David Baker Architects


2012 Looking Back

See all Blog





We received lots of great attention from the press in 2012, and are gratified our work is being seen by larger and more diverse audiences.

The New York Times: "Design as Balm for a Community's Soul"

The New York Times' Architecture Critic Michael Kimmelman traveled to San Francisco this year to visit two Dbarchitect projects—Richardson Apartments in San Francisco and Tassafaronga Village in Oakland—and proclaimed them good.

In an October review that graced the front page of the paper's Arts section, Kimmelman called Richardson out for its "healthy urbanism" and noted the sleek wood-and-glass lobby, the swagger and scale of the swooping bay, the abundant natural light, and significant location for formerly homeless residents.

After a visit to Tassafaronga Village, he noted the decrease in crime and increase in opportunity afforded by the new neighborhood. He spoke with Kelly Carlisle, whose Acta Non Verba Farm abuts the housing and engages community kids in gardening and healthy eating. The new housing is what drew Carlisle to the location for her project, and she is considering moving into the village herself. Kimmelan called that "the multiplier effect of good design."

On David Baker, Kimmelman says, "He is a kind of local hero, with projects that represent what I think is shift of priorities in the architectural profession."

Click here to read the article.



San Francisco Magazine: "Starchitect for the Common Man"

David Baker—"benevolent starchitect"—joined the ranks of "fixers, fighters, and thinkers shaping the City" in San Francisco Magazine's Power Issue in December. 

Writer Joanne Furio reflects on David Baker's tenure creating housing throughout the City:

"Call it the Bakerification of our urban environment. If one architect could be said to be changing the way we experience San Francisco today it would be David Baker, the 62-year-old veteran building who's made his name by rethinking the way we live. Instead of constructing the same old towers of concrete and steel, Baker has made his mark over the past 30 years by building low-rise residential complexes, from affordable apartments to market-rate condos, and by revamping or creating entire neighborhoods."  

Click here to read "Starchitect for the Common Man." 



Image: Bruce Damonte

Architect Magazine: "Multifamily—Drs. Julian and Raye Richardson Apartments"

Local architect and CCA professor Lisa Findley profiled Richardson Apartments in the January issue of Architect Magazine, complimenting the building's balance of graciousness and durability and its decidedly non-institutional vibe.

She spoke with David Schnur, director of housing development for Community Housing Partnership (co-developer with Mercy Housing), who confirmed the success of our design strategy: “Our tenants feel good living in good architecture. They are motivated to keep their lives together so they can stay.”

Click here to read the Architect Magazine article.




Co.Exist: "The Top 14 Buildings of 2012"

When Co.Exist covered Richardson Apartments in "Low-Income Housing Anyone Would Love to Live In" last September, the site put it bluntly: "Housing for the poor doesn’t need to be horrible." 

Co.Exist, which focuses on world-changing ideas and innovation, selected Richardson Apartments as one of its "mind-blowing structures of last year," noting that the buidling is "offering up high-class digs in the hopes of helping to lift its residents out of poverty."  

Click here to read "The Top 14 Buildings of 2012."









Three design tomes profiled Dbarchitect projects this year, focusing on our work with populations that need special attention (such as designs that can be built by volunteers, and seniors maintaining independent living).



Design Like You Give a Damn [2]: Building Change from the Ground Up

Touted as an indispensable handbook for anyone engaged in the search for a more sustainable future, DLYGAD2 documents projects from around the world whose innovative design solutions address the needs for basic shelter, housing, education, health care, clean water and renewable energy.

A project of Architecture for Humanity, the book highlights Tassafaronga Village, our sustainable Oakland neighborhood, and offers an in-depth exploration of our approach to realizing such a complex project.

David Baker, Dbarchitect Principal Daniel Simons, and Bridget Galka of the Oakland Housing Authority share a behind-the-scenes peek into the financial and design development of the LEED Gold neighborhood.

Click here for more information on Tassafaronga Village.


Designed for Habitat: Collaborations with Habitat for Humanity

Designed for Habitat  documents architect collaborations with Habitat for Humanity. In its pages, Dbarchitect Principal Daniel Simons and Associate Mark Hogan detail the design process of realizing Kinsell Commons with Habitat East Bay.

Kinsell Commons consists of 22 family townhouses integrated into a larger new affordable neighborhood developed by the Oakland Housing Authority, designed on a pro bono basis by Dbarchitect, and built by Habitat families, staff and volunteers. 

Click here for more information on Kinsell Commons and Tassafaronga Village.


Design for Aging Review: Armstrong Senior and Mabuhay Court

The Design for Aging Review program, a joint effort of the AIA and LeadingAge, selected both Armstrong Senior Housing and Mabuhay Court as excellent examples of creative and compassionate design for seniors.

The projects appear in detail in the Design for Aging Review reference book, which showcases facilities that improve quality of life for the aging while exhibiting innovation in their design and execution.

The bi-annual book includes detailed profiles of the two developments—both Dbarchitect collaborations with BRIDGE Housing—and serves as a reference for users, providers, and all design professionals in the inevitably growing area of senior housing. 

Click here for more information.











Our work won local, national, and global awards this year.

Image: Steve Proehl

Armstrong Place: ULI Global Award for Excellence

In October, the Urban Land Institute bestowed the Armstrong Place Family and Senior Housing with its 2012 Global Award for Excellence.

Citing the project's affordablility, senior housing, and location as a catalyst for neighborhood revitalization, the jury selected Armstrong for its enduring impact on diverse communities.  

The project—our most recent collaboration with BRIDGE Housing—fills a formerly industrial city block with an unusual mix of modern senior rental apartments and for-sale family townhouses, which works to keep families in the City and prevent seniors from living in isolation.

Click here for more information on Armstrong Place.

Image: Matthew Millman

Richardson Apartments: National AIA Housing Award 

Richardson Apartments was honored as a particularly successful example of Multifamily Housing by the AIA Housing Awards, recognize the importance of good housing as "a necessity of life, a sanctuary for the human spirit, and a valuable national resource."

From the Jury Notes:

"Fabulous project. Impressed with its scale. It's contemporary and uses a modern language that fits in very well. The entry level is warm, welcoming, and not cold. The view from the courtyard is beautifully framed. Love this building! It is exquisite. The varying facades incorporate the streetscape.

It’s deserving of an award—it is interesting that San Francisco has a strong record of making a commitment to housing and housing that anyone would want to live in. This building reflects and builds on that local tradition."

Click here for more information about Richardson Apartments.

Image: Bruce Damonte

Richardson Apartments: National AIA/HUD Secretary's Award

The AIA/HUD Secretary's Awads—a joint project of the national AIA and the department of Housing and Urban Development—seek to demonstrate that "design matters," and to provide examples of important benchmarks in the housing industry. Richardson was awarded the 2012 AIA HUD/Secretary's Excellence in Affordable Housing Design Award.

From the Jury Notes:

"Large-scale development with adaptive reuse. This is a model example within field development done well with integrative design and materials. If we wanted to identify a model this project would be it.

The site is rewarding to the residents of the building and the residents are invited to take advantage of everything this has to offer. The way the building responds to the neighborhood at large is very complementary. Everything relates well to each other. This design celebrates the site by using a number of elements including color, exposed materials, attention to the open areas, and placement of furniture."

It looks great, we can’t deny why we’re attracted to it—it’s outstanding. It’s really one of the most interesting formal projects that we saw. The sustainable strategies have been thoroughly integrated to the point that they are almost invisible. It’s so well integrated that it adds to its beauty."

Click here for more information about Richardson Apartments.

Image: DbA

Archstone Potrero: SF Business Times Real Estate Deals of the Year—Best Land Deal

In their annual Real Estate Deals of the Year Awards, the San Francisco Business Times recognized Daggett Triangle—since renamed Archstone Potrero—as the year's Best Land Deal.

For nearly a decade the site of a former paint factory at the corner of 16th and 7th in Potrero Hill sat vacant as neighbors, owners, and agencies debated about the land's best future use.

This year, after getting the site zoned as mixed-use rather than industrial, Archstone secured unanimous approvals from the Planning Department to build 467 apartment units, retail space, light-industrial businesses, a community garden and a park and acquired the property.

Dbarchitect has been involved in the design and planning of the project from the start, and has developed a detailed design that should break ground this year. 

Click here for more information on Archstone Potrero.


Image: Bruce Damonte

h2hotel: Fodor's 100 2012 Hotels

h2hotel was selected by Fodor's 100 Hotels 2012 as one of the top recommended hotels in the world.

The international travel guide singled out Dbarchitect's most recent boutique hotel out as a one of 11 "Trendsetters" taking hotels and hospitality in new directions.

Calling out its curb appeal, major green factor, and the earthiness and serenity of the design, Fodor's recommends the Healdsburg inn for an eco-friendly modern stay.

Click here for more information about h2hotel.


David Baker and Amit Price Patel: Public Interest Design 100

The first-annual Public Interest Design 100 recognizes people and teams working at the intersection of design and service in the U.S, and honors their commitment to dignifying design for all. 

David Baker and Dbarchitect Associate Amit Price Patel were pegged as top "makers" for their work as foremost designers of affordable housing, particularly Richardson Apartments, which provides permanent City homes for formerly homeless.

Click here for the full Public Interest Design 100 List.








We got out of the office and into galleries, community meetings, bike lanes, New York City, and even a swimming pool!

Image: Yosh Asato

MAS NYC: Development, Density, and Diversity

David Baker was invited to speak before more than 1,100 innovative city shapers and thought leaders at the Municipal Art Society's third annual MAS Summit for New York City in October.

This forum of ideas surrounding planning, design and infrastructure; preservation and sustainability; arts and cultural development, and community engagement highlighted trailblazing initiatives from cities across the globe.

David shared strategies and lessons learned from Dbarchitect's Tassafaronga Village in a panel called "Community Revitalization 2.0: The New Faces of Affordable Housing to Support Competitive Global Cities." 

Click here to view a video of the Community Revitalization 2.0 panel.




DB Takes a Dive for TNDC

In October, David Baker joined in the shenanigans at the Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation's 20th Annual Celebrity Pool Toss. The festive fundraiser throws local well-knowns in the pool at the Phoenix Hotel, with "tossing" honors going to the highest bidder.

True to form, cycling advocate David Baker rode his folding bike into the pool wearing a blinking bike helmet and "Yes on Prop. C" cape. Donors applauded the unorthodox entry to the tune of $18,000. 

The event raised nearly $300,000 to enhance the quality of life for low-income families and children living in the Tenderloin. 

Click here to watch David Baker take the plunge into the Phoenix Hotel pool.

Click here for more information about the TNDC Pool Toss Fundraiser.




Image: Megan Jett

Public Interest Design Exhibit: "Products, Places, & Processes"


Richardson Apartments was selected as a world-changing example of "Place" in Public Interest Design's "Products, Places, & Processes" exhibit, which features designs for maximum social impact.

Included in the roster of "resilient, socially sustainable, generative" designs, the permanent housing for formerly homeless residents is represented in the exhibit by design sketches, architectural model, photographs, and a video tour of the completed building.

Co-curated by PublicInterestDesign.org's John Cary and author Courtney E. Martin, the exhibition made its debut in October at the Autodesk Gallery in San Francisco and will be on display and then travelling for up to five years. 
Click here for more information on "Products, Places, & Processes.



Second Street Success

In May we launched GreatSecondStreet.org, a site dedicated to soliciting ideas and support for the City's upcoming improvements to the Second Street Corridor. This stretch of street has a history of intense auto traffic (often with distracted drivers vying to get on the Bay Bridge), pedestrian injury and death, and danger to cyclists.

Concerned neighborhood partners—including Public Bikes, Livable City, and the American Grilled Cheese Kitchen—joined forces to host open forums and develop proposals for the area upgrade that would safely serve all the neighborhood citizens.

In October, our proposed strategy of one-way cycle tracks became the Department of Public Works's preferred plan! Explorations of this strategy are going forth, and we are looking forward to commuting safely to and from our office with other happy walkers, bikers, and drivers.

Click here for more information at GreatSecondStreet.org.





StoreFrontLab—David Baker and Yosh Asato's experiment in civic engagement— celebrates one year of exploration. The call for proposals went out last January, and a jury selected a program of a dozen interactions lasting from one day to one month each.

The soft open in June supported the Occupy movement with a one-day screenprinting lab and exhibition of Occupy-related graphics. The launch party in July kicked off a three-week residency by Deep Craft Atelier.

Over the year, the cavalcade of creativity included teaching, learning, planning, playing, pretending, building, music, movies, making, and more. 

Click here for more information about StoreFrontLab.org




S.F.'s First Annual Affordable Housing Day

In October, Dbarchitect joined a group of affordable-housing developers and architects to produce the first annual San Francisco Affordable Housing Day. 

Thirteen affordable properties opened their doors for afternoon open-houses across the City, including examples of rental, ownership, senior, family, and special needs housing. 

We worked with BRIDGE Housing and building staff to welcome guests at Armstrong Senior Housing. Architect Kevin Wilcock led tours of the property—including resident units—while David Baker led a bicycle ride to three of the tour's outying properties, culminating in a cook-out with the Armstrong seniors.

Click here for more information about the Affordable Housing Day Bike Tour.

Image: DbA








We got to see the fruition of years of hard work at the Grand Openings of three projects, the final touches on one, and the groundbreaking of another.

Image: David Fletcher

Fillmore Park, Owned and Occupied

Fillmore Park was the last project created under the now-defunct San Francisco Redevelopment Agency's Limited Equity Program, which aimed to increase home-ownership opportunities for low-income San Franciscans.

The 32-unit neighborhood opened just a block from the city's historic Fillmore District, and provided opportunities for first-time buyers in the heart of the City—with priority given to those previously displaced from the neighborhood.

The new community celebrated its Grand Opening with samba dancers and other festive flair in May, and is now fully owned and occupied.  

Click here for more information on Fillmore Park.




Mural: Mona Caron. Image: Nick Kasimatis

Station Center, Certifications and Celebrations

Emerging from the recession as one of the first built components of the Union City Master Plan, Station Center Family Housing brings 152 affordable family units within striking distance of Union City BART, which is set to be revamped as a vital multi-modal station in the near future.

The building achieved LEED for Homes Mid-Rise Platinum Certification in August, was recognized as a Bay Friendly Landscape in October, and celebrated its Grand Opening in November.

New resident and single mom Colleen Dutton spoke tearfully at MidPen Housing's ribbon-cutting event, saying, "We have a place to call home. This was something that I had not thought to be within my grasp, but here it is!"

The spectacular botanical mural by local artist Mona Caron is wrapping up now, putting a finishing touch on a great collaboration.  

Click here for more information on Station Center Family Housing.




Image: DbA

Zero Cottage Zeroes In

Zero Cottage is an investigation of compact, sustainable urban development and a contemporary approach to living and working. The cottage is a 712-square-foot living space over a 430-square-foot workshop. It pairs with an existing building to complete David Baker's flexible, mixed-use compound that also includes a two-bedroom flat, studio apartment and storefront space.

The free-standing addition presented an opportunity to explore advanced sustainable design, construction techniques, materials and technologies.

The cottage is certified LEED for Homes Platinum. It is expected to be the first Passive House-certified home in San Francisco when certification is confirmed sometime this year, and Net Zero Energy certification is expected after a year of actual energy use monitoring.

Built by Falcon Five, a local design-build shop, the project was helped along with landscaping by Fletcher Studio and green consulting by Integral Impact.

Click here for more information on Zero Cottage.

Image: Bruce Damonte

La Valentina Station, A New Start

For two decades, a high-crime rail stop at a toxic empty lot; today, a modern affordable family development and iconic gateway to downtown Sacramento. La Valentina Station opened in August, bringing 63 new homes, lively streets, and increased safety to the adjacent light-rail station, which had suffered from crime and loitering.

Developed by Domus Development in conjunction with La Valentina North, 18 net-zero townhouses designed by YHLA Architects, La Valentina Station serves as the heart of the new neighborhood. The building offers community space and programs as well as after-school care for kids from the entire development. Corner retail spaces—including a cafe—will be occupied this year.

Click here for more information on La Valentina Station.

Image: DbA

300 Ivy, Breaking Ground

One of the significant aspects of our Richardson Apartments project is that the development served to repair the scar in the city grid caused by the collapse and removal of the Central Freeway.

300 Ivy broke ground in January and continues this repair. At the southwest corner of Grove and Gough Streets in Hayes Valley, 300 Ivy will be a mixed-use development of urban market-rate homes and shops on a site formerly occupied by a surface parking lot.

The Pocket Development project is framed, and is tweeting! Follow @300Ivy for news.

Click here for more information on 300 Ivy.