Walk the Talk: Observations From our New Office at 800 Great Highway

THE OCEAN PLANT


MKThink creates intelligent places for others. Seeking solutions when we are the client was educational, painful, but appears promising.


OVERVIEW:


The Problem to solve: In 2021, midst of the Covid pandemic, MKThink had to decide – and own – a new direction for our immediate and future workplace after a 20-year term in a conventional San Francisco business district setting.


We realize this decision was by external context, an edge condition: Covid was a constant, our base city of San Francisco was in distress, work-from-home was a mandate. Our lease was up after 15 years.


This decision also had internal potential – and pressure from internal context: MKThink’s vision, mission and experience has always pushed our practice to the leading line of explorations of cultural, environmental, architectural, technical, and business norms.


The problem we needed to solve had three key parts:

  1. Confirm that we would truly be who we envisioned the company to be.

  2. Apply our preaching by committing and living a physical-place solution aligned with our values, aspirations, and client work.

  3. Program the place to engage our local and global community networks with activities to explore possibilities to apply to their future decisions.


To get there, we dove into the cobbler’s-own-shoes dilemma, struggling through the self-determination process of discovery and assessment, to develop a strategy and choose a solution, design and test our assumptions, and then own and implement a decision that would define the next decade of our practice.


For more detail on the process reference here

For an image book reference here

Further summary continues below:


We ended up at the edge.




OCEAN PLANT:

Intelligent Edge Place Making


Our new home is at a physical edge. From here we strive to create better places through the creation, use and of programming of a physical place located where urban meets rural, land meets the sea, digital meets analog, scare resources meet high demand and old meets new – reveals unforgiving criteria to make sustainable places.


Our new home is the Ocean Plant.



Located at 800 Great Highway on the Western most edge of San Francisco, situated amongst Ocean Beach, Golden Gate Park, Lands End and the Outer Richmond neighborhood. The furthest point from City Hall while remaining in San Francisco but center stage of human culture, the natural environment and San Francisco urbanism. here


First, we needed to decide IF we wanted a physical location. We earnestly believe in Build Less, Solve More. We believe - and has been consistently revealed through brutally honest proof from 20 years of client space use a - that there is sufficient built stuff … that effective locations are those that use what we have better and shift the saved resources to discover creative solutions that are sustainable, valuable, affordable and enduring.


While dramatic, the Build Less Solve More position is easy for us. What was more difficult was confirming IF MKThink should have any physical place at all.


We decide yes.


MKThink leadership defied (external and internal) convention and decided that yes, we wanted a workplace, that we could define, that was activated by intentional, regular recurring and relatively dense team occupancy.


With the conviction and intention, we set about determining the why/how/who of the physical. Specifically, to achieve an artful, practical and joyous manifestation of practice at the Edge as an opposite weight to the digital realities, isolating work strategies and increasingly changing contextual dynamics


WHY: MKThink believes that in an increasingly digital world the role of shared places are increasingly important. Shared places offer the opportunity to experience and build culture, engage the senses, provide alternatives to a stay-at-home world. Our role is to create, program and engage people through the creation of these better places


HOW: The why was the key to the how. Our how is through the decision leadership to find a physical space located in an edge location that had the ability to be something more than an office space. We needed to host a place that engaged our teammates, clients and guests but also a local and global communities.


WHERE: We found a unique-yet-appropriate solution inn the Outer Richmond District of San Francisco, directly on Ocean Beach. 800 Great Highway is a vertically organized building, attached to a multi-family residential development that that formerly housed a surf shop. Though the space sat vacant for 2+ years, it took us to identify and embrace our WHY to set aside conventional wisdom and advice and locate where we believe we can advance a relevant, future-forward practice.


WHO: The market context determined we would be tenants, but our who meant something more. We set up a leasing and operating arrangement for MKThink team to be in partnership with the building owner as well establishing formal and informal collaborations with our neighbors and the (multiple) regional regulatory agencies so that we are able to lead the making and operations of a special multi-use environment of purpose and physical activity.


That is the first part of the who, the getting the governors on board. But to create a space that walked-the-talk we need to go beyond accommodating us with a good story and expand the who to include a community of engage participants to explore and celebrate the benefits of physical places in a modern world.

Our who, needed to be other companies, local and beyond, who cared about the balance among people, building and the natural world and expressed that caring through defined positive futures through place-making.


RESULT:

The team came back to work from COVID to the new Ocean Plant. Our folks choose to be together from 3-5 days per week. Our effectiveness is back. And while our client community takes a little while to decide if they are up for the journey the coast, and a bit longer to find us at Cabrillo and the Great Highway, the surprised joy we experience from them is worth it. Now we have neighbors who walk in and say hello, an emerging partnership with a coffee shop, and local artisans and clean technologists to share our beach-level show room id say so-far, so good.



Fact Sheet here

More on our process of Discovery through Strategy here

Image book begins here