David Baker Architects

JUNE 2014

Focus on the First 20 Feet


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BY DAVID BAKER AND AMANDA LOPER

The URBANIST Issue 534

David Baker FAIA and Amanda Loper AIA design density and explore urban solutions at San Francisco-based David Baker Architects.

Humans have evolved to scan their surroundings to scout for threats and opportunities. In the modern city, a speeding bus rather than a sprinting animal, may pose the threat while an inviting fruit stand may present the opportunity. And while we have cleverly devised ways to build upward, humans did not fundamentally evolve to look upward. Despite the detailed aerial imagery so common in architecture and urban design, we do not see, interact with, or experience spaces from a bird’s eye perspective. We commute, commune, eat, shop, share, and play amidst buildings and at ground level. Doing so, we are immersed in the first 20 feet of the vertical space around us. So why aren’t we designing it better?

This streetscape—this urban savannah—is our ecosystem, where we interact with our city environment, its cycles and its flow.

We have all shopped at a street-side store and sat at a sidewalk café, and these uses, done well, are absolutely the fundamentals of active edges. But the key to the vigor of any ecosystem is diversity.

It is time to expand and diversify the idea of active use. To expand the notion of mixed use to perhaps one of mixed-up use: The more mixed up, the more dynamic with retail, residential, common space, open space, micro space, maker space, and light industrial not only existing side by side, but within the very same places.

 

 

 

Retail and Beyond

This 14-foot high ground level is just enough to keep this retail space contextual, airy, and human-scaled. Ceiling heights are better higher—a minimum of 12-foot or 15-foot is good—and 20-foot is great. Richardson Apartments, David Baker Architects. Image: Matthew Millman

This unexpected 7-foot-wide pop-up shop engages the street with a transparent bay overhead. It both defines and engages the adjacent public plaza. Aether Apparel at PROXY, envelope A+D. Image courtesy of envelope A + D

A lively sidewalk in Chinatown functions as a market, thoroughfare and bus stop as inside spills outside of micro-to-moderately sized shops. Image by David Baker Architects

SHED rethinks retail with a vibrant mix of uses—a market, cafe, mercantile store and meeting space—that are connected to the street through large garage doors that open onto a public plaza. SHED, Jensen Architects. Image: Mariko Reed

 

 

Live to Work

Residential stoops place ever-important "eyes on the street" and make up a critical mass of San Francisco's public street edges. Image: David Baker Architects

20-feet at the ground floor provides maximum flexibility and the option to have a second level. These live/work lofts house a variety of tenants and uses including residential dwellings, offices and a hair salon. Emeryville Lofts, David Baker Architects. Image: Brian Rose

A thoughtful planted buffer—patio, porch or stoop—enables the co-existence of public and private uses next to each other. Pacific Cannery Lofts David Baker Architects. Image: Brian Rose

Work can happen outside the office (and on the street!) with large doors and movable furniture. Clock Tower Lofts, David Baker Architects. Image: David Baker Architects

CAFE TO COMMUNITY

Tables and chairs on the sidewalk are a classic and vital part of San Francisco’s public realm. Saint Frank Coffee, Open Scope Studio and David Baker Architects. Image:David Baker Architects

Stable is a community hub that houses such diverse tenants as a bike-messenger service, a cheese school, a florist, and an architect. A lively street-side cafe and outdoor space make possible the cross pollination of the inhabitants from both inside and outside the property line. Stable, Malcolm Davis Architecture. Image: Bruce Damonte

h2hotel explores the limits of permeability by mixing uses both inside and out. The multi-purpose ground floor space serves as the hotel lobby, restaurant, and bar. h2hotel, David Baker Architects. Image: Bruce Damonte

The floor-to-ceiling glass wrapping the SF Jazz Center's ground-level lobby, cafe; and ensemble room reveals the activity within. The Joe Henderson Lab—the all-glass, acoustically isolated, multipurpose ensemble room (at Linden Alley)—puts artists within feet of passersby. SFJazz, Mark Cavagnero Associates Architects. Image: Tim Griffith

StoreFrontLab's 530 square feet pack a big punch when given over to the community. The Lab's grant program has hosted a wide range of gatherings—from musical performances to furniture making—fueled by diverse people getting creative with access to a ground-level storefront. StorefrontLab David Baker Architects. Image: David Baker Architects

DBA_PodiumHeights from David Baker Architects on Vimeo.

A lively sidewalk in Chinatown functions as a market, thoroughfare and bus stop as inside spills outside of micro-to-moderately sized shops. Image by David Baker Architects

This 14-foot high ground level is just enough to keep this retail space contextual, airy, and human-scaled. Ceiling heights are better higher—a minimum of 12-foot or 15-foot is good—and 20-foot is great. Richardson Apartments, David Baker Architects. Image: Matthew Millman

This unexpected 7-foot-wide pop-up shop engages the street with a transparent bay overhead. It both defines and engages the adjacent public plaza. Aether Apparel at PROXY, envelope A+D. Image courtesy of envelope A + D

SHED rethinks retail with a vibrant mix of uses—a market, cafe, mercantile store and meeting space—that are connected to the street through large garage doors that open onto a public plaza. SHED, Jensen Architects. Image: Mariko Reed

Residential stoops place ever-important "eyes on the street" and make up a critical mass of San Francisco's public street edges. Image: David Baker Architects

A thoughtful planted buffer—patio, porch or stoop—enables the co-existence of public and private uses next to each other. Pacific Cannery Lofts David Baker Architects. Image: Brian Rose

20-feet at the ground floor provides maximum flexibility and the option to have a second level. These live/work lofts house a variety of tenants and uses including residential dwellings, offices and a hair salon. Emeryville Lofts, David Baker Architects. Image: Brian Rose

Work can happen outside the office (and on the street!) with large doors and movable furniture. Clock Tower Lofts, David Baker Architects. Image: David Baker Architects

Front Cafe occupies a repurposed loading dock in a building that houses a diversity of uses—a coffee roastery, a robotics-engineering studio, and a production company. The roll-up door sends a message, opens to the street, and shades the sun. Image: David Baker Architects

Tables and chairs on the sidewalk are a classic and vital part of San Francisco’s public realm. Saint Frank Coffee, Open Scope Studio and David Baker Architects. Image:David Baker Architects

Stable is a community hub that houses such diverse tenants as a bike-messenger service, a cheese school, a florist, and an architect. A lively street-side cafe and outdoor space make possible the cross pollination of the inhabitants from both inside and outside the property line. Stable, Malcolm Davis Architecture. Image: Bruce Damonte

h2hotel explores the limits of permeability by mixing uses both inside and out. The multi-purpose ground floor space serves as the hotel lobby, restaurant, and bar. h2hotel, David Baker Architects. Image: Bruce Damonte

The floor-to-ceiling glass wrapping the SF Jazz Center's ground-level lobby, cafe; and ensemble room reveals the activity within. The Joe Henderson Lab—the all-glass, acoustically isolated, multipurpose ensemble room (at Linden Alley)—puts artists within feet of passersby. SFJazz, Mark Cavagnero Associates Architects. Image: Tim Griffith

StoreFrontLab's 530 square feet pack a big punch when given over to the community. The Lab's grant program has hosted a wide range of gatherings—from musical performances to furniture making—fueled by diverse people getting creative with access to a ground-level storefront. StorefrontLab David Baker Architects. Image: David Baker Architects

David Baker FAIA and Amanda Loper AIA design density and explore urban solutions at San Francisco-based David Baker Architects.