David Baker Architects

2021 LEADERS

Brett Randall Jones, AIA, LEED AP, Principal


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Principal Brett Randall Jones, AIA, LEED AP, believes that being connected with the community for which we are designing is essential to the creation of meaningful buildings. Focused on place-based architecture, Brett is a key figure in DBA’s hospitality practice. He also serves as the Principal in Charge of the DBA_Workshop—our prototyping and fabrication shop—expanding our shop capacity and facilitating the integration of original designs and custom pieces into DBA’s housing and hospitality projects.

Brett is an active member of the Boutique & Lifestyle Leaders Association, the Non-Profit Housing Association of Northern California’s Emerging Leaders Peer Network, and East Bay Housing Organizations. He received both a Bachelor of Architecture and Interior Architecture from Auburn University in Alabama and is a proud alumni of the Rural Studio, where he designed large-scale community projects and low-income housing and developed extensive construction knowledge through several self-built projects.

Since joining DBA in 2011, Brett’s work has spanned hospitality, affordable housing, market-rate housing, and more. Stand-out projects include the Harmon Guest House in Healdsburg, California; the Dr. George W. Davis Senior Building in San Francisco; Fillmore Park, affordable homes for first-time buyers in San Francisco; Potrero 1010—a mixed-use, mixed-income community and public park in San Francisco; and 388 Fulton, a micro-unit building that won a 2018 AIA San Francisco Honor Award.

Currently, Brett is working on a range of innovative hospitality and housing projects, including the HH Residences in Healdsburg; the Parkside Hotel in Birmingham, Alabama; Hotel Sebastopol in Sebastopol, California; and a large mixed-use artist and hotel co-living development at the historic California Cotton Mills in Oakland, California.

“Brett's hard work, management skills, and good nature inspire loyalty in the clients and colleagues who work with him. He has a beautiful ability to design and sketch, but to also think in systems and bring organization to chaos.”
—Amanda Loper, AIA, LEED AP, Principal

Get to know Brett.

Getting Started:

I grew up in a small town outside of Birmingham, Alabama. I really enjoyed growing up in the rural South—I spent most of my childhood in the woods, exploring and collecting. Building with found objects as a child helped me understand how one can create a place. I went to Auburn University to get my architecture and interior architecture degrees, which was an incredible experience. But somewhere along the way, I became discontent with the idea of being an architect. Much of what I understood architecture to be was luxury meant for the affluent that only contributed to materialism and excess, but I had read a book about homelessness in Japan and it really intrigued me, so I decided to go to Yoyogi Park in Tokyo to learn more.

Community in other cultures:

While Japan had similar issues of shame and social exclusion in homelessness, it contrasted the US because Japan's unhoused population had fewer challenges with crime, mental illness, and substance abuse, at least at that time. Rather than isolation, there was a natural formation of community within the homeless villages that spurred my curiosity and warranted a closer look.

As I understood it then, in Japanese culture, there was a very strong loyalty between a company and its employees, similar to a family, which resulted in lifetime employment. If you got laid off or fired, it was incredibly difficult to get a job elsewhere. Under Japanese policy, if a family loses the head of the household, the government will take care of the family, so the honorable thing was to leave your family. These people, mostly educated men in their late 50s, received supplies and stipends from the government and lived in one of the informally designated areas for the homeless. This small amount of assistance and stability, along with some acceptance that their circumstances would likely be long-term, interestingly allowed for the formation of lively communities invested in one another, rather than being individualistic and isolated like the unhoused are in the States.

I lived in tent villages in Tokyo and Sendai for six months, and I just sort of spent time there and listened and observed; I lent a hand when I could. I learned that being in community is so important in supporting good mental health. While homelessness is an outlying position, I believe that anything we can do to foster community and minimize isolation will allow all people to live better and be healthier.

Alabama to California:

My excitement about architecture blossomed when I returned home and joined Auburn University’s Rural Studio. It was a life-altering experience. I felt like everything about architecture finally made sense and that I was exactly where I wanted to be. I trained under Andrew Freear and helped design and build Lions Park—a 40-acre public park in Greensboro, Alabama that serves as a vital reconnective hub for that community— as well as low-income single family homes. I was able to use my curiosity to enact meaningful change and touch people’s lives, and that led me to search out firms that had that same ethos.

Of course, in the thick of the 2008 recession, there were no jobs. I spent a brief stint in London to produce an exhibit in the V&A Museum for the Rural Studio, then I lived really simply in Mexico within a collective of other designers. I’d heard about David Baker Architects, and the more I learned about the firm’s values, the more it seemed like a dream place to work. We moved to the Bay Area when my wife Kelsey, a graphic designer, gained a fellowship at Chronicle Books in San Francisco. When I got to town, I called David Baker, and he asked me to come in for an interview on a Friday. I started work with DBA the next Monday.

My focus at DBA:

I’ve always liked to build things, so I gravitated to the DBA Workshop. As Principal in Charge of the workshop, I act as the liaison between our very talented shop lead, Barrett Karber, and the larger architecture studio. We make our own furniture and casework and develop and build prototypes. I’m always so proud to tell people we have an in-house fabrication studio—it’s such a great design tool for us to affect every part of our projects.

I’ve been focusing on the design of affordable housing and other residential projects, but I’ve also taken the lead on DBA’s hospitality work. I’m interested in designing hotels so that they benefit not only guests, but also the surrounding town or city that they occupy. Community-based hotels can really make the urban realm better. We strive to draw from the rich context of a place–from the townspeople, the history, and the culture–to design a hotel that aligns with the spirit of that community. Whether for affordable housing or for a hotel, I enjoy designing spaces that foster community.

Despite my rural origins, I’ve become quite the urbanist. But I still love to be out in the wilderness, and I spend a lot of time exploring the spectacular nature surrounding the Bay Area. I organize cycling- and camping-based firm retreats, which help bolster connections and community among staff and keep us connected to the larger goal of helping people thrive.

"Being a part of the community for which we are designing is essential to the creation of meaningful and connective spaces."
Hear more in Brett's bio video.

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Connect with Brett at brettjones@dbarchitect.com

Meet DBA's 2021 Leaders.