Efficient architecture has been compromised by the architect’s ambition to be recognized internationally in the architecture scene, and the eagerness to compete with avant-garde trends has come to overlook the responsibility of architecture as a creative response to human needs. Rising architects and firms find their way to the media by presenting radical and extravagant designs, employing the latest technology and falling into the ‘overuse’ of fashionable trends in order to gain exposure. This habit has led to a kind of architecture that bypasses the requirements that enables companies, as well as the individual architect- to build an efficient space, so how can architecture find a midpoint between strategic solutions that respond to an issue without compromising an appealing aesthetic form?

Extravagant structures have become a staple in contemporary architecture, and they have been used as a medium to make a controversial statement (such is the case of Koolhaas’ CCTV building), and or perform as a sculptural piece (examples are Gehry’s Disney Concert Hall, Slim’s Soumaya Museum, Myne’s Cooper Union building, or Koolhaas’ Central Library in Seattle, who used the city as their showcasing museum).

However, these projects have made headlines, but arguably not because of the right reasons.

These buildings have not answered efficiently to design in relationship with human performance and the environmental reality within their geographic location. The steel façade that embraces the Disney Concert Hall failed because the material and shape reflected too much light and radiated heat to the surrounding houses (see image no. 2). An increase of investigation and recreating possible case scenarios would have resulted in a more adequate solution for the development of the projects. The Soumaya Museum’s tiled skin could have had light sensitive panels, or a ventilation system that benefits from the wind pressure exerted on the convex shape of the hourglass-shaped building. The curves of the Cooper Union building could have been extended onto the ground or into the lobby of the building in order to integrate it more to the site and result in a stronger relationship with the human experience, and in some way have the architecture generate a sense of space. Gehry’s flamboyant buildings along with Koolhaas’ Seattle library present a challenge where either the entrance to the building or spaces within the building themselves become confusing for the user, thus resulting in either a negative or disconcerting experience. A design that is sensible to the environment will participate more dynamically with the surrounding site and the characters that will engage in action with it.










Image no. 1: Concept ideas that could have been introduced into the tailed design for the Soumaya museum’s intricate skin design. [Graphic edit on original photo Courtesy of Adam Wiseman] 


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Image no. 2: By Sean Lally, Andrew Corrigan, and Paul Kweton of Weathers. The Image shows the temperature increase in the site surrounding the Disney Concert Hall. The reflection onto nearby condominiums raised the overall temperature up to 15 degrees Fahrenheit.


When we consider the effort and research invested to develop the innovative proposals for these projects, then we can ask ourselves: Why not take it a step further and maximize the potential of the tectonics and material?

Development in technology continuously gives us access to advanced materials, which could be applied unorthodoxly in order to generate an efficient building rather than fulfilling solely an aesthetic function. Each project becomes an opportunity to respond to different human needs. Taking advantage of the technological and aesthetical capabilities of these design trends would be a way to merge the functional purpose and sensory character of the building.

During the design process and project assessment, MKThink addresses these issues by carrying on in depth analysis of the different factors that will interact with the future building (ecological and human). These issues are identified as present scenarios, and consequently achieve a smart design that will efficiently respond to the project’s requisites, its environmental response to the site and the anticipated (and unexpected) engagement with people. This becomes a challenging process, however, MKThink’s strategic approach allows the design to continuously develop throughout the different stages.

An example is the ongoing project with the HNEI MMC Program that allows MKThink to collect data in order to compare and analyze the building performance in Hawaii. By taking these values and studying the existing factors in the location, MKThink is able to develop a design program that combines the interaction of the environment with the building and the prospective occupants. The result is a design that is both functional and has an attractive value, where one factor does not override the other and all the elements interact instead of competing again each other.

CHARTImage no. 3: Graph showing the interaction of the factors to be considered in the design process.


Image no. 4 and 5: Both Images present data collection and analysis done by MKThink for their HNEI Program. Monitoring environmental factors within a site allow a more effective understanding of the effect of external factors on a building. These studies will allow to develop improved buildings that could potentially be built throughout the Hawaiian Islands. [Images correspond to the HNEI MMC Program, for more detail visit MKThink website]


Architects have a commitment to fulfill building and habitable needs, and the team at MKThink manages to achieve this creatively. Buildings constantly interact with the environmental phenomena of the site, therefor, making these factors part of the design demonstrates an ingenious skill; where the built design becomes part of the site while communicating with its users.

It is so, that I propose current and future architects to challenge themselves, to design and find creative solutions that result beyond their own personal interest; to creatively follow what the purpose ‘needs’ and design ‘wants’. I invite you to make a change though a new kind of architecture.


Written by MKThinker: Odile Schlossberg


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Image References:

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Get Hooked: Nir Eyal & MKThink

Nir Eyal is a specialist when it comes to understanding the technology ‘drug’ , so to speak, that many of us use every day. He is a teacher, writer and entrepreneur, gaining much of his experience from his years in the gaming and advertising industries. On June 11th, as part of SF Design Week, Nir joined MKThink in providing a sundry of designers, innovators and entrepreneurs with a lifetime of experiences.

Technology has become very attractive through its accessibility, ease of use and general sense of “coolness” one has when he or she is up on the latest trends. Of course there is always the other side of the coin – the general population would like to ‘speak to a real human being’ and doesn’t want ‘robots to take over our jobs’. But besides the sometimes ‘cold’ side of technology, many of us choose to use it on a daily, even hourly, basis.

There are many blogs, books and articles on how, when and why to use technology, because it has worked its way into our routines for better or worse. Thus begs the question, with all the different types of products out there, how are these savvy firms convincing us that we truly need their products in our life? Nir delves into the underlying interest, some might say infatuation, we have with technology and why we keep coming back for more in his book “Hooked: How to Form Habit Forming Products”. His lecture at MKThink reminded us that understanding the human psyche and looking back to several original studies, such as the behavioral research by B.F. Sinner in the 1940’s, are just as important as understanding modern user’s needs.

Enhanced Engagement for Better Design {at the AIA}


Evelyn Lee, Katie Peksa and Liz Lessig represented MKThink at the 2015 American Institute of Architects (AIA) Convention in Atlanta, GA.  The trio led a hands-on workshop on “Enhanced Engagement for Better Design” to a full house of 80+ colleagues. The session included an introduction and discussion around Experience Mapping, Empathy Mapping, and marketing’s 7 P’sPurpose, People, Product, Process, Preparation, Practical and Pitfalls –powerful tools for content creation, programming and design. Take away – Design should begin with engagement; there are new tools to quantify engagement; greater stakeholder input is essential for great design.

It’s Happening: 826 Valencia is opening in the Tenderloin

It’s Happening: a brand new 826 Valencia, the children’s writing center, with their signature Pirate Supply Store entrance, will soon have another location – this time, in San Francisco’s Tenderloin district. It will be the largest of the 826 Valencia locations with 5,200 square feet of space, on the corner of Leavenworth Street and Golden Gate Avenue. The opening comes as Mayor Ed Lee pushes to expand the mid-Market Street success into the Tenderloin. “Changing the way the street is impacted is part of a larger neighborhood vision,” according to Steve Kelley, Principal at MKThink, “and restoring the façade and interior of 180 Golden Gate promotes positive engagement with the community.”

The inspiration and goal behind 826 is to reduce the city’s “academic achievement gap for under-served youth”, a mission MKThink is a proud join.  MKThink provides pro-bono architectural services in a partnership dedicated to creatively engage children in a built environment designed to nourish and encourage learning.

Read the San Francisco Chronicle Article Here


MKThink & The Market Street Prototyping Festival

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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.