Armstrong Place Senior Housing / David Baker & Partners

© Brian Rose

Architects: David Baker & Partners
Location: San Francisco, California,
Client: BRIDGE Housing
Contractor: Nibbi Brothers General Contractors
Project Year: 2011
Project Area: 131,800 sqm
Photographs: Brian Rose

This complex development fills a formerly industrial city block with an innovative housing mix: Affordable urban townhomes to keep growing families in the city and family housing adjacent to senior apartments to prevent seniors from living in isolation.

© Brian Rose

Leading a trend of transit-oriented development along the district’s main business corridor, the development lies just a block from a stop of a new light-rail line, a park, and a health center. The senior building, with 116 affordable rental units, serves as the anchor for the development, housing neighborhood-serving retail space and services and presenting an iconic tower at the corner that signals a sense of place.


To reflect the historically African-American population of the neighborhood, design details were drawn from traditional African textiles and symbols. Textile-inspired paint and window arrangements combine to wrap the public face of the building in an interlocking “quilt” of color and pattern. The courtyard is ringed by a wall inset with Ashanti tribal symbols representing security, wisdom, power, love, unity, and hope.

© Brian Rose

Based on income, the rents range from $0 to $635/month, with qualifying income levels below 50% AMI and some units reserved for formerly homeless seniors. The building is LEED NC Registered, with a goal of Gold. It features many complementary green strategies, including storm-water management, solar arrays that heat domestic water and light the common spaces, and healthy interiors and materials.

© Brian Rose

The senior apartments overlook the park, the courtyard, or a landscaped mews that runs between the building and the family townhouse development. The mews, an extension of the city street grid, provides direct access to the surrounding neighborhood and serves as a walking path away from the main arterial roadway.

© Brian Rose

In the family development, two mirrored sections of stacked townhouses flank a large open public courtyard above one level of parking, lobby, and community spaces. While staying connected to the city streets through private stoops and balconies, the townhouses surround the central courtyard, which features vegetable gardens, outdoor seating, and a picnic and play structure. Each side also features a smaller private courtyard with planters and picnic tables.

© Brian Rose

Of the 124 family townhomes, half feature three and four bedrooms, allowing people to stay as families grow. Many larger units are designed for aging in place, with stairs wide enough to accommodate wheelchair lifts and accessible living quarters on the entry level. These for-sale townhomes range from $175,000 to $345,000 and are available to families earning between 60 and 100% AMI.


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* Location to be used only as a reference. It could indicate city/country but not exact address.
Cite: "Armstrong Place Senior Housing / David Baker & Partners" 26 Jul 2011. ArchDaily. Accessed 22 May 2015. <>
  • Ian H

    Wait senior housing with stairs and garages? Ahhhh yeah not good.

  • Ian H

    Since when do seniors like stairs?

    • David Baker

      There is an elevator, though making the stair inviting and elegant is a good thing. Many seniors climb stairs, walk, and ride bicycles. That’s also a healthy and good thing, and should be encouraged.

      We did a senior building without a bike room once, and had to convert a couple of car spaces for them to store their bikes.

  • archi

    Did you guys actually read the text of the article or just the headline?

  • Tosh

    It looks good overall according to my understanding. Here are a few things to think about:
    1. Sometimes urban designers overreact with the use of colours, I think, just and just to make the place more “visually rich”.
    2. Is the perimeter block not becoming too big ? I appreciate the fact that there are all of these different spaces for pedestrians inside of it, but I hope it wouldn’t make someone’s journey much longer and thus contribute to the unsustainability of transportation.
    3. It doesn’t have to be symmetrical :) although there is nothing wrong with symmetry, for as long as all the decisions are taken consciously.

    Otherwise it looks like a very good project. I wish there was photos of interiors, but after all, it’s essentially an urban design project – design of public spaces.