The Edge: Kwan Henmi’s Journey in Architecture.

December 29, 2015 4 min read

This Architecture Firm went above and beyond in fulfilling our interview requirements. Principals of Kwan Henmi Architecture didn't just want to type in the answers to our questions, they wanted to tell us in person. The following video, shot for the Novedge Blog, is a celebration of a big milestone,  their 35th anniversary in business. We wish them another  35  years of great achievements.  Grab your popcorn , the Design Force is strong with these two! 


Novedge:  Tell us a little bit about who you are and what you do.

Sylvia: I founded Kwan Henmi Architecture/Planning, Inc. in 1980 with a commitment to the success of my clients and the realization of their design objectives. Kwan Henmi has a long history of working on iconic, legacy projects throughout San Francisco and the Bay Area. These projects include AT&T Park interior Architecture, Moscone West interior Architecture, and AirTrain at SFO. Our firm is currently working on the design of the new SFO Long Term Parking Garage #2, slated to be a beacon for travelers on Highway 101.

Denis: As CEO of Kwan Henmi, I serve as project principal for many of our multifamily housing, civic and transportation projects. My specialty is applying sustainable principles to buildings while maintaining their functionality and aesthetics. I am also presently leading the final architectural design effort for the $1.6 billion dollar Central Subway project in San Francisco.

Novedge: This year you celebrate an important anniversary for your Firm, would you like to share a little bit about your evolution? How did you get here?

Sylvia and Denis: We are Architects with a passion for creating quality designs, serving the community, and providing the best possible service to our clients. Every year we look ahead to the firm’s continued success and significant participation in shaping better communities and environments.

Novedge:  What is a recent project that you worked on?

Sylvia: SFO is a fantastic, longstanding client and we’ve worked with them on many successful projects. Our newest one is the Long Term Parking Garage, which is going to be Net Zero.

Denis: Probably the one that will make the biggest impact for the longest time is the Central Subway project. We designed Chinatown station and construction will be completed in January 2019. The plaza’s goals are to provide a welcoming community space, connections and visibility to and from the street, and flexible event/display/cultural spaces. The Design incorporates artwork and cultural displays where it can- most notably on the ribbon above the main head house of the station entrance- to attract users to the space.

Novedge: What past project has a special meaning to the practice and why?

Sylvia and Denis: AT&T Park Stadium interiors was an especially interesting project. Challenges of the project were complex: negotiating stringent regulatory agency requirements with the City; resolving life safety issues such as rapidly exiting 40,000 people at one time; and accommodating a diversity of operations – including administrative, security, press, banking/ATMs, thousands of lockers for concessionaires and operators, more than 180 food service point of sale stations, hundreds of television monitors, commercial laundry facilities, high end restaurants and private club facilities.

Novedge: You are a certified San Francisco Green Business: what are your green practices?

Sylvia and Denis: Arterra holds a special place in our heart. Arterra is California’s first LEED-certified residen­tial high rise community. This project combines the design of a healthy building, sustainability, aesthetics and good business, with the goal to enhance quality of life for residents. While receiv­ing critical praise, the project is a vibrant, afford­able, environmentally responsible contribution to the re-envisioned neighborhood of Mission Bay. John King from SF Gate named Arterra as one of the 10 towers that define San Francisco’s skyline.

Novedge:  You provide design and management services in the Residential, Educational, Public Transportation and Commercial Market sectors. Do you have specific teams assigned to specific sectors or you shake it up?

Sylvia and Denis: The strength of Kwan Henmi’s knowledge and expertise not only lies in the body of work we have accomplished over the years, but with the individuals working on each project – they are the true contributors to the quality of each design. Our teams are cross-trained in multiple sectors. Every designer is on the “A” team.

Novedge: What software do you use? 

Sylvia and Denis: Since 2010 we have documented all of our projects in Revit. We have been a leader in utilizing the capabilities of BIM software. More and more we’ve had the entire design team capable of using the software and tools appropriately, enabling superior collaboration, process and cost efficiencies. When working with General Contractors and Fabricators with similarly sophisticated BIM capabilities, we have been able to streamline not only design, but construction, fulfilling the promise that BIM has to offer. In our office we use Revit, AutoCad, Grasshopper, Adobe CC, and SketchUp.

Novedge:  You have won multiple awards in these past 35 years, what would you like on your shelf next?

Sylvia and Denis: We’d like an AIA National Firm award, the highest honor the American Institute of Architects can bestow on an Architecture firm for consistently producing distinguished Architecture.

Novedge:  What does it take to succeed in this business?

Sylvia and Denis: Heart and soul. And of course luck. The profession has changed so much – when we first started you just needed a desk, a parallel rule, telephone, and maybe a typewriter.

Novedge: Give us your definition of Architecture.

Sylvia and Denis: There are so many other professions that are good for humanity. I believe our profession is to create beauty.


Do you want to find out more about Kwan Henmi's Architecture journey? Visit their website and follow them on Facebook and Twitter

If you are planning to start your own Architecture journey and need the right software tools, visit Novedge. Happy Design!


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