Many architects design sustainable projects, but for David Baker + Partners (DB+P) the commitment to bettering the environment goes deeper. David Baker, FAIA, LEED AP, gets around San Francisco on a bike, and he and partners Kevin Wilcock, AIA, LEED AP, and Peter MacKenzie, AIA, offer their staff incentives to walk, bike, or take public transportation to work. Along with a comprehensive recycling program, the company provides a compost pile for food waste. “We really do try to incorporate sustainability into our office culture and lifestyle,” Baker says.
The firm has applied its bold, socially conscious design aesthetic to a wide range of project types, including affordable and market-rate housing, mixed-use developments, hotels, and custom homes. It often works with repeat clients, and emphasizes density, pedestrian-friendliness, sustainability, and residents’ daily quality of life. Over the past few years, DB+P has taken on some larger-scale projects that involve urban planning as well as architecture, such as Tassafaronga Village, a 7.5 acre, LEED-ND Gold community in Oakland, Calif. Wrote San Francisco Chronicle architecture critic John King in December 2009: “No local firm has a better track record than David Baker + Partners at mending the urban fabric.”
What is the most gratifying aspect of residential practice?
For us, being in the affordable housing world, you change people’s lives.
What is the most frustrating aspect?
Sometimes you’ll have a really good idea, but if it’s new, people will resist it.
What is your mission statement or firm goal?
We sort of have a firm statement, on the front page of our website. It’s not really a mission statement: “Our work combines social concern with a signature design character, resulting in distinctive, high-quality buildings that provide residents with a strong sense of community. In this way, our work acts as an advocate for improved urban planning, where looking good only counts if it does good, too.”
What is the most indispensable tool in your office?
The most indispensable piece of our practice is the culture and the people. In terms of an actual tool, the 3D digital building models make a huge difference. It’s a totally different way to design.
What software does your firm use?
We use Revit.
Who is your ideal client?
The ideal client is one who’s a nice person, and who’s involved without being oppressive about it. We really like intense client involvement. If they have an idea, we can respond to it. When you work with clients a long time, you develop a level of mutual trust that makes the process a lot of fun.
What is your favorite building?
I can’t say I have a favorite building. I have a lot of buildings that I like a whole bunch.
If you didn’t have the time to design your own house, who would you hire?
I can’t imagine having someone else do it. I’ve built several houses for myself and I just really enjoy it. You can do those things you’re worried about trying on someone else.