SOMETIMES ROTE INGREDIENTS in the housing equation are worth a second thought. Such was the case when architect David Baker turned a critical eye on the notion of on-site parking at Curran House, a 67-unit, low-income apartment building in San Francisco's hardscrabble Tenderloin district. Recognizing that few residents could afford cars, and that the site was plenty plugged in to public transit, Baker scratched auto storage altogether, reallocating garage costs to better uses. Among them: a zen “decompression” garden that now provides a serene point of entry to the building, as well as transparent views through the main lobby to a beautifully landscaped rear courtyard. In a city where green spaces are few and far between, this tranquil oasis fills a void.

Category: Urban garden; Entrant/ Architect: David Baker + Partners, San Francisco; Associate architect: Gefland Partners Architects, San Francisco; Builder: Cahill Contractors, San Francisco; Developer: Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corp., San Francisco; Landscape architect: Andrea Cochran Landscape Architects, San Francisco; Interior designer: MLP Design, San Francisco

Learn more about markets featured in this article: San Francisco, CA.