Novedge: Tell us a little bit about yourself and Blitz. Melissa Hanley: I’m a maker at heart and fell in love with creating things at a very early age. As the daughter of a contractor/ﬁne wood-worker, building runs in the blood. My phenomenal parents encouraged (and tolerated) my artist expressions even at the expense of the furniture and walls. This sense of exploration and freedom to test ideas has been at the core of my world view ever since and informs my process to this day. My partner and I have spent the last 7 years challenging the status quo by honing a process that is designed to educate our Client about the steps, milestones, and decisions that make their project a reality. Clients are our most important Design partners and we get to be advocates for them during the process.
More than an Architecture ﬁrm, we are a team of multi-faceted designers that utilize one another’s strengths to provide total design solutions. Our team is comprised of talented Architects, Interior Designers, Brand Strategists, Graphic Designers, and Communication Specialists whose roles interweave and overlay to unveil novel ideas and provide solutions that cover a greater vantage.
We are agile and passionate architects and designers who abide by the doctrines of compelling design and technical rigor. We take risks and set trends, never follow them. Above all, we are committed to fostering lasting partnerships with our clients, crafting experiences rooted in place, and creating projects with lasting value.
Novedge: What is a recent project that you worked on?
Melissa Hanley: Malwarebytes 50,900 SF . I was the Principal-In-Charge and lead designer for this project. It just opened in January and is a great example of how hospitality is really deﬁning the workplace. Image courtesy of Blitz and Architectural Photographer Bruce Damonte.
Our writeup is below:
To accommodate a rapidly expanding staff and need for additional space, Malwarebytes, a fast-growing cyber security company, hired Blitz to design 50,900 square feet of ofice space over two ﬂoors in a multi-ﬂoor, multi-tenant building in Santa Clara, California. The new office space provides expansive 360 degree views of Silicon Valley and overlooks the new Levi’s Stadium, home of the 49ers football team. Moving away from a single ﬂoor, perimeter private offices, and large cubicle work environment into a completely open office workspace was a signiﬁcant transition for Malwarebytes. Their goal was to remove isolation and segmentation in favor of a culturally open and ﬂuid work space and culture. The vertical integration of various teams over the two ﬂoors in their new space was critical to the success of the design.
The new ofice creates an engaging and dynamic environment for the Malwarebytes team, potential employees, and visitors. Teams are organized in neighborhoods that ﬂow outward from the main entrance. Each neighborhood has team-speciﬁc amenities (such as touchdown spaces, task-speciﬁc storage, and three gaming rooms -gaming of course being the most popular) to support their function and avoid a monotonous layout across the large ﬂoor plates of the building.
Tucked underneath the main stair is a “secret” bar that is a moment of delight and surprise within the project. The bar is a dark and moody speakeasy-inspired space and a major design highlight for both Malwarebytes and the Blitz teams. Entering through a blind door, luxurious black chevron marble tiles line the walls and draw the eye toward the amazing views of the Levi’s Stadium and the mountains beyond. Custom dark green leather tufted chairs paired with the classic marble tables make for the perfect pair. CEO Urban North American Headquarters / LEED Silver Certiﬁcation, Comcast Silicon Valley Innovation Center / LEED Gold Certiﬁcation and Comcast Sunnyvale / LEED Gold Certiﬁcation. The majority of Blitz staff are LEED APs.
Novedge: What software do you use?
Melissa Hanley: We’re 100% Revit. CAD is for dinosaurs. Buildings are complicated and every one is a prototype. We are able to leverage the data in the Revit model to create 3D ﬂy-throughs for our clients, so they can easily visualize their projects even during the early stages of Design. An educated and empowered client is a critical part of a successful project.
Novedge: Innovation is also a big part of your practice. What are the latest trends in Architecture you are exploring?
Melissa Hanley: We’re getting into virtual reality as a tool with our new Oculus. Its really the next iteration in getting our clients truly empowered. While we’re always interested in new materials what really drives us is doing more with less. We’re constantly looking at off-the-shelf parts and pieces and trying to ﬁgure out new assemblies that will get us a great Design and function better, faster and cheaper.
Novedge: Did you ever get an unusual Design request from some of your customers?
Melissa Hanley: All the time. We’ve been asked for ponies, rainbows and slides. I once was asked for a 2/3 scale Godzilla having tea with a 2/3 scale King Kong and the tea set needed to be this obscure English china that was $2,300/setting. It was a little out there. At the end of last year I was asked for a slip-n-slide and I immediately started thinking about where I would ﬁnd a commercial grade slip-n-slide and which waterprooﬁng consultant I would bring to the table. At this point nothing is really off the table. We’ve installed ball pits, bars, a 22’ dinosaur…anything is possible and we love that!
Novedge: What sets you apart form the competition?
Melissa Hanley: When my partner and I started the company we started with the ethos of creating a better process. We both came from traditional ﬁrms and didn’t understand why it took so many people so long to do something that wasn’t that interesting. Over the course of the last 7 years we have learned so much from our Clients (especially those in the technology sector) about how to build and grow a high-functioning team and we have applied these lessons to Blitz. Our studio space looks like a tech company because, in many ways, we act like a tech company. We practice agile development (to the extent an Architecture ﬁrm can), we have a ﬂat organization and completely open communication style. I think that the way we work shows in the end results. Our projects are different because we are different. Blitz was founded in the midst of the recession and the time period coming out of that has been one of optimism and energy where everyone is new to SF and if you have a good idea that is the only currency you needed to get on the fast track. Word spread quickly that we were the new kids in town doing great work. Also, we aren’t jerks. We explain the complicated process of Design and Construction to our clients and, in turn, become their advocates. Microsoft SF Image courtesy of Blitz and Architectural Photographer Bruce Damonte. Zendesk SF Image courtesy of Blitz and Architectural Photographer Bruce Damonte.
Novedge: What's in your Architecture bucket list?
Melissa Hanley: Space. Seriously – I’d love to do a project in zero gravity. If we’re thinking more terrestrially, then it would have to be the urban inﬁll skinny building. I’m kind of obsessed with the ally-inﬁll projects coming out of Japan right now. Some of them are less than 3 meters wide! I love the engineering of space and experience that comes from tiny, tight, weird spaces. It really forces you to think in cubic inches.
Novedge: Your security team makes quite an impression: how did you select the head of security?
Melissa Hanley: Haha. I think its more that she selected us. Ambrosia is a founding member of Blitz and has been through it all with us. She is about to turn 13 and I’ve had her since she was a puppy. Its hard to take anything (or yourself) too seriously when you have a snorting pug under your desk.
Blitz's head of security, Ambrosia.
To find out more about Blitz check out their website and follow them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Lots of inspiration from this Next Generation of Architects and their positive attitude to change, flexibility and transparency.
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