultz Mural


This 62 foot long mural was painted in 2009 by Mission Street Style artist Andrew Schoultz.


Artist Andrew Schoultz working on his mural in the pedestrian passage to the rear courtyard.

A 2.0 KW solar photovoltaic collection array made up of 12 Sharp NE-Q5E2U 165 watt panels is mounted on the roof.

This is a graph of the output of the solar PV collection system on a sunny January day. It is generated by the Sunny 1800 watt inverter that sends the information to the internet.

Sustainable Features

  • 2.0K solar electric system generating over half of electrical power on site. 
  • Solar domestic hot water collection system providing over half of water heating needs.
  • Digital dimming lighting controls on all lights to reduce consumption and extend bulb life.
  • Small-scale appliances: under-counter refrigerator, freezer, and dishwasher.
  • Passive solar design: high thermal mass, polished concrete floors, and south-facing clerestory warm the living areas.
  • Casework and wood doors made from rapidly renewable material: bamboo plywood.
  • Walls insulated with ground recycled denim batting.
  • Rain garden system diverts roof water runoff from city sewage system and into local aquifers.
  • Permeable infiltration garden and pavers in city public sidewalk intercept storm water runoff in public right of way.


We've built a LEED for Homes Platinum, Passivhaus Certified, Net Zero building in the rear courtyard of the Shotwell Design Lab:

Zero Cottage

Multiple uses interlace at the Shotwell Compound.

"Before": 2000.

2008 June DWELL: 15 minutes of fame.

Exterior in its previous incarnation.

View of the front gate. Image: Matthew Millman

Aluminum front entry stair, glass partition, and James Benn light fixtures.

James Benn cast soft-latex light fixtures over entry stair with glass and fabric partition.

Fabric is sandwiched between two pieces of tempered glass to create this effect.

This 3D computer working drawing view has an uncanny resemblance to the built space. See next photo.

This view of the big room is from the same viewpoint as the 3D working drawing view in the previous slide.

View through the big room seating area out the rear windows with the concrete former mattress factory in the distance.

My daughters walnut ink drawing in the living room. 2011

My cat Charco on the Robsjohn Gibbings chaise lounge.

A ghost bike hangs from the Great Room ceiling.

Dining room table with creature fabricated by Spinster Island in 2006.

Glass shoji screens slide aside to expand the kitchen. Walnut table fabricated by Paco Prieto and Pacassa Studios.

Kitchen with Shoji doors closed and the kitchen lights on behind the translucent fiberglass panels.

Kitchen with Shoji doors closed partially to screen kitchen but allow access. The wood panel is bamboo.

Kitchen with Shoji doors closed partially to screen kitchen but allow access. The wood panel is bamboo.

A detail view of the translucent fiberglass shoji screen glazing custom made by Lentech Composites of Phoenix, Arizona.

Shoji doors completely closed at night.

Shoji doors completely closed.

Kitchen pantry detail with Heath dishes.

Natural aluminum sink/counter unit fabricated by Hoss Ward.

Stove and hood.

The stove hood holds a collection of tchotchkes.

Skylights illuminate the bathtub.

This sink is made by Duravit.

MR16 picture light in the upSHIFT bathroom.

A picture from the blog http://www.inhabitat.com/ of Charco lounging on the bed.

The bedroom lights are the original Luxo lamp, the L-1. The print was done for the Vienna MAK by IOOA, Interim Office Of Architecture. My father, Bernard W. Baker, made the small wood sculpture.

In the guest room, another custom bed designed by David Baker.

The pivot window in closed position.

A custom slot window in open position, framing a glow-in-the-dark designer toy.

The bottom of the pivot window is fixed textured glass with the frame flush to the honed concrete floor.

No baseboards!

Living area of downstairs studio apartment.

Kitchen and sleeping area of downstairs studio apartment.

The kitchen area and view out to garden courtyard.

The kitchen in the downstairs studio is completely hung from the walls with E-Z Shelving.

Mosaics of reclaimed scrap metal tiles cover the back elevation.

Exotic-metal scrap shingles cover the back elevation.

The deck from above.

The WHY sign encourages introspection in the backyard.

SHIFT to tomatoes! Locally grown, in fact grown here in SF on my deck in containers, green zebras and gold 100s, on a bed of my perennial arugula dressed with olive oil and pink rock salt (oil and salt I didn't produce). As good as it sounds. yum! Organic plant starts from Flatland Flower Farm in Sebastopol, CA.

The deck surface is made from tempered glass with a textured glass laminated on top.

Living room. Image: Dave Lauridsen/Dwell

Kitchen. Image: Dave Lauridsen/Dwell

Kitchen detail. Image: Dave Lauridsen/Dwell

Master bedroom. Image: Dave Lauridsen/Dwell

Bedroom detail. Image: Dave Lauridsen/Dwell

Office detail. Image: Dave Lauridsen/Dwell

Bathroom detail. Image: Dave Lauridsen/Dwell

Courtyard. Image: Dave Lauridsen/Dwell

Courtyard and woodshop. Image: Dave Lauridsen/Dwell

This thermosyphon solar panel preheats the domestic hot water. The system has an 80 gallon storage tank and utilizes a non-freezing fluid that circulates through the collectors and a heat exchanger in the tank. It requires no pump.

Framing upSHIFT in 2003.

I helped a little bit framing upSHIFT. I had a Capenter's Union card when I was younger.

The east side of Shotwell Street in 2000.

My neighbors make special Chinese sausage and dry it on their clothesline.

Sunset from the rear deck. The tower is part of a former mattress factory which has been re-purposed as an artist studio complex.

Creative Commons Licence


Mission Statement

project details


(None), Adaptive Re-Use, All Projects, Custom Homes


San Francisco, California


David Baker Architects

Associated Designer

Shift Design Studio



project data
Shotwell Design Lab  
San Francisco, California
Completed January 2014
StoreFrontLab 530sf
Shotwell Garden Apartment 430sf
339 Shotwell Flat 1575sf
DBA Workshop 400sf
Zero Cottage 712sf
density ratios
project sf  
site sf 3062.5sf
acres 0.7
total bedrooms 4
bedrooms/acre 57
units/acre  43
automobile   0
bicycle 3
certifications (Zero Cottage)
LEED for Homes Platinum, GreenPoint Rated,
Passive House, Net Zero