Douglas Burnham

Douglas Burnham profile image

Douglas Burnham is principal and founder of envelope Architecture + Design, a collaborative design firm whose work reconceptualizes modes of living and building in ways that advance new models of public/private space and craft compelling visions of the emerging urban condition.

A practicing architect for over 20 years, Burnham’s work encompasses residential, educational, commercial, civic, and hospitality building and renovation projects as well as the design of exhibitions, products, and furniture.

Recent projects of note include an entry for the Emeryville Center for the Arts competition, which builds on the polycentric nature of Emeryville by distributing a network of art and performance throughout the city as an open arts construct; and proxy, a temporary two-block construct occupying vacant lots in San Francisco’s Hayes Valley and composed of locally based pop-up stores.

Conceived of as a “content machine,” proxy is an investigation into the potentials of impermanence while it seeks to reestablish the urban fabric through a combination of frame, fabric, mesh, wall, and volume.

Burnham was also the lead designer of the Pilara Family Pier 24 Photography Warehouse, a renovation of a historic San Francisco pier structure to house a critically acclaimed private photography collection. The design respects the raw warehouse quality of the historic structure to posit a range of relationships between storage and display.

His hospitality projects include numerous celebrated Bay Area restaurants such as Delfina, Delfina's Pizzerias, Locanda, Contigo Restaurant, Commis in Oakland, and Domaine Chandon in Napa Valley.

An award-winning architecture and design firm, envelope A+D is known for its innovative built work and forward-looking projects. In 2009 the firm received the New Practices award from the San Francisco AIA, which recognized envelope A+D as one of seven emerging Bay Area architecture firms.

In 2005 envelope A+D was awarded first place in the SFprize Octavia Boulevard housing competition for a building composed of "minimum existence" individual living or working units, or both. Recognizing that buildings and families change over time, the design proposal envisioned the potential expansion of units by combining single units to make larger, multiroom units. Commercial spaces at the street level provide amenities to phenomenally expand those provided in the minimum unit. The project is currently in the entitlements phase with envelope A+D as codeveloper of the project.

Burnham received the Charles Goodwin Sands Memorial Prize from Cornell University’s School of Architecture, awarded to one student in the graduating class for outstanding final thesis work.

Before establishing his own firm in 1998, he worked for six years with the Interim Office of Architecture (IOOA) in San Francisco.

Burnham is frequently invited to give lectures on his work to professional and academic audiences in the United States and Europe, and his work is widely published in professional magazines and journals, including the New York Times, Interior Design, Architect, Architectural Record, Metropolitan Home, Elle Décor, San Francisco magazine, California Home and Design, Dwell magazine, The Architect's Newspaper, and the San Francisco Chronicle.

From 2007-10 Burnham led the SFMOMA’s Architecture + Design Forum as chair, and he now serves on the forum’s executive committee.

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Adjunct Professor, Architecture

BArch, Cornell University