Ten years ago, David Stark Wilson jumped at the chance to purchase a tiny parcel of land at the industrial western edge of his Berkeley, Calif., hometown. Since then his five-person firm, WA Design, has designed and built three structures on the roughly 0.4-acre site, each time relocating into its newest creation.

Wilson calls the firm's recently completed outpost—a tall, 2,400-square-foot office with a compact 22-foot-wide footprint—“a placeholder for the unique exploration of building skin.” Its form and proportions are inspired by the utilitarian building typologies he's admired and photographed for years; its eye-catching cladding recalls another familiar look he's long appreciated. “We wanted this building, which sits in a prominent position at the end of Folger Avenue, to create a strong visual backdrop and reinforce the street edge in an unabashedly urban way,” he explains. “So we custom-cut SWISSPEARL cement board siding in a running bond pattern of metallic, shimmery blue and green” to mimic the colors and patterns of the stacked shipping containers at the nearby Port of Oakland.

“The harder a site is to work with,” he adds, “the more interesting the response has to be.”