David Baker Architects


Curry Stone Design Prize: Social Design Circle

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The Curry Stone Design Prize, in celebration of it’s 10th Anniversary, is acknowledging a large group of the most influential socially engaged practices as this year’s winners, being recognized as the Social Design Circle.

Each practice named to the Social Design Circle has helped define the Social Design movement over the last decade through the impact of their work.  

“In the past ten years the Curry Stone Design Prize has been recognizing some of the most impactful and inspirational international practices,” says Emiliano Gandolfi, the Prize Director.

“Their work is part of a larger movement of individuals and groups who see design as a necessary tool to make our societies more just, environmentally sustainable, and socially inclusive. We formed the Social Design Circle to illustrate the significance of this movement and to share with a wider audience the great potential of these transformative practices.”

DBA was selected as an honoree—along with The Asian Coalition for Housing Rights, Breaking Ground, Jonathan Kirschenfeld, Kraftwerk1, Lacaton & Vassal and L’Oeuf—for their outstanding work as champions of progressive housing. This group of honorees helps us explore the question: Is the Right to Housing Real?







The Curry Stone Foundation has also launched a new podcast,
Social Design Insights, which will air every Thursday in 2017.
Prize Director Emiliano Gandolfi and award-winning author, architect and post-disaster expert Eric Cesal will interview the movement’s leaders on twelve questions over the next twelve months:

Should Designers be Outlaws?

Is The Right To Housing Real?

Can Design Challenge Inequality?

Can Design Prevent Disaster?

Can We Design Community Engagement?

Can Design Reclaim Public Space?

Can We Design a Slum Friendly City?

How Do We Design with Scarcity?

What Can Design Do To Promote Peace?

Can a City Work As An Ecosystem?

Does Design Create Politics or Vice Versa?

How Do We Democratize Design?

David Baker Architects is a San Francisco and Oakland based design firm specializing in affordable housing, green building, and transit-oriented development. David Baker founded the firm in 1982, and it has since set the model for public housing in many cities. Baker’s work focuses on the integration of elegant, contemporary aesthetics with assertive energy-conservation measures, mixed with genuine humanity.

Throughout their history, David Baker Architects has designed and built more than 10,000 dwelling units, including more than 6,000 affordable units throughout the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond, garnering more than 300 local and national design awards, certifications and accolades in the process.

Behind the numbers, the firm’s work evinces a sincere commitment to doing affordable housing well, rather than just making housing affordable.

Many of the firm’s projects have received considerable media attention, as much for their aesthetic triumphs as for their rejuvenative effects on the neighborhoods in which they’re built.

The Drs. Julian and Raye Richardson Apartments (below) encompass many of the values and strategies typical of DBA’s work. Set in the trendy Hayes Valley neighborhood in San Francisco, the project was developed after earthquake-collapsed freeway onramp was removed. The project was intended to serve the formerly homeless, and initially drew the predictable skepticism and protest from those already living in the neighborhood. Even in progressive San Francisco, the enthusiasm for new dwellings for the formerly homeless was low.



The New York Times said about the Richardson Apartments: “his design goes beyond housing some of a wealthy city’s poorest citizens. It entails healthy urbanism, including features that open the building to the neighborhood instead of making it a fortress. . .”

Openness and integration aptly describe DBA’s approach to housing. Social housing is something that needs support from the local community, and the community needs to be heard about their concerns and educated about the perceived vices and dangers that come along with social housing. However, when a design begins with the intent to create whole community, unifying populations at all ends of the social spectrum, the results tend to do just that.