David Baker Architects

December 2019: DBA_OAK Comes to Life!


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Custom signage by the DBA_Workshop—power-coated steel—at the new building. Image: David Baker Architects

Transforming an old warehouse into our new Oakland office.

 

by Julie de Jesus, AIA, LEED AP, IIDA 

December 2019

We are really excited about our new-ish space in Oakland—DBA_OAK—which is up and running...with just a few finishing touches to go.

The bright, refurbished building is home to DBA_Workshop, our in-house fabrication shop, as well as 9 full-time employees and a busy roster of collaborators coming and going. DBA_OAK is an expansion of our main headquarters office in San Francisco, with more room for our growing staff and more flexibility for a wider range of creative projects. 

Raw materials: The building as we bought it in 2015. Image: David Baker Architects

David Baker Architects have been in our current San Francisco location—now called DBA_SFO—since we renovated the historic Clocktower Lofts in 1992. Cut to 2015: Our busy firm had grown to more than 30 employees, working in a space originally designed for a dozen.

About the same time, the fledgling DBA_Workshop was outgrowing its San Francisco location—in the ground floor of David Baker's house, Zero Cottage. We reflected on the fact that many of our projects and many of our staff were based in the East Bay, and made the decision to expand eastward.

 

The first use was a temporary home for DBA_Workshop, with all the shop equipment moved from San Francisco. Image: David Baker Architects

The existing space looking back toward Castro Street. Image: David Baker Architects

We acquired a warehouse building just on the edge of Oakland's burgeoning and transforming First Friday zone, an area we've been referring to as "Outer Uptown." Adjacent to the Oakland Greyhound Bus Station, the building had seen many uses over the years, as well as some better days. At one point, through eminent domain, Caltrans removed a part of the structure to create the Castro Street off ramp of 980 (our building's curved facade is the result of that Caltrans modification).

By the time we acquired it, the makeshift space had plywood covering the storefront in place of glass, a leaky roof, and an interior chopped up into a warren of tiny, dark, unusable rooms. The building had two entries and two addresses—one to the east on San Pablo Avenue and one to the west on Castro Street.

Our first step was to make a round of updates needed to immediately relocate and activate the workshop. It was a bleak but workable temporary situation in the front of the new space while a design team in our office began developing plans for the extensive renovation.

We began with adjustments to make the existing structure more comfortable for the intrepid first folks working there and to achieve better environmental performance. Some exploratory demolition revealed that the building had absolutely no insulation but two framed drop ceilings. We cleared everything out except the one wall that would separate the new office space from the workshop. We added 2-inch rigid insulation to the roof before repairing and re-sealing it. Opening up the space exposed a framework of orange columns and beams from when Caltrans had reworked the structure, which we repainted white in the new office and left classic Caltrans orange in the finished workshop space.

After demolition, the front space has higher ceilings and great light from the existing skylights. Image: David Baker Architects

We built a kitchen and bathroom at the rear of the front office space. Image: David Baker Architects

We renovated bathrooms and built a new kitchen and storage loft. DBA_Workshop relocated to its permanent home in the back half of the building on Castro Street and we started developing the front office space.

With a fresh coat of paint, a ground and sealed concrete slab, and new HRV system, the front finished space became the open office. DBA_Workshop built two banks of beautiful plyboo sit-stand desks, and two rolling  credenzas—a media cart and a pin-up space—to delineate an area for meetings.

DBA_OAK held its opening happy hour celebration in May 2018.

The finished shop, home of DBA_Workshop, with the preserved Caltrans orange beams. Image: David Baker Architects

The lounge corner with a Harmon Bench and Satellite tables by DBA_Workshop making friends with the Gehry and Womb chairs. The custom steel shelves are home to happy cacti in custom ceramic planters made by David Baker. Image: David Baker Architects

Work stations at DBA_OAK feature desks by DBA_Workshop. The white wall conceals the kitchen and bathroom, with the HRV system peeking out from the storage loft above. The glass door connecting the office and workshop came from Urban Ore in Berkeley. Image: David Baker Architects

Changes and upgrades continued around the Oakland staff. We added acoustic pinup surface throughout the space, a mini-split for heating and cooling, and custom kitchen cabinets by DBA_Workshop. Early this year, the critical addition of custom steel grating and double-paned glass at the San Pablo storefront finally brought daylight flooding in—bolstering the multiple skylights—and activating our ground-floor presence.

Our three offices—the original in San Francisco, DBA_BHM in Birmingham, Alabama, and now DBA_OAK—work seamlessly together and collaborate across all of our projects. 

The DBA_OAK Conference space with a custom steel-and-glass storefront and rolling media cart fabricated by DBA_Workshop. Image: David Baker Architects

The work continues outside the office, too. We greened the long sidewalk along Castro Street, splitting the extra-wide area to make room for a weathering-steel planter for blue agave and creeping fig. DBA_Workshop has begun construction on enclosing the rear yard to extend the usable shop area and add bike parking, an outdoor grill, and sunny gathering space.

DBA_Workshop is working on a gate and fence for our rear yard on Castro Street. Image: David Baker Architects

On an energy note, in 2020 we are looking at making the office zero net energy (ZNE). Our renovations so far have eliminated the use of gas and the entire building, including the Workshop, is currently all electric. Our energy use for both the office and the Workshop is 15,000 kWh/year, meaning a 10.5 kW system, covering half of the roof, could achieve this. We do not only advocate for this type of sustainability in our work, we want to set an example for our neighbors and clients.

We're looking forward to hosting more East Bay meetings, collaborations, and events in the upcoming months, and we hope to see you at DBA_OAK soon.

Come see us at DBA_OAK! Look for this matte building next to the Greyhound Bus Station on San Pablo Avenue. Image: David Baker Architects

 

Julie de Jesus AIA, LEED AP, IIDA is an Associate and Interiors Lead at DBA. You can contact Julie here.

Custom signage by the DBA_Workshop—power-coated steel—at the new building. Image: David Baker Architects

Steel signage ready for powder coating. Image: David Baker Architects

Raw materials: The building as we bought it in 2015. Image: David Baker Architects

The first use was a temporary home for DBA_Workshop, with all the shop equipment moved from San Francisco. Image: David Baker Architects

The existing space looking back toward Castro Street. Image: David Baker Architects

After demolition, the front space has higher ceilings and great light from the existing skylights. Image: David Baker Architects

We built a kitchen and bathroom at the rear of the front office space. Image: David Baker Architects

The finished shop, home of DBA_Workshop, with the preserved Caltrans orange beams. Image: David Baker Architects

The lounge corner with a Harmon Bench and Satellite tables by DBA_Workshop making friends with the Gehry and Womb chairs. The custom steel shelves are home to happy cacti in custom ceramic planters made by David Baker. Image: David Baker Architects

Work stations at DBA_OAK feature desks by DBA_Workshop. The white wall conceals the kitchen and bathroom, with the HRV system peeking out from the storage loft above. The glass door connecting the office and workshop came from Urban Ore in Berkeley. Image: David Baker Architects

The DBA_OAK Conference space with a custom steel-and-glass storefront and rolling media cart fabricated by DBA_Workshop. Image: David Baker Architects

The steel planter is a work in progress. Image: David Baker Architects

DBA_Workshop is working on a gate and fence for our rear yard on Castro Street. Image: David Baker Architects

Image: David Baker Architects

Come see us at DBA_OAK! Look for this matte building next to the Greyhound Bus Station on San Pablo Avenue. Image: David Baker Architects