Founded in 1982, 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. Beyond the numbers, the firm’s work evinces a sincere commitment to doing affordable housing well, rather than just making housing affordable.
For example, the Drs. Julian and Raye Richardson Apartments in the newly-trendy Hayes Valley neighborhood in San Francisco are on a site that opened up after an earthquake collapsed a freeway onramp and it was removed. The project drew initial concern from neighborhood residents who were skeptical about living in proximity to formerly homeless people. Thanks to the quality of the design, the project is now a vital part of the community. The building itself is friendly and livable. All units get natural light. There are on-site medical and counseling resources for residents, as well as amenities such as outdoor terraces and a roof garden. There are also street-level retail businesses, including a non-profit bakery that bring life and activity to a once deserted corner.
Michael Kimmleman, writing in the New York Times, said of the Richardson Apartments, “(Its) 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 concerns need to be heard and then educated about the perceived vices and dangers that come with social housing. However, DBA designs begin with the intent to create whole community, unifying populations at both ends of the social spectrum– and their results tend to do just that.