David Baker Architects

SEPTEMBER 2014

Art for All!


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DBA's Brit Epperson and Amit C. Price Patel work to fill our buildings with art programs that are beautiful, relevant, and uplifting.

by Brit Epperson and Amit C. Price Patel

 

Art isn’t just something that only hangs in a museum or in the homes of the wealthy. Every built project, whether it’s a high-end hotel or a non-profit training center for formerly homeless people, can—and should—incorporate art.

Art has the power to make a building come alive by enhancing the feeling of authenticity, place, and uniqueness and offering great conversation starters to help residents and users connect and build community.

There are a variety of ways to find the right art and incorporate it in ways that fit with the building, its inhabitants, and the budget.

LINKS

Ned Kahn
Andrew Schoultz
Casey Jex Smith
Mona Caron
Creativity Explored
Community Housing Partnership 

Working with an art consultant

For some of our projects, we have engaged an art consultant with a wide knowledge of artists and styles to find great matches for each building. For h2hotel in Healdsburg we worked with art consultant Svea Lin Soll to help us identify artists and curate pieces. For the hotel, we also commissioned a site-specific installation by California artist Ned Kahn called “Spoonfall,” a kind of kinetic waterfall where rainwater captured from a green roof drips into a grid of hinged espresso spoons.

Ned Kahn's "Spoonfall" in the entryway of the h2hotel. Image: Bruce Damonte

"Spoonfall" detail. Image: Catherine Chan

For the market-rate apartments at 200 Second Street in Oakland, Svea Lin Soll helped us commission murals by local artists Andrew Schoultz and Casey Jex Smith, which fill the building's two stacked double-height lobbies with color.

Lobby mural by San Francisco artist Andrew Schoultz. Image: Cesar Rubio

Detail from lobby mural by Casey Jex Smith. Image: Cesar Rubio

Securing outside funding

For projects with smaller budgets, outside sources of funding may be necessary to purchase art. The affordable housing development Station Center in Union City, California, benefited from the city’s percent-for-art program. With the funds set aside by the program, we were able to commission San Francisco artist Mona Caron to create a large-scale exterior mural visible to the surrounding neighborhood.

Inspired by a flower growing through concrete rubble in a nearby field, the mural, “Taking Root,” “grows up” the side of Station Center’s five-story entry tower. At the ground level, Caron incorporated multilingual messages of welcome contributed by the building’s residents. Involving the residents like this is a great way to make the art unique to the project and instill a sense of ownership and pride.

Artist Mona Caron worked with residents of Station Center to envision the "future" portion of the mural. Image: Nick Kasimatis

Station Center residents shared words of welcome in their native tongues for the base of the mural. Image: Nick Kasimatis

Working with residents

Outside funding may not be necessary. In projects with tight budgets, we have looked to the building users themselves to provide the artwork, which helps develop community while staying on budget. At Lakeside Senior Housing, currently under construction in Oakland, the lobby has been designed with a dedicated gallery space for residents to display artwork they create.

The lobby of Lakeside Senior Housing will have display shelves and a gallery wall to feature artworks by residents. Image: David Baker Architects

Creating custom works

As architects, we can also contribute directly to the artwork in a building. In San Francisco, we created and coordinated the installation of a text-based series for the Community Housing Partnership (CHP) Training Center. The training center offers employment-skills classes and support to the formerly homeless, and our involvement represents DBA’s commitment to volunteering design work as part of Public Architecture’s 1% program.

We oversaw the center’s graphics program, fabricating a large-scale mixed-media mural. We collaborated with San Francisco-based Sterling Graphics to create a custom environmental art suite based on inspirational quotations selected by CHP staff.

The mixed-media mural references one of the center's motivational quotations and incorporates the Community Housing Partnership logo.

In the shop, cutting out the letters for the "Daring Greatly" mural. Image: David Baker Architects

Licensing agreements with artists

For Bayview Hill Gardens, a recently opened affordable housing development in San Francisco, we collaborated with Creativity Explored to maximize the art budget. Creativity Explored is a nonprofit visual art center that provides developmentally disabled artists the means to create, exhibit, and sell their art.

We licensed 26 images by different studio artists and used them throughout the 73-unit apartment complex, which provides supportive affordable housing for formerly homeless families as well as young adults who have aged out of the foster care system.

We particularly wanted to work with local artists at Bayview Hill Gardens, and Creativity Explored helped us identify which of their artists lived in the ZIP codes immediately surrounding the project. We then sorted through hundreds of images by those artists to find ones that resonated with us and which seemed like a good fit for the project. We chose works that either had a common color characteristic or a shared graphic quality to visually tie together all the images on a given floor. In addition to creating a cohesive aesthetic, this strategy can be a great help with wayfinding in large multifamily buildings. 

The resident lounge at Bayview Hill Gardens is watched over by an inquisitive iguana drawn by Creativity Explored artist Gerald Wiggins. Image: Matt Edge

In response to the neighborhood and community’s predominantly African-American population, we designed Bayview Hill Gardens with many Afrocentric design principles, especially fractals, geometric systems based on repeating elements that are commonly found in African art and architecture. For the residential floors, we selected works featuring organic fractal patterns, which we then enlarged and repeated to create wall-sized murals.

 

Residential lounge on another floor at Bayview Hill Gardens. Image: Matt Edge

This original piece by Marilyn Wong was the basis for one of the Bayview Hill Gardens landing murals. Image: Creativity Explored/Marilyn Wong

Residential floor lounge at Bayview Hill Gardens. Image: Matt Edge

This original piece by Hung Kei Shiu was the basis for one of the Bayview Hill Gardens landing murals. Image: Creativity Explored/Hung Kei Shiu

Art for all!

Whatever the means or the material, we believe that art is an integral part of the built environment. We value the life and character it brings to our buildings. We value artists and the engagement their work creates for residents and communities. And more, we believe that everyone deserves art.

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Associate Brit Epperson heads up the DBA Interiors Studio and coordinates DBA Workshop, which produces custom furnishings for communal areas. You can reach her at britepperson@dbarchitect.com.

Senior Associate Amit C. Price Patel is deeply committed to high-quality design for multifamily affordable housing and particularly interested in creating spaces that support human connection. You can reach him at amitpricepatel@dbarchitect.com.

Located just off the square in Healdsburg, the h2hotel has a local art program featuring work by artists living within a 150-mile radius. Image: Bruce Damonte

Ned Kahn's "Spoonfall" in the entryway of the h2hotel. Image: Bruce Damonte

"Spoonfall" detail. Image: Catherine Chan

200 Second Street, market-rate condominiums near Oakland's Jack London Square, has towering murals in its residential lobbies. Image: David Baker Architects

Lobby mural by San Francisco artist Andrew Schoultz. Image: Cesar Rubio

Detail from lobby mural by Casey Jex Smith. Image: Cesar Rubio

Station Center's mural is visible from BART trains and the larger neighborhood. Image: Bruce Damonte

Mona Caron's mural was inspired on-site by a weed pushing up through an abandoned lot. Image: Nick Kasimatis

Artist Mona Caron worked with residents of Station Center to envision the "future" portion of the mural. Image: Nick Kasimatis

Station Center residents shared words of welcome in their native tongues for the base of the mural. Image: Nick Kasimatis

Lakeside Senior Housing is under construction near the shore of Lake Merritt in Oakland. Image: David Baker Architects.

The lobby of Lakeside Senior Housing will have display shelves and a gallery wall to feature artworks by residents. Image: David Baker Architects

The mixed-media mural references one of the center's motivational quotations and incorporates the Community Housing Partnership logo.

In the shop, cutting out the letters for the "Daring Greatly" mural. Image: David Baker Architects

Mural detail. Image: David Baker Architects

DBA created a suite of collage graphics featuring inspirational quotes.

Bayview Hill Gardens, affordable housing for formerly homeless families in the Bayview district of San Francisco. Image: Bruce Damonte

Residential floor lounge at Bayview Hill Gardens. Image: Matt Edge

This original piece by Hung Kei Shiu was the basis for one of the Bayview Hill Gardens landing murals. Image: Creativity Explored/Hung Kei Shiu

Residential lounge on another floor at Bayview Hill Gardens. Image: Matt Edge

This original piece by Marilyn Wong was the basis for one of the Bayview Hill Gardens landing murals. Image: Creativity Explored/Marilyn Wong

Creativity Explored artist Hung Kei Chiu's artwork appears in the large-scale installations in Bayview Hill Gardens' elevator landings.

Creativity Explored artist Gerald Wiggins creates delicate pencil drawings of animals, which appear larger-than-life in the common rooms at Bayview Hill Gardens. Image: Creativity Explored

The resident lounge at Bayview Hill Gardens is watched over by an inquisitive iguana drawn by Creativity Explored artist Gerald Wiggins. Image: Matt Edge

This octopus drawing, by Gerald Wiggins, appears in the computer lab.

Art by Gerald Wiggins.

DBA's Brit Epperson and Amit C. Price Patel work to fill our buildings with art programs that are beautiful, relevant, and uplifting.