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Healthy House Highlighted in Louisville Courier–Journal

MKThink's Healthy House

MKThink was featured in the Louisville Courier–Journal over the weekend in an article highlighting the revitalization of Louisville, Kentucky’s Portland neighborhood with a focus on urban farming. Spearheaded by MKThink and Louisville Grows, a foundation that distributes resident-grown produce throughout the city, the Healthy House will be a sustainable shotgun house. The structure, funded by philanthropist Christina Lee Brown and the Owsley Brown II Family Foundation, “will house two apartments for interns, one chicken coop, three root cellars, four bee hives, and an orchard.” Construction is anticipated to begin in early 2015.

You can read more about the project and the urban garden movement in Louisville HERE!

Signo Uddenberg Spearheads Undergraduate Leadership Course @ Stanford


Over the past six months, our Innovation Studio’s Manager and Technical Projects Lead Signo Uddenberg helped develop Stanford’s first Leadership Intensive for undergraduates. He also co-led the first week of the program focused on using design-thinking to solve real-world problems. The Leadership Intensive (LEAD) offers rising juniors a unique and immersive study of the complexities of leadership through a 3-week residential summer program just before the start of fall quarter. You can read more about the program HERE!

Evelyn Lee Featured in Architect Magazine


MKThink Design Strategist Evelyn Lee was featured in this month’s Architect Magazine, discussing her role and the future of the profession. In her own words, Evelyn divulged, “The profession, in general, would look at me and say that I’m in an alternative career. But I tend to look at it as “architecture plus.” If we want to be seen as trusted advisers, we have to expand the ways in which we think about what we do and how we do it. Most of all, though, we need to expand how we’re perceived by the community as a whole. In my role as a strategist, I get involved very early in the process, when decisions are made about spending capital assets. What I offer clients, then, is design thinking upstream rather than responses to pre-existing conditions.”

You can read the full article HERE!

The Nature Conservancy – San Francisco Headquarters – NEW!


The Nature Conservancy San Francisco Entry Lobby

Saving hundreds of thousands in operational expenditures for the world’s largest conservation organization.

Completed 2014 | San Francisco, CA

Beginning in 2007, The Nature Conservancy (TNC), the world’s largest conservation organization, has engaged MKThink for a wide variety of projects. Stemming from a long-needed reorganization of the company, TNC transitioned from strictly a land conservation outfit to one that also advocates for environmental policy reform and environmental education. Working with TNC from a design perspective, MKThink worked with the organization to develop an overall strategy to deploy their physical assets in support all three visions simultaneously. Engaging a wide range of stakeholders, from donors to management to researchers in the field, our team helped TNC minimize a duplication of operational expenditures by reorganizing the way regional and field offices operate independently and in relation with one another.

In 2014, MKThink completed a new office space for The Nature Conservancy (TNC). Located in San Francisco’s Financial District, TNC was looking to revamp a dated, cramped, and underutilized office environment with an eye toward enhancing their company culture and physically representing their mission of conservation and appreciation for nature.


Previously spread across one and a half floors, MKThink began the project by undertaking a utilization and occupancy analysis to better understand how the space functioned on a daily basis. Through in-person ethnographic observation, and by studying aggregate data from unique carded door entries, our team ascertained that even at peak times, only 80% of the offices’ 107 desk spaces were in use. Widespread telecommuting and the closed-off nature of private offices discouraged interaction between employees and inhibited views to the outside.
As a result of this quantitative and qualitative analysis, MKThink proposed a radical cultural shift. What if, instead of fixed, assigned office spaces, TNC adopted a ‘hoteling’ protocol by which employees could reserve desk space day-to-day? In flattening the hierarchy of the workstations and eliminating private offices, the space was reorganized to encourage more efficient overall utilization. With enhanced linear circulation, the space was rezoned into five discrete areas based on sound level (from noisy to whisper quiet). To mirror this rezoning, a color palette derived from the very ecosystems and environments that TNC serves was applied throughout to visually differentiate the floor plate’s discrete work environments. Now, employees individually reserve a desk in one of the five zones on a daily or weekly basis. A personal rolling file cabinet to store belongings and paperwork can be easily taken with them to their desk and docked in a central location when not in use.

The engagement process also revealed that TNC employees lacked space for private conversation and for collaboration amongst teams; the design team thus outfitted each zone with a series of spaces for collaboration ranging from small workstations for 1-2 employees, to larger, 8 person tiered teleconferencing spaces for collaboration amongst offices across the region/state/country, to more traditional board rooms for groups of 20. A variety of furniture was specified, ranging from standing desks to tiered seating for enhanced teleconferencing sessions. Using local and sustainable materials, including a reclaimed old-growth redwood, were used to create custom features including a full-height planter wall, a topographic ceiling installation, reclaimed wood benches and counters, and a 100% wool reception Desk.

Floor Plate Comparison

Overall, the cultural evolution has been dramatic. By eliminating unused space and consolidating onto one floor plate, the organization is able to save upwards of $270,000 a year in operational expenditures on the lease alone. Additionally, TNC has reported a rise in daily occupancy; thanks to a carefully considered work environment that embodies the spirit of the organization, the new space allows for seamless interpersonal interaction enabled by the new dedicated collaboration areas.

Audible City: Intern Summer Program 2014

Healthy Cities is a topic that reaches city goers in many shapes and forms. Addressing the definition of a healthy city is a difficult task; an individual’s idea of a healthy city is shaped by their experiences. This past summer, MKThink proposed to its three graduate interns: What is a Healthy City? Kelsey Brennen, Sean Mengyue Niu and Katie Peksa, embraced this subject and began to follow MKThink’s six-step process: Discovery, Assessment, Strategy, Planning & Design, Prototyping & Testing, and Implementation.


The discovery phase began with investigations into personal interests; homelessness, air quality, vertical farming, food deserts and neighborhood health, and heart disease. Individual discovery quickly transformed into group collaboration and knowledge sharing on this vast subject. There are many factors that make a city tick and each one of them is interdependent of the next. For example, noise levels, green space, hardscape, theft, assault and heart disease are all interrelated. Not one factor can be removed or improved to “fix” an urban issue. These issues are intertwined in the ever-changing organism we call the city. Through group collaboration and investigation it became evident that sound and its important yet discounted impact on our everyday lives was a topic of interest to all group members.

Mapping Sound Levels, Green Space, Race, and Income in San Francisco

Sound is an invisible, pervasive and underutilized resource in the design of the built environment. Its levels correlate to socioeconomic conditions, physiological impacts and individual experiences. Conscious or not, our individual auditory spheres guide us to known and unknown destinations. Sound is also part of the fundamental makeup of the city’s various neighborhood identities: whether that’s a musician at the 16th and Mission BART or the parrots on Telegraph Hill. While neighborhoods are often thought of as simple, geographic boundaries, sound provides an opportunity to share and connect to an underrepresented aspect of community identity.

Cities have grown significantly louder since the industrial revolution, largely due to motorized transportation. Despite this, it has been treated as a secondary problem from a city planning and policy perspective because noise has been viewed as “less offensive” compared to other issues like sanitation (smell).

Sound and Crime Mapped on Market Street

Over the last century sound technology has moved from a shared event to an individual one. The megaphone, radio and even the first Walkman encouraged communal experiences, while the CD & mp3 player as well as today’s cell phones foster individual enjoyment.

Individuals and Groups

Sound intervention into daily life is fascinating and deserves a conscious recognition. Therefore it became the focus of the Strategic, Planning & Design process. Sound guides both visitors and locals through the city and triggers similar feelings or a vastly different ones depending on previous personal experiences. Classical conditioning affects responses; a car horn will evoke a sense of attentiveness while a song can elicit strong emotions.

The Prototype development phase has been driven by a fascination of sounds ubiquitous infiltration. The installation evolution is centered on an auditory intervention that collectively engages the soundscape of the city. After users enter the installation, they can have a shared experience guided by a collage of individually recorded auditory experiences that subsequently draw a new map of the city

Hows Users Interact

Using a downloaded application, individuals that have an audio experience they want to share record the sounds of their environment. The recording is uploaded to a database and queued to play within the installation. Those present within the installation can be connected to that time and user through a shared auditory experience.

How to Use the Application
In its physical form, the installation will offer a buffered space in which users can listen to digitally recorded sounds.

Users Wait Outside the Installation

By providing a space where people can listen together to collected sounds in the city, Market Street can become a place to share dispersed experiences from around the San Francisco. Because these snippets are uploaded by people connected to the installation, the recordings can be interpreted as a fractured narrative or map of people who have previously passed through the space.

User Inside the Installation