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Mark Calvano On The Future Of Silicon Valley Office Spaces

Laura Eckstein Jones | March 16, 2021 | Lifestyle Feature Home & Real Estate

Developer Mark Calvano envisions stimulating yet soothing office spaces in Silicon Valley’s future.

Mark Calvano at 1975 Terra Bella in Mountain View. PHOTOGRAPHED BY PETER DASI
Mark Calvano at 1975 Terra Bella in Mountain View.

After spending decades working as a commercial real estate developer in Silicon Valley, Mark Calvano of Calvano Development knows what companies want when it comes to office space. Now, as we slowly emerge from the aftermath of COVID, Calvano has reimagined what a desirable office space looks like today. His newest project—a sunlight-and plant-filled airy Mountain View space with flexible floor plans—sets the stage for the office of the future.

You’ve had a very unique career path. How did you get into commercial real estate? I dove in headfirst. After graduating, I opened the phone book and called and interviewed every commercial real estate brokerage company in Silicon Valley. Only Marcus & Millichap would not hire me, so that is where I was determined to work. I was persistent, and after my second or third interview, I was finally hired.

In this rendering of 1075 Terra Bella, ample space for custom-designed workstations allows for social distancing RENDERINGS COURTESY OF TRANSPARENT HOUSE
In this rendering of 1075 Terra Bella, ample space for custom-designed workstations allows for social distancing.

You’ve worked in commercial real estate in the area for decades. How have you seen things change over the years (pre-COVID)? In many ways, the real estate industry has been slow to adapt to new technologies and architecture, and slow to understand what office users wanted. For decades, developers built the same two-story, concrete tilt-up buildings. After the tech giants started building their own facilities, eventually most developers better understood what the market demanded. I still believe the market yearns for more exciting architecture and buildings that inspire one and all.

And how have things changed with the pandemic? Dramatically! But give credit to Silicon Valley for inventing the products and services that have allowed our economy to continue; without those technical tools, our economy would have ground to a halt.

A corner nook, flooded with light thanks to glass walls, could be installed with modular sofas and living plant walls.

Do you think people will go back to offices in the same way they did pre-pandemic? Or will the majority of people work from home? Most will go back, but the real question is, what percentage will not? A recent survey indicated 75% of tech workers did want to come back. Over time, I think that percentage will grow, but some workers will never go back, and others will—part of the time. In the future, being present at work will be negotiated by the employer and employee on a case-by-case basis.

If not, what do you think the future of offices looks like? More open and spacious, and more inviting. With biophilic designs, natural lighting, and in prime locations adjacent to transit. For new office design, developers and architects had better get it right or not do the project at all.

Plants and natural light provide a soothing office atmosphere.

Designwise, how does your new Mountain View building line up with that vision? For our 1075 Terra Bella project, we aimed to facilitate a nature-inspired workspace allowing the user to customize an employee environment inspiring team collaboration, innovation and creativity. We worked hard to discover the right architecture and to include social and nature-inspired places, which we believe will promote team innovation, productivity and overall employee well-being. We also considered the physical space from the employees’ perspective. We proposed multiple workspace options, including open spaces, conference rooms, quiet areas, collaboration spaces, cafe-style environments, balconies and patio areas. One of our goals was to design the project to allow for the enhancement of the living environment, giving the employer the ability to combine nature to enrich the employee experience. In the end, providing an employer an environment to promote team collaboration, openness and a connection to nature was our objective.