David Baker Architects


Decade in Review: Top 10 in S.F. Architecture

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The Harvest Urban Market in the the base of SOMA Studios.

What follows is one arbitrary list, in chronological order, of the decade's best. Because it is confined to San Francisco, you won't find such regional gems as the C.V. Starr East Asian Library at UC Berkeley by Tod Williams and Billie Tsien. Also, the criterion extends beyond pure architecture to works that exemplify the qualities and potential of a city where neighborhoods count for more than icons.

AT&T Park, 2000
SFO International Terminal, 2000
560 Mission Street, 2002
Ferry Building, 2003
Lick-Wilmerding High School, 2003
SOMA Studios + Family Apartments, 2003
M.H. de Young Museum, 2006
Pier 14, 2006
1234 Howard Street, 2007
Mission Creek Park, 2008
by John King, Chronicle Urban Design Writer
San Francisco Chronicle

December 30, 2009

SOMA Studios + Family Apartments, 2004: No local firm has a better track record than David Baker + Partners at mending the civic fabric. This affordable housing complex makes the list for the unusually generous retail space with floor-to-ceiling windows that reveal a community grocery store--and the way the walls above it dance with a syncopated mix of orange and yellow, lime green and sky blue. Yes, contemporary design and traditional urbanism can go hand-in-hand.

SOMA Studios offers a shot of color to an otherwise gray block. Image: Brian Rose

The first decade of the 21st century marked the San Francisco landscape in ways that nobody would have predicted a decade before.

New glass towers stand south of Market Street, many filled with residents and one set disconcertingly close to the Bay Bridge. The old rail yards of Mission Bay are home to a UCSF campus and upscale condominiums, the latter lining a once unpleasantly fragrant creek. Lauded international architects have placed bold buildings in provocative locations.

In this city, the process of getting a project approved makes it easier to cut deals than to let architects do their best work, and too much of what's been built is inept or cynical or both. Even so, the decade saw a heartening number of memorable additions to the landscape. Some are Big Buildings by Big Names, but most are locally produced, modestly scaled.

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