Fougeron Architecture, David Baker + Partners Architects and Craig Steely Architecture are three architecture firms based in San Francisco featured in the "Top 50 Firms" in Architect Magazine's December 2010 issue.
Read all three firms featured articles below:
by Cheryl Weber, LEED AP
“The main intent was to give the clients an atmosphere of beauty that expresses both warmth and worth and encourages their interaction,” Anne Fougeron, AIA, wrote about her design for Planned Parenthood at Eastmont Mall in San Francisco. That simple statement also could be applied to her light-box-like single-family residences, which are bold incubators for other project types, including health care and affordable housing.
High-end, low-end, private, public, and everything in between, Fougeron’s varied buildings are modern, sensual, and interesting to look at. Her own memorable kitchen, in an 1895 Victorian, has a cerulean blue ceiling, an ochre-colored cork floor, clear and sandblasted glass walls, and a soft green night-time glow emanating from gelled fluorescent strips in the adjacent bath. It’s not just look-good architecture, it also satisfies her curiosity about how layers of translucent materials interact with the changing light.
“We try to keep a diverse portfolio of work and bring the same voice of design excellence to all of it,” Fougeron says. “We’re interested in creating enlivened spaces that are about light, the expression of transparencies, and how well-crafted materials come together to reinforce those ideas.” She is currently working on Buck Creek, a cliffside house on the south coast of Big Sur, along with her first monograph, to be published by Princeton Architectural Press in 2011.
What is the most gratifying aspect of residential practice? Using single-family homes as a lab for creative architectural ideas, and the personal relationships we form with clients.
What is the most frustrating aspect? In the entitlement process, trying to convince people that design innovation is an essential part of a city’s growth. It’s also a struggle to be considered in the same league as firms owned by men.
What is your mission statement or firm goal? To join the opposites of old and new, industrial and residential, rough and refined, urban and natural in modernist compositions.
What is the most indispensable tool in your office? The people who work for me. Architecture is about collaboration, having the right team.
What software does your firm use? AutoCAD and Vectorworks.
Who is your ideal client? Someone who hires an architect not because they have to, but because good design is something that matters.
What is your favorite building? Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, or Sainte-Chapelle in Paris.
If you didn’t have time to design your own house, who would you hire? Japanese architect Kengo Kuma.
David Baker + Partners Architects
by Meghan Drueding
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.
Craig Steely Architecture
by Nigel F. Maynard
It’s hard to stand out from the large collection of exceptional firms practicing in California, but Craig Steely has made a name for himself with finely detailed custom homes and apartment renovations recognized for their architectural rigor. “We’re focused on design,” Steely says. “And we like working with people who think less is more.”
Indeed, the firm is known for crisp, clean lines and for work with “formal elegance in the classic modernist tradition.” But it’s not all about design. Along the way, Steely has built a reputation as a problem-solver—handy for his efforts in both San Francisco and Hawaii.. “We’ve somehow developed a reputation as the one to call if you have a difficult lot but you want something special that fits,” he says.
The firm has remained small and chooses projects with a discerning eye. Although most of the commissions are for custom homes and interiors, Steely is not opposed to other types of work. “We wouldn’t mind a small big project,” such as a small museum or cultural center. “The type of projects that Rick Joy gets,” Steely jokes. “We’re looking for something with the details and proportions that a house has.”
What is the most gratifying aspect of residential practice? My favorite clients become my friends.
What is the most frustrating aspect? None that I can think of.
What is your mission statement or firm goal? One strong idea.
What is the most indispensable tool in your office? Flexibility.
What software does your firm use? Rhino, AutoCAD, HB pencil.
Who is your ideal client? Someone complex enough to want a simple house.
What is your favorite building? Casa Malaparte
If you didn’t have the time to design your own house, who would you hire? A Chilean—Smiljan Radic or Mathias Klotz.