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Evolve Software
Emeryville, Calif.
Kava Massih Architects

Retaining an old factory's airy grandeur 

© Ethan Kaplan 
For more photos click on 'photos & drawings' above.

To see the people and products behind this project click on 'people & products.'

By Lisa Findley

For this developer of business applications, breathing room meant not only a less-crowded environment, but also an ease of informal interaction that has now become de rigueur in fast-moving high-tech firms. 

The firm chose Emerytech, formerly the Grove Valve Building. Where once huge fittings were manufactured for the shipbuilding industry, Kava Massih, a five-year-old local firm, had created more than 200,000 square feet of office and retail space for developer Ellis Partners. A high-tech track record and the developer’s recommendation was enough for the firm's CEO, who hired the firm to complete the design.

The largest block of Evolve’s space, 32,000 square feet, occupies a steel-framed, 300-foot-long former manufacturing bay, wrapped by industrial sash on three sides. Massih’s team interpreted the company's desire for spaciousness by inserting only a single full-floor slab in this light-filled rectangle, leaving an 11-foot floor-to-ceiling height on the ground floor. Even this is punctured by generous stair openings. The second floor opens up to a double height, with a mezzanine containing private offices and meeting rooms hung over about a third of the area.

Massih diffused the generous daylight with light-reflecting and transmitting materials to keep a sense of openness even in enclosed areas. Combinations of clear and translucent glass or plastic enclose the conference areas. The partitions of the custom-made workstations are also translucent.

Many new work environments struggle to accommodate a leader’s vision of a teamwork-oriented workplace with easy interaction and the staff’s desire for privacy and relief from perpetual distraction. Evolve is still discovering where this balance lies. Some midlevel managers fought for enclosed—though glass-doored—offices on the mezzanine, and got them. The engineers and software developers on the main level clamored for greater enclosure of their workstations. Bantleman has agreed, and Goldin has just completed the design.

See the June 2001 issue of Architectural Record for full coverage of this project.

Formal name of building:
Evolve Software 

Emeryville, Calif.

Gross square footage: 
46,000 sq ft

Total construction cost:
$2.5 million

John Bantleman, CEO, Evolve

Architect's firm: 
Kava Massih Architects
118 Hawthorne St.
San Francisco, CA 94107


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