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What is Edge?

MKThink, Edge

MKThink not only works ON the edge, with office locations on the Pacific Ocean border in San Francisco, California, and Honolulu, Hawai’i, but AT the edge, where its projects address pressing issues in uncharted territory. 

Co-founder and chairperson Mark Miller states, “Edge, to us, is both a physical and metaphysical place.” Working beyond consistency and comfort, MKThink thrives at the intersections of environmental, cultural, architectural, and technological edges. These meetings and boundaries expose how innovation distinguishes between conflict and synergy, where strategic architectural planning can transform a challenge into a solution, and where opposites don’t always have to be opposing but instead attract to find harmony. 

Edge in Practice

Where Urban Meets Rural

As rural populations decrease, age, and migrate toward education and career opportunities found in more densely populated towns and cities, urban populations are increasing, often at rates the existing built environment cannot support. Rural and urban meet and create a space where differing perspectives, traditions, and norms come into close contact. This edge balances the challenge of fostering sustainable growth that resists the ever more prevalent environmental pressures and disparities of wealth and resources. MKThink works at this edge to balance growth with a people perspective, fostering inclusivity in communities of diverse needs and backgrounds. Their design is influenced by exploring ways to facilitate the shift from rural to urban environments while tackling contemporary issues such as environmental sustainability, economic inequality, and spatial limitations.  

MKThink’s Project FROG is a green, scalable solution that brings healthy prefab buildings to education, healthcare, and retail sectors across the country. Since 2006, Project Frog has delivered over 400,000 SF of LEED Platinum buildings for schools, hospitals, and US national parks. These projects were completed in 4-6 months for 20% less than conventional buildings with similar performance specifications. See the Crissy Field Education Center for an example.

Land Meets Sea

Ocean Plant

Where land meets the sea, an edge is uniquely fluid. On one end, MKThink works in this space to engage the benefits of a blue economy, people's affinity to look at and be near water, and the ocean's ability to bring humans together. On the other, this edge requires consideration of natural influences like tide and sea-level rise that pose vulnerabilities to the populations that depend on and live on this boundary. Almost 30 % of the US population lives in coastal areas that provide infrastructure to support local jobs and regional industries. Roads, subways, bridges, landfills, water supplies, and commercially valuable fisheries are all at risk of flooding, erosion, and storms in our increasingly variable climate. These foreseeable environmental changes pose the task of building and adapting infrastructure to fluid boundaries and finding resilience in the challenge.

MKThink’s Ocean Plant is a building that exists on this boundary and capitalizes on the fluidity of people who frequent it.

Digital Meets Analog

MKThink, Systems Optimization, UH Manoa

We live in a time where digital and analog “in real life” are constantly replacing one another, competing, and combining. Once defined, the two have blurred into a spectrum where the digital environment and tools inform the analog world. MKThink doesn’t just work to make buildings; its expertise expands to the interface between the buildings and the people. Spatial data collected and analyzed in the digital allows strategists and designers to understand how people use a physical environment and best optimize the analog for its purpose. In practice, this edge explores how children will learn best, communities will collaborate and connect, and thought leaders will create systems to benefit generations. 

See how MKThink helped the University of Hawai’i Manoa collect and analyze spatial data around its campus to optimize existing buildings and, as a result, negated excess spending and better service for its students.

Scarce Resources Meet High Demand

When scarcity meets demand more often than not inequalities and disparities in wealth and resources favor privilege and leave behind the vulnerable. In densely populated urban environments, this edge exposes gaps in energy, water, education, food, and space availability. MKThink operates mostly in space, a commodity demanded by community services, education, housing, commercial businesses, and more. Rethinking the traditional use of space can create inclusive urban environments resilient to population growth and resource needs. At this edge, MKThink confronts challenges rooted in physical constraints and shapes design and strategy according to the demands of human experience.

With the Emeryville School District, MKThink uses strategic design and architectural planning to create a singular space that meets the high demands of the school district and community in limited space.

Old Meets new

With the passing of time comes aging, deterioration, obsolescence, and the paradoxing yet inevitable expansion of knowledge, growth, and perspective. MKThink works at the edge of old and new to bring revival, repurpose, and opportunity. Old structures lose their functional relevance in an ever-evolving world. As social systems, education, and norms require updates, so do the physical structures in which they exist. New perspectives and possibilities can transform an old building whose structure no longer meets the needs of its inhabitants into a hub for community connection, services, and productivity. 

See how MKThink revamped a historic building into a relevant and productive center for learning at the Stanford D School.


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