Oakland, CA, US 94608 · 100 photos
shoup residence + office compound
In 2005, a quite well known local craftsman named Miles Karpilow, decided that after more than 60 years of wood carving and furniture building in the bay area, it was time to retire. I had been casually looking for a building to house me and my design-build business for a couple of years. When my broker showed me the property, I had hardly stepped across the threshold before I made an offer. Without getting into a bidding war – no small piece of good fortune at the time - Miles agreed to sell the building and woodshop it contained. Located adjacent to Linden Park at 999 43rd street in Oakland, the property can be describe as transitional on many levels. In the urban sense, the neighborhood remains somewhat edgy but is slowly absorbing some of the calming effects of gentrification. Pressures of improvement come from prominent local businesses such as Pixar and Novartis as well as the proliferation of housing developments like Green City Lofts looking to capitalize on commercial and freeway proximity. Although momentum has stalled somewhat since the economic downturn, recent re-occupation of two nearby warehouses, one as housing and one as a charter school, has contributed significantly to establishing a more hospitable and engaging character to the neighborhood. Living here remains a dynamic balance between embracing the community and maintaining privacy. On a personal level transitional, or perhaps evolving seem apropos descriptors. Initial ideas for the building changed a few months into renovation when my business partnership dissolved (amicably). Rather than accommodating only an office and residence, the building needed to retain its workshop as well. It was a tight fit—the living and dining room doubled as a meeting space and lounge for bLz’s crew. Growth in the business and a diminishing enchantment with the 24hr comingling of my personal and professional lives compelled phase one of expansion. This took the form of a retired freezer shipping container which we transformed into an office located in the back lot. My personal office remained in the main building while other work-stations migrated out back. The arrangement worked for a year or so - I was single. Engagement to Taya Rhodes, an Associate with Peter Walker and Partners brought refinement to the vision for indoor-outdoor living and a courtyard oasis. Taya’s moving in and the nesting mode that followed brought imminent parenthood. And from the womb, Hannah, suggested that I might want to find another place for my office as she would be re-using the one in the house as her nursery. The solution was a second, contiguous shipping container conversion. Practically speaking, this allowed adequate and varied space to compactly accommodate both famzily and business. Architecturally, the second container allowed the formation of layered inner courtyard that provides privacy without hermetically sealing us off from our neighbors. The container conversions are a significant part of extensive green building credentials. These include myriad reclaimed, non-toxic and sustainably sourced materials and a solar thermal system servicing both domestic hot water and hydronic heating. In 2008, Built It Green featured the property on a green home tour (see attached). As a Green Point Rater and owner of a company employing several Certified Green Building Professionals, I clearly consider these essential to responsible construction practices. Yet, I would assert that intensification and adaptive re-use of existing building stock is perhaps more significant in contributing to actual sustainability. Aside from the container additions, we have stayed within the bounds of the existing building envelope. The process has been and continues to be one of discovery and dialogue; the proverbial khanian brick in the form of a north Oakland warehouse. Recently, a good friend suggested that one of the great tests of green building will be how well it thrives in inner cities and other inhospitable environments. I am not sure that I would characterize this an inhospitable environment as we are of course preaching to a largely converted population of the bay area. That said, the most tangible concerns in this neighborhood tend to be more immediate than carbon footprint. Perhaps through hiring neighborhood kids to do odd jobs around the shop and house, open houses showing neighbors what we do or being a part of the a community adoption of Linden Park which the city no longer maintains, we can help bring broader awareness to a ground level population. Perhaps it is a self-serving, fanciful notion, but I would like to believe that a small business, getting by in tough times in toughish neighborhood can contribute positively to a sense of possibility.