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Richardson Apartments: David Baker’s Affordable Housing Project in Hayes Valley Wows Design Enthusiasts at AIA Homes Tours
One of the most impressive aspects of the Richardson Apartments is that all of its 120 residents were formerly homeless. David Baker joked that these are his most appreciative clients, and it is clear that the best therapy for this particular demographic is a place they can call home!
The site was developed by Community Housing Partnership (CHP) and is part of the diagonal swath of land left exposed when the Central Freeway was removed 10 years ago. Hayes Valley has undergone repairs ever since, and DB noted that the design is as much about ‘sewing the City back to together’ as it is about housing the homeless.
Unlike most design firms, DB often helps vet prospective commercial tenants to find the best fit for the community. Hayes Valley Bakeworks, now located on the corner of Gough and Fulton, is one such tenant, with the mutual benefit of being located next to some of the formerly homeless workers they train. Bakeworks is the brainchild of Toolworks, an organization founded in 1975 which continues to provide job training for those who need it most.
Famed landscape architect Andrea Cochran brought a green thumb to the interior court, playing off the existing tiled mural that was previously the backdrop of a parking lot on site. Cubical wood benches made of Monterey Cypress salvaged from the Presidio by Green Waste Recycle Yard are paired with cantilevered outdoor tables by Concreteworks, and a screen of reclaimed urban wood wraps the exposed courtyard stair. Complimenting the inner court are industrial mailbox pavilions and a reclaimed wood covered reception desk in the lobby, fabricated by Pacassa Studios in West Oakland. Another place of respite sits on top the development, where roof top planters await the city’s newest urban gardeners, complete with their own irrigation system.
In contrast to the flora oasis inside, the exterior incorporates Rheinzink (Galvalum) cladding with inset panels of FSC-certified Ipe wood, and stucco along Gough, creating a quilted effect that plays off the urban fabric motif.
While we weren’t able to visit the actual residential units (since all of them were quickly occupied), we got to learn some of the project challenges behind the scenes from architect David Baker himself. Baker described how some of the neighboring condo owners were initially concerned about having low-income housing built next to their own substantial property investments. But no one is protesting the final product – and if anything, private residential owner/developers will have to step up to their game to meet the level of design and the contribution this building offers the community.
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