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MKThink & The Market Street Prototyping Festival

Better Market Street Initiative

Over the past six months, MKThink and RoundhouseOne have been collaborating with the San Francisco City Planning Department to monitor and evaluate one block of Market Street during the San Francisco Market Street Prototyping Festival. The team designed, tested, and installed a network of sensors to detect the change in the volume of people on Market Street due to the festival. In order to create a robust network, the team coordinated with city officials, members of the local business district, retailers, and utility providers to optimize sensor placement locations. Once installed, the sensors detected mobile devices that have the wireless signal activated. Devices were used as a proxy for people, meaning each device is an indication of one person on the street. Using this data, the team will be able to calculate the number of people on the sidewalk at any given time, the dwell time of each individual device (i.e. the duration of stay), and the path of travel for most devices. In addition to collecting this information during the days of the festival, the sensors will collect data for two weeks following the event so that the team will have baseline or “regular day” data to compare against. This analysis will allow MKThink, the San Francisco, Planning Department, and the Yerba Buena Community Benefit District to understand the level to which the festival increased foot traffic on Market Street.

MKThink: Enhancing the Urban Environment

MKThink is working with the City of San Francisco to help re-establish Market Street as the premier cultural, civic and economic center of SF. We recently deployed 7 sensor devices at nodes around the ‘Whispering Dishes’ on 4th and Market to investigate pedestrian use patterns.  This will help MKThink better understand and analyze the interactions between people and their urban environments as well as aid us in our quest to develop tactful and innovative strategies for revitalizing public space. The Better Market Street Prototyping Festival is Thursday April 9th through Saturday April 11th. If you find yourself walking downton on Market Street, stop and have a look!

Market Street Prototyping Festival

On Site // Off Site: Cultivating Dynamic Physical and Virtual Learning Spaces


On Thursday, March 26, MKThink hosted its second panel in the “Transforming the Built Environment for Education” series, this time choosing to focus the discussion on the dynamic between physical and virtual learning spaces. We brought together educators working across the spectrum of learning, and to students of all ages including K-12 and higher education.

Prompted by questions from MKThink Senior Strategist Allan Donnelly, the discussion centered on how the digital realm has amplified and made more transparent the cycle of thinking regarding education. Lessons learned are no longer limited to the temporal and spatial constraints of the classroom, but rather are constantly provoked and questioned by students long after traditional lessons are over.

Panelist David Meckel, Director of Facilities for California College of the Arts (CCA), when asked initially about this new dynamic, noted, “no eighteen year old student would make a differentiation between digital and physical. At this point, they’re entirely enmeshed.”

“Technology shouldn’t be isolated to the lab,” echoed Amy Burvall, who added that from her twenty-year experience as a k-12 teacher,

“students are better served by going out into the world and making a movie than they are shooting one in the confines to the classroom.”

-Amy Burvall Vice President of EdgeMakers Academic Affairs

This isn’t to say that the physical environment in which students and faculty interact isn’t important; rather, it places more importance on an institution’s interpretation of which spaces are crucial to social and emotional education.

“We believe in the residential,” added Mike Wang from the Minerva Project, a new, accredited degree program that is founded on a model where students cohabitate but whose campus is the urban city environment itself. “We partner with the SF Symphony for a music class, or go see Ai Wei Wei at Alcatraz to see an installation piece. But students live and cook together so they can form bonds and develop interpersonal skills.”

“Relationships are more important than the room,” added Amy Burvall, again placing emphasis on the notion that the connection to the outside world is key in getting students to experience life outside of their smartphones and computers.

“Technology is a great way to share knowledge outside of school,” commented David Meckel, “so students should be encouraged to continue the discourse.”

To close the event, questions from the audience probed at these notions as they translate across grade levels, including how district educators can glean similar lessons from their higher education counterparts, and vice-versa.

Many guests continued the conversation well after the panel closed, eager to share their perspectives on the dynamic between digital and physical environments.

Watch the panel in full for yourself below, and sign up for our newsletter on the homepage for further events from MKThink!

MKThink Awarded New HNEI Contract

Analysts Brett Madres and Sean Dasey work on the roof of a HNEI building.

Analysts Brett Madres and Sean Dasey work on the roof of a building HNEI is studying at Ewa Elementary School.
The classroom, Portable P6, is a net zero energy portable designed by Anderson Anderson Architecture.

SAN FRANCISCO – MKThink was awarded a $390,000/ten month contract with the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute (HNEI). Together, HNEI and MKThink will study and document energy dependencies in two distinct areas: Cultural and Human Environmental Factors in Higher Education and Grid Connected Batteries & Energy Infrastructure Systems. The project will continue to develop MKThink analytic tools and processes to better understand, predict, and evaluate the factors impacting energy consumption.

The new study expands on prior initiatives from the research community that use data as a means to compare, evaluate, and manage input across project portfolios. In 2009, the U.S. Office of Naval Research funded MKThink to begin investigating a framework logic to analyze data including cultural, environmental, and architectural/ asset-related factors called REACHE — Renewable Energy Architecture for Cultural and Human Environments. The next challenge for MKThink was to create technology to allow wider and more cost effective use of the framework, resulting in a new software platform called 4Daptive. This software, currently in beta, is capable of applying the logic to large data sets and relating the data to contextual conditions of place, time, value and scale. MKThink will conduct research with 4Daptive (and possibly other related technology) to support HNEI.

HNEI is part of the University of Hawai’i at Manoa and conducts research to test and evaluate renewable energy technology. MKThink, the ideas company for the built environment, is an innovation / design-thinking company based in San Francisco, California. For more information, visit or contact Signo Uddenberg, Technical Projects Lead – Innovation Studio, at

MKThink on ArchDaily

MKThink on ArchDaily

MKThink has been featured on ArchDaily for the first time! Our work on The Nature Conservancy’s San Francisco Headquarters was profiled on the world’s most-visited architectural website. Using a mix of data and analysis to inform the design, the MKThink team worked with the organization to develop a new organizational system for staff to work effectively and efficently in the space. You can read more about the project and see photos and analytics over on the ArchDaily post.