The Best Architects in Oakland

Oakland, the largest city in the East Bay, is increasingly becoming a popular destination and larger player in the region. As the city across the Bay from San Francisco has experienced a period of steady population growth for the past decade and an influx of economic activity, its built environment has begun to adapt and change as well. Whether it is new high-end single-family homes in Berkeley Hills, an eco-friendly house in Piedmont, or one of the 20 new towers coming to Oakland – the East Bay is attracting some of the region’s best architects and design firms to help shape these new buildings and developments.

Oakland is proud of its working-class history and many locals are committed to preserving the structures and character that are there. So in addition to designing new buildings, these architects creatively and carefully restore and repurpose the city’s historic buildings, giving them new life. And as the most ethnically diverse major city in the country, Oakland’s history and culture show through its buildings, unique streets, and diverse neighborhoods – and many of the architects on this list show respect for this in their designs, infusing the city’s heart and personality into their buildings, whether is a new restaurant or low-income housing project.

The 11 architecture firms included on this list represent the best of design in Oakland. Most of these firms are located in the East Bay or are changing the built environment in a significant enough way as to be included. They are split into three categories based on their primary focus – residential, small commercial properties, such as retail, office, and restaurant design, and large commercial projects, including major multi-family developments and high-rises.


Custom Home  and Residential Architects

Just as Oakland is experiencing a rise in population and economic activity, so too is the city witnessing increased residential development. As more people are drawn to the vibrant city, and neighboring Berkeley, Piedmont, and Emeryville, top architects are designing stunning new homes and massive renovations for existing ones. While some of the Best Residential Architects in San Francisco may design the occasional home across the Bay, these four architectural practices have a more specific focus on residential projects in the East Bay.

Included on this list are the architects who designed former Oakland mayor and current California governor Jerry Brown’s hilltop home, those with work featured in national publications, and practices with countless prestigious awards to their names. These are the four best residential architecture and design firms working in Oakland.

4) House + House Architects

Website | (415) 474-2112 | Featured Principals: Steven and Cathi House

House + House is an award-winning practice that specializes in the design of creative, modern, and sustainable homes throughout the Bay Area and in Mexico. In 1989 they were named by Architecture Magazine as an emerging talent to keep an eye out for – and since then, their clever and practical homes have helped them rise to the top of the city’s architectural scene. In 2010, they won the 1st Place Award for Best Architecture Firm from Best of the Baylist. They have won over 50 awards and their work has been featured in national and international publications.

The principals and founders, Steven and Cathi House, cite their vast travel experiences as inspiration for their work, having traveled and worked in Europe, Asia, Africa and Latin America. As a result, they have a keen ability to incorporate traditional elements into nuanced, contemporary designs. They are also known for designing homes with a strong connection to nature and the outdoors. Both principals are committed to sustainability and incorporate green design elements throughout each home and landscape.

Outside of their practice, Cathi and Steven House are dedicated to educating and contributing to the development of architectural theory and practice. They have lectured across the United States and Mexico and both served on the Dean’s Advisory Board and the Advisory Council for the School of Architecture + Design at Virginia Tech. Additionally, they established The Center for Architecture, Sustainability + Art (CASA), a study abroad program in the UNESCO World Heritage Site San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.

Oakland Home Architecture

Featured Projects

House + House Architects designed the Langmaid Residence in Oakland, which earned an ASID Design Excellence, AIA East Bay Award, and a Builder’s Choice Design Award. This stunning single-family home creatively incorporates natural wood, copper, and concrete to create a contemporary design that still respects the history and traditional style of the neighborhood.

And they designed the Grandview home in Oakland which excellently combines curving walls, deep-set windows, rich colors, and carefully proportioned spaces. For the client, they incorporated ideas of feng shui and geomancy within solar alignments, energy flows, and spiritually powerful zones. The home has a rich play of colors and tones, giving it a liveliness and comfortability. Every material and color was selected to celebrate the artisan and the user. This project was recognized with a Custom Home Design Award.

House + House Architects also designed a large family home on a steep hill in Oakland. Hammonds Residence was designed to interact with the surrounding nature and features many generous outdoor living spaces. A steel entry canopy leads to the multi-layered stairway linking three intersecting volumes. A large curving deck links the spread out rooms together, and large walls of windows invite a stronger connection to the outdoors. The master suite opens onto a lush garden and soaring balcony and each guestroom have their own private deck. Cedar siding and stucco in soft tones compliment the California landscape, a home in harmony with its surroundings.


3) building Lab

Website | (510) 420-1133 | Featured Principal: Stephen Shoup

The Oakland-based design/build firm building lab specializes in modern residential remodels throughout the Bay Area. building Lab has earned many awards for their design and construction, including from Remodeling Magazine and National Association of the Remodeling Industry.

building Lab was founded in 2001 by Stephen Shoup. The design-build practice specializes in residential projects with thoughtful and highly refined modern designs. They are known for incorporating a family’s needs into the function of their home designs and are committed to using the newest and best green building practices. The practice is composed of talented designers, project managers, and architects and has experience in new construction, whole-house remodels, additions, kitchens and bath remodels, master planning, landscape design, custom cabinetry and furniture.

The firm has been recognized with numerous awards, including the 2016 REMMIES Grand Prize, the 2015 Remodeling Magazine Grand Award, and multiple NARI awards and Remodeling Magazine Grand Awards. A skilled carpenter from a young age, Shoup takes a holistic approach to design and building. Shoup received his Masters of Architecture from the University of California, Berkeley, and also received training at The Architectural Association in London.

Oakland Home Architecture

Featured Projects

building Lab undertook a whole house remodel on Burdeck Drive in the Oakland Hills. This major reconstruction of a badly deteriorated mid-century house turned the family home into a beautiful, safe, and functional home. The house was stripped down to its foundation and upgraded seismically. The building Lab’s design reconfigured the floor plan with a new kitchen and baths. A spacious great room with rebuilt floor-to-ceiling windows frame a panoramic view. And the design offers easy access to a large outdoor entertainment deck from the new kitchen.

In the center of Piedmont, the firm undertook a whole house remodel on Sharon Avenue for a young family. The heart of this home is the kitchen and building Lab designed the home to emphasize this and give the space proper flow. The original design was compartmentalized, inhibiting interaction and closing space off to light. building Lab removed walls and created an open kitchen and living space. The effort was amply rewarded in the continuity and dynamism of the resulting area. A large island centerpiece serves as the transition between the intimate, 8-foot high kitchen ceiling and the airy, vaulted family room. Supporting these spaces are generous storage, a light-drenched eating nook, and a discrete computer workstation. The sleek home is filled with upscale finishes and is full of light.


2) Bliss Design Build

Website | (510) 759-1323 | Featured Principals: Sallie Lang & Amy Harwin

Bliss Design Build, founded by Sallie Lang, is a design and construction company that creates creative and joyful homes throughout the East Bay. Their work has the highest level of craftsmanship and displays a keen sense for integrating client’s needs and context specific design solutions. Sallie Lang has worked on many high-profile homes, including Jerry Brown’s Oakland Hills home and Larry Ellison’s Japanese style Woodside estate.

Sallie Lang launched Bliss Design Build in 1993 as Bliss Construction. Shortly after, Lang had the opportunity to work for Paul Discoe, the founder of Joinery Structures. In that capacity, she spent 7 years as the project manager building Larry Ellison’s storied Japanese style estate in Woodside from the ground up. She then reformed Bliss Construction as Bliss Design Build. She is now the construction arm of the firm, using her extensive experience in the complex design and building process, including sourcing rare materials, developing new technologies, and finding skilled artisans to work at a high-level. Lang is an expert at coordinating many different layers of the construction process including managing people and materials.

Sallie Land was joined in Bliss Design Build by Designer and Partner Amy Harwin in 2008. She has significant experience working on high-end restaurants, multi-use buildings, and schools. She also committed to gaining experience using alternative, green technology and worked for Toby Long Designs/CleverHomes. She then worked for Michelle Kaufmann Designs who was a leader in pre-fab architecture. Her pre-fab work helps hone her design skills for creative solutions in tight spaces and her varied experience in different typologies helps her think outside the box to find the right design solutions. Harwin earned her Master’s in Architecture at ASU.

Oakland Home Architecture

Featured Projects:

Bliss Design Build custom built a Japanese-inspired Oakland Hills home for former Oakland mayor and current California governor Jerry Brown. The property offers sweeping views of the San Francisco Bay and was designed to capture these incredible sights from as many rooms as possible. The 5-level zen-inspired home includes tons of special features, including a sauna, wine cellar, glass roll-up doors in the family room, a custom staircase, bamboo floors, and an extensive use of white pine. The luxury home is light and airy.

Bliss Design Build also conducted an extensive addition and remodel of a mid-century modern Oakland HIlls home. The result is a family home with a large open kitchen, dining room, and family area. The master bedroom, playroom, guest suite, and master bedroom were also re-designed. The overall project emphasized an indoor/outdoor relationship, inviting in natural light and opening up the home to fantastic views. Natural materials and textures were used to create a warm, natural environment.

And the firm undertook a complete gut renovation and addition on a beautiful 1.1-acre lot on Skyway Lan in Oakland. This Asian inspired home showcases the firm’s ability to design high-end homes with the latest environmentally sound technologies. Special features of the home include a stained concrete floor, the use of SIP panels, metal standing seam roof, solar hot water system, pebbletech pool, sauna, and guest house.


1) Baran Studio Architecture

Website | (510) 595-6744 | Featured Principal: Matt Baran

With offices in Oakland and Los Angeles, Baran Studio Architecture develops adaptive architectural solutions that bridge all aspects of a design problem. They have designed award-winning single and multifamily housing and commercial projects. Their work has been widely featured in print, including in the San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, SF Business Times, Oakland Magazine, Sunset, Interiors and Sources Magazine, and numerous books. They have also been featured online in Architectural Record, SF Gate, California Home and Design, Curbed, and others. They have numerous industry awards, including from the AIA, and have been invited to several prestigious exhibitions.

Baran Studio Architecture was founded in 2010 by Matt Baran. The practice combines varied disciplines that include architecture, interiors, landscape, and construction as part of a comprehensive methodology. Their designs respond to their environments in a wide-ranging, innovative and often unexpected manner. The finished spaces are incredibly fresh and creative, while also being distinctly useable for their specific clients. This process engenders an architecture that is of its time and simultaneously, timeless. In addition to their single-family homes, the practice has designed many notable multi-family projects in the area. They are currently working on 2 of the 25 most expensive commercial projects in Oakland.

Baran is known for fostering a collaborative studio environment and working to further explore the architecture that is closely adapted to its context. His design process includes extensive analysis and research into deeper contexts that include the physical and psychological environment, history, culture, socialized beliefs, collective mindsets and notions of beauty, systems of erasure, and material qualities in addition to architectural typology.

Prior to founding his own studio, Baran spent 15 years working for various architecture firms, including KMD and the Jerde Partnership. His interest in and work on concepts for architectural robots that shifted their form and location to adapt to various context won him an AIA award in 2006 and a full scholarship to UC Berkeley to complete a master’s thesis on adaptable robotic architecture. After graduation, he taught UC Berkeley and the Academy of Art.

Oakland Home Architecture

Featured Projects

Baran Studio’s work on the ‘M House’ created a new single-family home in North Oakland that carefully integrates into a more formally and stylistically traditional neighborhood, while contemporary design elements and materials kept it modern. A pitched roof and large windows give a nod towards traditional design, modernized by abstract elements such as the curled shape of the roof skin. Exterior colors and materials had an industrial aesthetic, linking it to the nearby industrial areas, whereas the refined use of wood gives the home a warm, residential feel.

And the studio designed Boardertown, an Oakland home that creatively responds to its environment. Set on a lot adjacent to several warehouses, a freeway, and an unsanctioned skate park that was created by locals, this home was inspired by the setting, and the materiality is an architectural response to the emerging DIY scene in Oakland. A corrugated metal rain screen wraps the project as camouflage and protection and a redwood screen suggests at the residence inside. Inside, the interior is cut by a diagonal line that allows the yard to become a part of the interior when considered as a square. This home won an AIA East Bay Design Award.

And on an unusually large lot on 62nd Street, Baran Studio Architecture took advantage of its space by spreading out and integrating the home into the surroundings. Indoor and outdoor areas flow into one another creating a singular and continuous space. The home makes extensive use of warm wood to link the areas together, from the fence to the exterior siding, interior walls, and again into the back garden. Sustainable qualities are integrated into infrastructure and materiality.

Baran Studio Architecture also won an AIA East Bay Merit Award for their work on 16th and Willow, designing two single-family homes on a unique lot.


Smaller Commercial Achitects

As Oakland increasingly becomes a popular destination and experiences economic growth, small commercial development is essential. Of course, some of the practices featured in our San Francisco lists – including the Best Commercial Architects, Best Restaurant Architects, and Best Office Architects – complete the occasional retail, restaurant, or office project here- such as STUDIOS Architecture designing the Pandora offices in Oakland. But their bodies of work are much more varied throughout San Francisco or elsewhere in the country or even the world.

By contrast, the two design practices highlighted below are based locally and dedicate most of their portfolios to work within their city of Oakland or neighboring Berkeley and Emeryville. These two up-and-coming practices have designed a range of local commercial projects, from hit new restaurants and retail shops for local legends to office space for established firms and popular hotels in the area.

2) Medium Plenty

Website | (415) 658-5249 | Featured Principal: Ian Read

This up and coming design practice has proved their worth in a range of projects throughout the Bay Area – from a photography studio on a houseboat to a popular wine shop and tasting bar in downtown Oakland, and an elegantly remodeled historic building for a successful branding studio. The young practice is composed of architects and interior designers who come from some of the best Bay Area practices. Medium Plenty’s work has been featured in California Home + Design, Dwell, San Francisco Magazine, Remodelista, Design Milk, San Francisco Cottages & Gardens, and more

Medium Plenty was founded by Ian Read in Oakland. The full-service architecture and interior design practice focuses on producing thoughtful work. Their projects span many categories including architecture, interiors, environments, furniture, and typically a combination of several. Read founded Medium Plenty after spending years bridging the worlds of design and construction. After his academic studies, he worked mainly in the construction trades gaining hands-on knowledge of the building process. This experience instilled a practical knowledge not only in understanding the methods of construction but also of the language of building. He translates this understanding to carefully designing buildings that respond to their site, purpose, and climate.

“We see each project as an opportunity to create something unique that evolves from discoveries made through an insightful and collaborative design process.” – Medium Plenty

Read’s work at Medium Plenty is complemented by that of Gretchen Krebs, who has an established background in both architecture and interior design. Prior to joining Medium Plenty, she worked for the award-winning San Francisco firm Jensen Architects. Other team members include Patrick Ojeda, who previously worked at the award-winning firm Studio O+A designing some of the tech industry’s most innovative workspaces, Sky Lanigan, who worked with the award-winning Seattle firm Olson Kundig Architects on residential, mixed-use and institutional projects, and Joseph Foronda.

Oakland Small Commercial Architecture

Featured Projects

And in a 1920s brick building off Jack London Square, Medium Plenty designed Oakland Crush, a wine shop and tasting bar that focuses on smaller winemakers. The space is light and airy, inviting customers to browse and relax. It recedes as a sumptuous but subdued background for the jewel-like rows of wine. Bottles are set off against cubic forms of oiled Ash and Medium Plenty’s own hand-blown glass lighting.

They also recently completed Little Giant Ice Cream, a 2,840 square foot Ice Cream Shop and Production Facility. Located a block from the historic Fox Theater in Oakland’s Uptown District, Little Giant is popular for their delicious ice cream in a rotating array of flavors. Medium Plenty worked closely with owners Kevin Best (B Restaurant, Boxed Foods Co.) and Neil Rideout (Cigar Bar & Grill) to design a space that reflected the company’s ethos. The design was fun by not cliche, minimal but not stark, and emphasized the ‘process of making’. The design firm centralized the production area, allowing the shop’s many customers to glimpse into the complex process of ice cream making. Colorful accents, simple materials, and robots galore finish out the space.

For Piedmont Avenue style mavens Karen Anderson and Dana Olson, Medium Plenty designed retail space for their new joint venture – Neighborhood. The design brilliantly highlights the ragged exposed materials of the 1920s storefront, the perfect approach for a “contemporary bohemian take on the general store, both a well-curated housewares shop and an inviting community gathering space.” They took cues from existing raw geometries, textures, and colors of the space and translated them into shelving, lighting, and finishes. The practice also designed and built large custom chandeliers – intertwined branches of off-the-shelf raw brass parts and hand-blown glass – to anchor the front double-height space. Recycled Heath kiln shelves wrap the sales counter and play off the scraped concrete walls.


1) Arcsine

Website | (510) 444-2410 | Featured Principal: Daniel Scovill

Founded by Daniel Scovill in 2003, Arcsine is an architecture and interior design firm who create innovative and dynamic spaces within the hospitality, restaurant and workplace environment. The practice has designed some of the most compelling new restaurants in Oakland and the East Bay. Their work has been recognized with industry awards and attracted wide publication.

In addition to their wonderful work on restaurants, the practice also completes other large hospitality projects, residential, and retail projects. The comprehensive architecture and interior design firm places a strong emphasis on method, aesthetic and client care. They are known for fostering a collaborative creative environment and surpassing client’s visions and expectations. Adam Winig has been a partner since 2006 and has been lead architect on large hospitality projects.

“We believe that good design brings people together, fosters relationships and inspires creativity through the enhancement of our surroundings.” – Arcsine

Daniel Scovill founded Arcsine with a vision to develop a studio environment based on collaborative design innovation and allow himself to be fully immersed within a design concept. He previously worked at top area offices including Gensler and Axis Architecture + Design. Working on large commercial projects in a multi-disciplinary team setting with strong emphasis in branding and hospitality gave him a breadth of experience that he applies to his own practice. He pursues a hands-on approach to projects, curating vibrant teams of creative professionals to deliver unique projects. He holds a Bachelor of Architecture degree from California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo. He is a licensed architect in the states of California, Nevada and Washington D.C.

Oakland Smaller Commercial Architecture

Featured Projects

Arcsine designed the new Calavera in Uptown Oakland, a collaboration with restaurateur Chris Pastena and Michael Iglesias and Jessica Sackler. The 3,500 square foot space in the Hive on Broadway, a restored Julia Morgan building with existing brick walls and concrete floors, recognizes the client’s belief that art and design are foundational to an inventive food and beverage program. Oaxacan culture inspired the use of authentic materials and a vibrant art program within their design. The result is refined but unpretentious and features regional materials and unexpected geometric forms that take a contemporary stance on old world style. Central to the design was the integration of Oaxacan art, such as a suspended cloud of hand-carved hummingbirds and a suspended wood structure of multiple display boxes housing alebrijes, brightly colored folk art sculptures of fantastical creatures. Arcsine paid attention to even the smallest of details, from vibrant handmade tiles by Omar Hernandez and a weathered wood bar to agave-inked table tops and hand-crafted light fixtures. This project was featured in Bizjournal.com.

And their design for Agave Uptown cultivates the marriage of cultures through design and won the 2017 Best Restaurant Design from CA Home + Design. A home for authentic Oaxacan cuisine, the restaurant is housed on the ground floor of the Kapor Center for Social Impact. The 4,000 square foot space is filled with thoughtful design references that bring the history and diverse energy of Oaxaca, Mexico to Oakland. The space features a bar with a faceted display of folded steel planes woven and welded into a dazzling centerpiece, intricate custom metalwork, and a glass wall with a delicate copper mesh veil that separates the private dining room from the lively restaurant. And the practice used their network of local Oakland artists for artwork and décor for the restaurant.

Arcsine also designed the progressive Duende Restaurant & Bodega based on inspiration from Spanish folklore. Their richly artistic design captures the essence of “El Duende,” a spirit concerned with the balance of light and dark. And they designed the popular cafe Modern Coffee II. In addition to these eateries, other commercial projects by the practice include Four Points by Sheraton SF Bay Bridge in Emeryville, Blum, Gibbs & Davies Law Office in Oakland, and the Oakland Convention Center.


Large Project Architects in Oakland

Oakland is increasingly becoming a bigger player and more important in the Bay Area. With San Francisco just across the Bay becoming increasingly crowded, more and more families, individuals, and businesses are looking to Oakland to live and expand their operations. Indeed, a number of well-established, significant San Francisco based companies have opened office spaces in Oakland in recent years, including the Blue Shield of California and Gensler, the largest architecture firm in the US, who comes in at number 1 on this list.

This increase in economic activity and residents has spurred significant development in Oakland and the surrounding areas of Berkeley and Emeryville. A number of new high-rise residential towers are in the pipeline or under construction. And the firms on this list are designing the tallest and largest, poised to change the Oakland skyline. Indeed, of the 25 largest current construction projects in Oakland right now, the majority are mixed-use, multi-family developments. Additionally, large new office complexes are being planned, including in renovated historic buildings. And the presence of the University of California, Berkeley next door also contributes to the demand for high-end, large commercial design expertise.

The 5 firms included below have worked on many of the aforementioned projects and more.


5) ELS Architecture and Urban Design

Website | (510) 549-2929 | Featured Principals: Clarence D. Mamuyac, Jr. & Kurt Schindler

ELS Architecture and Urban Design has designed extraordinary buildings and spaces for over 50 years. The Berkeley-based practice works extensively on large-scale projects throughout the United States and even abroad. They have been recognized as an AD Top 300 Firm and were recently included in the 2016 Architect 50, ARCHITECT magazine’s Top 50 firms in the nation. The practice has won many awards for their designs and their work has been featured countless times in notable publications.

ELS Architecture and Urban Design is an award-winning, Berkeley-based full-service architecture and urban design studio. They specialize in public states and work on a range of projects including large retail buildings, educational projects, shopping and mixed-use streets, historic renovations and adaptive reuse, theatres, community and civic centers, sports and recreational facilities, open spaces, and plazas. The practice is run by 8 Principals, 4 of whom have been honored as Fellows of the American Institute of Architects. They work on projects throughout the East Bay, San Francisco, throughout the West Coast, and elsewhere in the United States, including Texas, Arizona, Florida, and Hawaii. ELS has even been hired for major projects as far as Singapore and Spain.

“All of our projects, from downtown to exurbia, are about bringing people together. We often find a forgotten space or area and turn it into the place people remember—the public realm. … As architects and urban designers we translate the joy of human connection into a place that lives.” ELS Architecture and Urban Design

President and CEO Clarence D. Mamuyac, Jr. has been with ELS since 1983. He has been recognized as a Fellow of the AIA. He earned his Bachelor of Arts with majors in architecture and landscape architecture, and his Master of Architecture, with Distinction from the University of California, Berkeley.

Kurt Schindler, who acts as project manager for many of the Oakland based projects highlighted below, has been with ELS since 1981. He too has been recognized as an AIA Fellow. Schindler earned his A.B in Environmental Design and his Masters in Architecture from the University of California, Berkeley.

Oakland Commercial Architecture

Featured Projects

ELS’s won on the LEED Silver certified East Oakland Sports Center has been recognized with considerable praise. A collaboration with the City of Oakland to revitalize the Brookfield neighborhood, the new 50,000 square foot complex houses community meeting spaces, a learning/ media center, dance and aerobics studio, double gymnasium with a suspended running track, recreation spaces, aquatics center, and an adjacent sports park with soccer and baseball fields. The building is designed as a composition of glass and metal clad forms, providing visual interest, capturing natural light and controlling solar gain. The transparent walls create a greater connection to the surrounding community, inviting them in. It was awarded an AIA East Bay Merit award, an AIA San Francisco Citation Award for Architecture, and was an Athletic Business Facility of Merit Winner. The project was featured in Architectural Record, San Francisco Chronicle, and Interiors, among other publications.

ELS also designed renovations for the National Landmark 1928 Fox Theater in Oakland. Their work restored and re-cast the historic theater as a popular live music venue and a centerpiece of Oakland’s revived Uptown Arts and Entertainment District. ELS’s clever design can accommodate a flexible capacity from 1,500 to 2,800 seats and allows room for an open dance floor, standing room, or cabaret-style seating in front of the stage. This project earned an AIACC Merit Award for Architecture, National Trust for Historic Preservation, Honor Award, and the California Preservation Foundation, President’s Award.


4) PYATOK Architects

Website | (510) 465-7010 | Featured Principal: Michael Pyatok

For over 33 years, the award-winning PYATOK Architects have created award-winning spaces designed to bring people and communities together. Founded by Michael Pyatok, FAIA, the practice has designed over 35,000 units of affordable housing in the US and abroad and has been celebrated for their development of participatory design methods to facilitate community involvement throughout the design process. The practice and founder have received numerous awards and prestigious recognition in honor of their designs, approach, and commitment.

PYATOK was founded with the initial goal to help lower-income communities determine their own sustainable housing solutions unique to their cultural and social origins. Their commitment now also extends to people who have the financial ability to comfortably obtain their own housing on the open market, and to students in higher education who need decent and affordable housing. PYATOK works to foster the development of vibrant, sustainable, inclusive communities through sensitive architecture and urban design, education, service, and technical innovation. PYOTAK Architects place a large emphasis on working directly with communities to plan and develop new housing, neighborhood plans, and community facilities. They also engage in extensive research on the communities and sites that their projects will serve.

Pyatok himself has been featured in Professional Builder Magazine as one of twelve “Thought Leaders” of the development industry and in 2007 he was named by Builder Magazine and the NAHB as one of the 50 most influential people in the US housing industry. He is an AIA Fellow, has been inducted into the Marvin Design Hall of Fame and in 2013, the AIA awarded him its Thomas Jefferson Award for Public Architecture in recognition of the design quality he has brought to affordable housing. He has also been featured on the cover of Residential Architect as the “Architect-of-the-Year.” He has taught housing design as a visiting professor at MIT, Harvard, UC Berkeley, Washington University, and Penn State. After teaching 22 years at the University of Washington, he is now Professor Emeritus there but continues to teach as a visiting professor at the University of Oregon. Previously, Harvard appointed him its Buchsbaum Visiting Professor of Affordable Housing.

Oakland Commercial Architecture

Featured Projects

PYATOK Architects designed the award-winning Fox Courts Affordable Housing project. This project won a Gold Nugget Merit Award for Green Sustainable Communities, was a Reader’s Choice Finalist in Affordable Housing Finance Magazine, and was recognized by Acterra for Sustainable Built Environment. In collaboration with Resources for Community Development, this project was the winning design in a competition sponsored by Oakland’s Redevelopment Agency. With 80 family units, the overall project is designed to bring together families, single adults, supportive services, and on-site childcare at the heart of the Uptown development. The building is organized around two intimate scaled courtyards lined with open walkways serving two-story stacked townhomes. The cultural diversity of the Fox Court households is captured in the terra cotta tiles and wall murals created by local artists.

And PYATOK Architects designed Alta Waverly, which is currently the 7th most expensive commercial project under construction in Oakland. This major project at 23rd and Valdez in downtown Oakland will be a premier market rate mixed-use development. It will offer 96 market-rate apartments and up to 31,500 square feet of retail. The building’s design creates three distinctly different street frontages And set where the Oakland city grid meets the hills, the building is designed to create a unique interface and transition between larger downtown structures and smaller-sale neighborhood homes.

Other notable Oakland projects include 901 Jefferson Workforce Housing, the first bold contemporary building built in the historic Old Oakland Neighborhood, Special Needs Housing at 1701 MLK, the Lion Creek Master Plan, which replaced an isolated community of public housing with a new mixed-income transit-oriented neighborhood, Harrison Street Senior Housing in downtown, and 14th and Alice, a 7-story mixed-use project. PYATOK Architects is also assisting East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation (EBALDC) to develop a Master Plan for the redevelopment and addition of affordable housing for three separate parcels on West Grand and Brush Street in West Oakland.


3) David Baker Architects

Website | (510) 590-9195 | Featured Principals: David Baker, Amanda Loper, and Daniel Simons

David Baker Architects has been working across the Bay Area for more than 35 years. Throughout their history, David Baker Architects has designed and built more than 10,000 dwelling units, including more than 6,000 affordable units throughout the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond. They have been recognized with more than 300 architectural design awards and honors, including six national AIA awards. DBA’s practice also includes interior architecture, hospitality design, urban design, and a fabrication workshop. The firm recently was with The Curry Stone Design Prize, acknowledging the 100 most influential socially engaged global design practices making a difference.

David Baker Architects (DBA), with offices in San Francisco, Oakland, and Birmingham, Alabama, was founded by David Baker in 1982. He is joined at the firm by two other principals: Amanda Loper and Daniel Simons. DBA is known throughout the Bay Area for their exceptional commercial projects. They specialize in affordable housing, green building, and transit-oriented development. The practice is committed to improving neighborhoods and quality of life through their designs.

Founder David Baker was recognized as a Fellow of the AIA in 1996. In 2014 he was named the Non-Profit Housing Association’s Visionary and Innovative Leader in Design and in 2009 received the Hearthstone Builders Humanitarian Award, naming him as one of the 30 most influential people in the housing industry over the past 30 years. He earned his Bachelor of Philosophy at Thomas Jefferson College and a Master in Architecture at the University of California, Berkeley.

Amanda Loper holds degrees in architecture and interior architecture from Auburn University.

Daniel Simons has more than 15 years of experience in design and construction administration and holds a Masters in Architecture from the University of Washington, Seattle.

Oakland Commercial Architecture

Featured Projects

DBA designed Tassafaronga Village, a neighborhood on seven-and-a-half acres in the southern end of Oakland. The development offers a range of affordable housing, including townhouses and apartment buildings, green pathways, pocket parks, and open spaces and has achieved one of the first LEED ND Certified Gold Plans. All buildings are certified LEED for Homes Platinum. This project won an AIA Housing Award, an AIA COTE Top 10 Award, The Nathaniel A. Owings Award Entry of Note from the California Architectural Foundation, a Builder’s Choice Grand Award for Best Green/Sustainable Community from Builder Magazine, and was an Urban Land Institute Awards for Excellence Finalist, among many other recognitions.

They also recently designed Lakeside Senior Apartment, a block from Oakland’s renovated Lake Merritt waterfronts. This project won the prestigious AIA/HUD Secretary’s Design Award in 2016 and the Gold Nugget Honor Award for Best Affordable Senior Community in 2017.

And DBA designed 34th and San Pablo Affordable Family Housing, a mixed-use, affordable development that will contribute to the revitalization of the San Pablo Avenue corridor with 60 healthy family homes and 2,500 square feet of ground floor commercial space. DBA also designed Blue Star Corner in Emeryville, which won an AIA East Bay Regional Design Merit Award and AIA San Francisco Citation Award. It was the first multi-family attached housing development in California to be certified by the U.S. Green Building Council’s pilot LEED for Homes program.

Other local DBA projects include Pacific Cannery Lofts in West Oakland, with won a National Honor Award for Residential Design from the AIA, The Union, a community-focused mixed-use building in West Oakland BART district, Linden Court in West Oakland, Magnolia Row in West Oakland, a hybrid of an urban loft and a residential townhouse that won an AIA San Francisco Merit Award and Builder’s Magazine Builder’s Choice Grand Award.


2) Gensler

Website | (510) 625-7400 | Featured Principal: Art Gensler

The world’s largest architecture and design firm – Gensler – was founded right here in San Francisco. In 2015, they opened up their first offices in Oakland as well. In addition to designing some of the world’s tallest buildings, Gensler has been hired by some of the most influential and successful companies to create their office space. The award-winning design practice has made its mark on the changing Oakland built environment and their work has been recognized with wide publication.

Gensler was founded in 1965 near San Francisco’s Jackson Square by Art Gensler, Drue Gensler, and their associate, James Follett. It now has 46 offices in 16 countries and employs more than 4,000 employees in 27 practice areas. In addition to designing commercial projects in Oakland, the Gensler Oakland office has also taken commissions for projects both north of the Bay and in the Peninsula, in Oregon, and elsewhere.

Although Art Gensler stepped down as chairman in 2010, his fingerprints and dedication to high-quality service and design are all over the practice. The firm’s expertise includes corporate offices, retail centers, airports, civic and educational buildings, urban design, entertainment complexes and even product design. In 2000, Gensler was recognized with the AIA Architecture Firm Award, the highest award bestowed on an architecture firm by the AIA.

Art Gensler got his start in the field working for Wurster Bernardi & Emmons after earning his Architecture Degree from Cornell. His boss, famed San Francisco architect William Wurster, is the one who convinced him to begin his own firm. Art Gensler was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Design Futures Council in 2016.

Oakland Commercial Archotecture

Featured Projects

One of Gensler’s first major Bay Area projects was 1111 Broadway in Oakland, a major City Center office tower built in 1990. More recently, Gensler has designed space for a number of small startups in Oakland and Berkeley in addition to large companies like AT&T, Workday, and Ellie Mae in the outer East Bay. The firm is increasing designing for companies that are moving to Oakland also, such as the cosmetics firm e.l.f.

Today, Gensler is transforming a 1929 Beaux Arts-style building into Uptown Station – a new major office and retail complex. Formerly Capwell’s flagship department store, the 330,000 square foot building has sat vacant since the departure of Sears in 2014. Gensler’s plans promise to make this historic structure into a signature office building in Oakland, contribute to the area’s growth, and attract significant tech businesses and pedestrian traffic. The thorough renovation will retain much of the building’s historic character while injecting a fresh energy consistent with the neighborhood’s revitalization. A new shopping arcade, or “paseo,” with a diverse retail mix traverses the entire block, activating the street level and engaging the community. Inside, Uptown Station will also include a creative workspace, atrium, and a rooftop deck with stunning views to San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge, Mount Tamalpais and the Berkeley Hills.

Other East Bay projects by Gensler include a new ‘creative factory’ for Pixar in Emeryville, a redesign of Claremont Club & Spa, a Berkeley landmark, the Blum Center for Developing Economies at the University of California, Berkeley, and of course, Gensler designed their own 23,500 square foot offices in Oakland in 2101 Webster St., the office tower that houses Pandora.


1) Solomon Cordwell Buenz Architecture

Website | (415) 216-2450 | Featured Principal: Chris Pemberton

Solomon Cordwell Buenz Architecture is an internationally renowned architecture, interior design, and planning firm that creates forward-thinking design solutions that make a lasting impact on skylines, campuses, communities, and neighborhoods. The architecture firm, which has offices in San Francisco and Chicago, has designed some of the tallest and most recognizable buildings under construction or finished in a number of US cities and abroad. They are now poised to change the Oakland skyline as well. The award-winning practice has become Oakland’s most active designer of towers and uses innovative techniques for its highrises.

SBC was founded in 1931, and since that time has embraced a future-oriented design ethos that places inventiveness and innovation at the firm’s core. Their diverse portfolio includes multi-family residential, urban planning, commercial, hospitality, retail, corporate office, higher educations, laboratory, and transportation projects. The practice is known for the ability to create structures that are responsible, responsive, distinctive, and – a quality that makes them particularly stand out amongst firms of their size and stature – financially feasible and effective.

Chris Pemberton, AIA, managed and directs SCB’s San Francisco office. The principal takes an active role in conceptual design, early planning, and project strategy and chairs the firm’s Design Research and Development Committee. His experience includes national and international projects ranging from high-rise residential, mixed-use, and office to exhibition and institutional projects. Since joining SCB from SOM in 2004, he has led many groundbreaking projects in San Francisco, including 100 Van Ness, which won ENR’s Best of the Best 2015 across the U.S. in the Residential/Hospitality category, AVA 55 Ninth Street, which was awarded a 2014 National Home Builder’s Association Best in American Living Platinum Award, and One Rincon Hill, which changed San Francisco’s skyline. Pemberton is a graduate of Carleton University and is a member of the AIA, Urban Land Institute, San Francisco Bay Area Planning and Urban Research Association (SPUR), and San Francisco Housing Action Coalition. He is also on the editorial advisory board for Building Design + Construction.

Oakland Commercial Architecture

Featured Projects

SBC’s project at 1640 Broadway in Oakland will be, for a short time, the city’s tallest new residential building and its third-tallest building overall at 380 feet and 33 stories. One of the city’s first new high rises in a decade, this project broke ground earlier this year downtown. In addition to 254 residential units, the landscape of 1640 Broadway will provide a multitude of amenities designed to enhance social interaction, activity, and community. Multiple roof decks at different heights offer amenities including multiple fire pits, outdoor kitchens, bars, and custom trellises to create a sense of privacy. The mixed-use structure is also designed to reduce demand on water and energy, in line with SBC’s sustainable commitments.

SBS’s design for a new condo development at 1314 Franklin Street, in the heart of downtown Oakland, was approved earlier this year by the Oakland’s Planning Commission. At 400 feet tall and with 634 apartments, this will be the city’s largest residential building ever once built.

And the firm designed 532 39th St, a new development that will be 260 feet in height and offer 402 rental units and up to 13,000 square feet of community-serving retail. The overall structure is varied in height, with its tallest point topped by a 4,500 square foot landscaped terrace that will offer sweeping views of downtown San Francisco and Berkeley Hills. The structure then has a 14-story step down on its southern end that will feature an 11,000 square foot roof deck, and another 11-story drop on the western side that again has a terrace, this one with 8,500 square feet. The design of the tower has a two-toned silver textured concrete interspersed with wall-sized glass windows.

SBC also designed a new 24-story, 250-unit apartment development by Holland Partner Group that is currently in preconstruction at 1721 Webster Street.

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