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Local architects innovate for both high-end, afforadable housing markets

Posted by: | Posted on: July 6, 2020



Since 2004, architects Yakuh Askew and Martine Paquin have collaborated to influence the Bay Area’s architectural landscape.

Askew, principal of Y.A. Studio, partners with Paquin, who helms an eponymous design firm focused on interiors, to develop both high-end residential design and affordable housing.

“We work across the spectrum,” said Askew, who focuses on multi-family structures and new buildings, while Paquin tends to Y.A. Studio’s custom single-family homes and interiors.


As for their style, both Askew and Paquin prefer not to label it.

“‘Modern’ can have people thinking of a design that’s cold, so we prefer not to put a label on it,” Paquin said. “There’s not one word to sum it up. We give a lot of attention to a space’s alignment, views, light and the quality of life it will create.”



The firm recently completed a pair of bespoke residences in Dolores Heights, 4024 and 4026 18th St. Available together for $4.49 million, the duplex’s individual units can also be purchased separately. Both feature oak flooring, oversized windows, enticing owner’s suites and high-end kitchens.


A San Francisco native who grew up in the Excelsior district, Askew earned his degree in architecture from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Paquin, who was born in Montreal, Canada received a degree in fine arts before earning her master’s in architecture.

In this interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, Askew and Paquin talk about their design philosophy and how they apply aspects of high-end luxury design to affordable housing.


Q: How would you describe your design philosophy?

Askew: I’m attracted to the spatial aspects of architecture. I think about how a space surrounds and engages someone, how light flows into it, what its views are, how it connects to the exterior, provokes feelings, and heightens your awareness.


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Yakuh Askew, principal, Y.A. Studio.

Martine Paquin, co-founder, Y.A. Studio; principal Martine Paquin Design.

Askew focuses on multi-family structures and new buildings, while Paquin tends to the firm’s custom single-family homes and interiors. Askew earned a Bachelor of Architecture degree from California Polytechnic, San Luis Obispo, while Paquin earned her Masters in Architecture from the Technical University of Nova Scotia.

Askew founded Y.A. Studio in 2004 after a stint with STUDIOS Architecture, where he helped on projects including Milpitas’ city hall and the 1.2 million-square-foot Foundry Square in San Francisco’s SOMA district. Y.A.Studio’s portfolio includes a variety of luxury, single-family homes across the city, as well as multi-unit structures, offices and medical facilities around the Bay Area. The firm was recently selected to co-design a 150-unit affordable housing project in Haight Ashbury.

Paquin worked for International firms including Buro Happold in London Ten Arquitectos In Mexico City and boutique firms in San Francisco before founding the Interiors firm Martine Paquin Design in 2008 and joining force with Y.A. Studio’s residential practice. Her work can be found in The Bay Area and Lake Tahoe.


Q: How do you incorporate ideas and lessons from luxury design into affordable houses?

Paquin: Working on affordable housing keeps us down-to-earth. The high-end residential provides artistic opportunities to custom design and we’re always trying to provide the highest quality possible in both. One of the biggest similarities between our high-end housing projects and affordable housing are the materials. We push healthy and sustainable materials and avoid toxic and irresponsible ones. The strong connection to light, air and the exterior is also a constant.


Q: What’s the benefit of having an architect perform interior design?

Askew: Our approach is more holistic. We’re thinking about all the details, finishes, layouts and exterior design elements concurrently. From spatial adjacencies, circulation through a home, structural and window locations to textures, materials and colors. We continually bounce between the micro and macro to create a cohesive and more rewarding experience.

Paquin: We connect interior and exterior. Working so intensively on Interiors gives us a more intimate relationship with interior details and scale of the elements we touch and feel.

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