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The Best Commercial Architects in Silicon Valley

December 20, 2017 15 Min Read


Silicon Valley often does not get enough credit for some of the commercial architecture, as the focus is mainly on renowned office spaces and infamous headquarters of the likes of Apple, Google, and Facebook. However, in both Silicon Valley and the surrounding areas, influential projects have contributed to the vibrant community that has made it a leader in innovation and creativity. These firms, while spread across the Bay Area, have turned their focus to more than tech, and considered how they can bring surrounding neighborhoods up, as well as make Silicon Valley a more accessible community.

Top Architects

Studio G

Kelly Simcox
Glenn Bolich
Rick Yeh

299 Bassett Road, Suite 250, San Jose, CA 95110

About Studio G

Studio G is a San Jose-based architecture firm that was founded in 2007 by Kelly Simcox (principal architect), Glenn Bolich (senior architect), and Rick Yeh (principal designer). Studio G prides itself on combining “large firm quality and production” with “small firm attention to detail.” Studio G’s projects range from a number of commercial renovations to corporate and public spaces, including the Calabazas, Willow Glen, and Rose Garden libraries. Some of their big name commercial clients include Nissan, Hilton, Kawasaki, and Honda Research. Additionally, Studio G has created several medical facilities, such as Sadra Medical, The Health Trust, Action Urgent Care, Allergy & Asthma Associates, and the Northern California Retina Vitreous Associates.

Featured Projects

One of the reasons Studio G has made this list is precisely because it is a smaller firm that can pull off large projects. One of these projects includes Orchard Commons, a 313, 419 SF facility in San Jose, CA — completed in 2013. The project used cold-rolled steel, wood, stone juxtaposed with a tile that brought an updated look to the building. Another notable project is the Nissan site, which features a variety of spaces that enable Nissan to mix work and customer service in a way that brings transportation to the forefront of innovation. Studio G used simple elements, including carpet, paint, soffit, and furniture to completely transform the Sunnyvale space. The open work and waiting areas are bright, vibrant, and welcoming, making it a comfortable space for both customer and employee.


Than Do
John Diffendefer
Joe Vela
June Yip

SVBJ Public/Civic Project of the Year

381 S 1st Street, Ste 300, San Jose, CA 95113

About Aedis

Aedis is the Latin term for domicile or sanctuary. The innovative architecture firm located in Silicon Valley dedicates itself to sustainable designs, with a focus on making an impact in the community. The firm was founded on the notion of diversity when it comes to experience and education, as well as culture and background. Aedis was founded in 1954 with an emphasis on the education sector — where they have built for every level, including day care centers, elementary schools, colleges, and universities. By focusing on educational institutions, Aedis has come to embody a true community-focused firm that has a passion for what they do and the people they work with. They believe in engagement and the ability to influence positive change.

Featured Projects

Aedis had the opportunity to live up to their philosophy when hired to update the cafeteria building at Fremont High School, which was originally built in 1951. However, with increased enrollment, the Fremont High school staff realized they were in need of more classroom space. The project was then changed to include the addition of 16 classrooms. The update maintained consistency with the rest of the campus, but made enough change to really impact student life. The added light makes the area a bit more energized and creates a richer environment for students to socialize and learn. Another project is the San Jose City College Fine Arts Center and Multidisciplinary Complex. The concept was a sustainable space and one of the first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified buildings for the district. The project won the 2011 Public/Civic Project of the Year by the Silicon Valley Business Journal, as well as 1st place Design/Build with Blach Construction. The building is LEED Silver and includes a footprint-minimizing art wall that allows students to express their creativity.

Rafael Viñoly Architects

Rafael Viñoly
Jay Bargmann

1190 Welch Road, Palo Alto, California 94304

About Rafael Viñoly Architects

Rafael Viñoly is an internationally recognized architect who hails from Uruguay, with a Diploma in Architecture from the University of Buenos Aires and a Master of Architecture from the School of Architecture and Urbanism. Vice President Jay Bargmann oversees the firm’s management and works in collaboration with the project directors. Viñoly is known for his works across the globe, including skyscrapers in New York and London. He has also designed numerous buildings for prestigious institutions, such as Stanford’s newest hospital, as well as buildings for Oxford, Princeton, Brown, and Duke. While Viñoly is a world-renowned architect, he’s made this list for one of his more recent and innovative projects in Silicon Valley.

Featured Projects

Transforming The Vallco Shopping Mall in Cupertino into The Hills at Vallco will be a vast project in which Viñoly, in partnership with OLIN Landscape Architects, will create a mixed-use development spanning 30 acres and made up mainly of green roof gardens. This project, if approved, will serve as both a community park and preserve that sits right between Apple’s One Infinite Loop and Apple 2 Campus. Given its sheer size and scope, it will be the largest green roof in the world. The project’s intent is to bridge the residential and the industrial, using walking trails, vineyards, an amphitheater, playgrounds, and native plants to attract wildlife. The space would be able to hold hundreds of apartments, additional office space, and a shopping center with a movie theater, bowling, an ice rink, and gym.


Jeff Warner
John A. Ruffo
Sam Nunes
Bryan Shiles

AIA COTE Top Ten Green Projects Awards,
AIA Honor Awards,
AIA Merit Awards

501 Second Street, Suite 402, San Francisco, CA 94107

About WRNS

WRNS is clearly one of the best architecture firms, not only in the Bay Area but in the country as a whole. It was named the number one architecture firm in the US by Architect magazine and has also received the American Institute of Architects (AIA) COTE Top Ten Green Projects Award, in addition to several other AIA design awards. WRNS is on this list specifically for some of the commercial work they have done in and around the Bay Area and Silicon Valley. While their more notable projects might be more high-end corporate office spaces, there are some commercial projects that are worth a closer look and solidify their talent across a variety of projects. These commercial projects have heavily influenced and changed the communities in which they were built.

Featured Projects

Boeddeker Park was a team effort in conjunction with the City of San Francisco’s Recreation and Parks department. The previous iteration of the park was a closed off space with poor visibility due to safety concerns. The project posed unique problems, given that Boeddeker Park is located in the Tenderloin district, San Francisco’s densest neighborhood, where most residents live in extreme poverty. What resulted in the rebuild was an award winning site — receiving the AIASF Honor Award, as well as recognition as the 2016 Excellence in Structural Engineering Award Merit in “New Construction.” The design itself boosted activity and opened doors for projects and programs in partnership with the YMCA, Boys and Girls Club, and other organizations. Boeddeker is the prime example for creating a space that truly brings people together.


C. Thomas Gilman
Susan Eschweiler
Craig Ivanovich

PCBC Grand Award,
Golden Nugget Awards,
Structures Awards

399 Bradford Street, Redwood City, CA 94063

About DES

DES is considered one of the top firms in the Bay Area across multiple industries, including healthcare, technology, and education. DES is a force of excellence, creativity, and efficiency. Their awards and accolades are many, including receiving the Grand Award and two Gold Nuggets from the 2015 PCBC conference. Most recently they were recognized at the 2017 Structures Awards for Design Tech High School, a public charter school at Oracle’s headquarters. At the helm of DES is Susan Eschweiler, a principal and Vice president. She is both architect and interior designer, bringing a unique set of talents to her projects and a passion for creating communities, such as building campuses and work environments. Craig Ivanovich, also a principal and vice president, has a talent for managing large, complex projects.

Featured Projects

The Cove in South San Francisco is a 20-acre, mixed-use campus containing nine structures. It offers a variety of amenities, including meeting areas, sports facilities, a hotel, and a vast retail center. This massive project incorporates landscaping and is LEED CS Silver targeted. The scope of the project led by DES is one that is hard to overlook. Upon completion, it could set new standards for Silicon Valley workspaces and focus a bit more on families and tourism. Another project worth mentioning is the Moffett Gateway Club in Sunnyvale. The facility was also built to bring activity and recreation to the corporate landscape. It contains a 15k-square-foot fitness center, a 30k-square-foot rooftop garden complete with fire pits and flexible seating areas, and is LEED NC Gold Target. The facility received a Gold Nugget Merit Award in the Special Use Category.

Hawley Peterson Snyder

Alan Turner
Henry Mahlstedt

AIA SF Chapter Integrated Practice Honor Award,
ENR Best Projects

1237 E. Arques Avenue, Suite B, Sunnyvale, CA 94085

About Hawley Peterson Snyder

Hawley Peterson Snyder is a Sunnyvale-based architecture firm that has been in business for nearly 60 years. The firm values collaboration, trust, and face-to-face interactions. Their client list includes Kaiser Permanente, Sutter Health, Palo Alto Medical Foundation, Stanford, and Princeton. Hawley Peterson Snyder is on the list for their strong core values and ability to build lasting personal relationships with their clients. Current principals Alan Turner and Henry Mahlstedt encourage ongoing education and mentoring of both their team and the surrounding community of designers. This includes a number of programs including the AIA Hard Hat Cafe and regular reviews, design discussions, and funded work-related conferences. HPS also fosters a commitment to sustainable design and construction as a certified Green Business.

Featured Projects

HPS has contributed a number of medical facilities that have helped the Silicon Valley area thrive as a community. One in particular is the award-winning Palo Alto Medical Foundation Mountain View Center, which was completed in 2007. The stunning facility includes a 250k-square-foot clinic with offices, exam rooms, and an urgent care center, as well as outpatient surgery, pharmacy, laboratory, and diagnostic radiology services. The facility received the 2007 AIA SF Chapter Integrated Practice Honor Award. More recently, in 2014, HPS completed construction on the Kaiser Permanente San Leandro Medical Center, in association with AECOM. The project won ENR Best Projects 2014 and featured a 464k-building-square-footage, including acute care and emergency services.

Bohlin Cywinski Jackson

Peter Bohlin
Bernard J. Cywinski (+)
Karl Backus
Ray Calabro
Steven Chaitow

AIA Architecture Firm Award,
AIA Gold Medal,
AIA COTE Top Ten Green Project Awards

49 Geary Street, Suite 300, San Francisco, CA 94108

About Bohlin Cywinski Jackson

Bohlin Cywinski Jackson is an internationally recognized architect who boasts over 625 design awards, including awards for Green Projects, AIA Architecture Firm Award, and the AIA Gold Medal. Cywinski has always had a sensitivity to energy efficiency and environmentally conscious design. Today, it remains a central focus of the firm. Specifically, Cywinski emphases the ability to harvest the climate of a particular site and take into account the places where he can make the most of light, heat, wind, and land to create the most efficient structure. Across the US, Cywinski is behind the Blue Bottle stores in New York, Washington DC, and San Francisco; the Apple Store in Williamsburg; the Manetti Shrem Museum of Art in Davis, CA; and Expedia’s headquarters in Seattle.

Featured Projects

Cywinski built the Presidio Visitor Center in San Francisco, CA, turning a former military post into a cultural space that is inviting and engaging to visitors. The renovation included removing some alterations that had made the building a post office and a bank at previous times. Much of the building’s original features were restored in order to preserve the history and culture of the structure, which was originally meant to be a military prison. The Mountain Lake Park Playground is another project centered around community building and engagement. There are unique pathways and a concrete slide, and some original elements that have been kept in honor of the past. An observation platform that overlooks the area, a rock wall, and the entire shape and landscape of the park incorporates the area’s natural sand dunes, giving the entire space an undulating and playful atmosphere.


Javie Arizmendi
Larry Chen

AIA Architecture Firm Award,
AIA 25-Year Awards,
AIA San Francisco Best of Show

One Front Street, Suite 2400, San Francisco, CA 94111

About SOM

Skidmore, Owings, & Merrill (SOM) is an international architecture firm founded in 1936. They are world renowned with a number of iconic buildings under their name. SOM has made the list as an award-winning firm that is the only practice to have won the Architecture Firm Award two separate times from the American Institute of Architects. While they have several offices around the world, their influence and contribution to Silicon Valley is significant. The San Francisco office is led by Design Director Javie Arizmendi and Managing Director Larry Chien. SOM’s vast range of projects span civic and government buildings, aviation and transportation, education, cultural centers, and commercial and office spaces. Their notable global contributions include the One World Trade Center completed in 2014, recipient of a long list of accolades and awards and a powerful statement in a nation rebuilding and recovering after great loss and hardship.

Featured Projects

SOM is behind the San Francisco International Airport, which was a $2.6B expansion that resulted in a truly iconic facility. In fact, it now shapes much of the identity of the City of San Francisco and the Bay Area. The form expresses a winged nature with ample skylights to bring in natural light. The interior contains a natural bamboo grove and other sustainable elements. The airport itself received a long list of honors, including awards of Excellence in structural engineering, graphic design, interior architecture, and landmark structure, and Best of Show at the 2000 AIA San Francisco Chapter. Additional Silicon Valley and Bay Area contributions include 350 Mission, described as an “urban living room,” and currently the Moscone Center expansion in partnership with Mark Cavagnero Associates, which will breathe new life into the convention center.


Art Gensler
J. Kevin Schaeffer
Natalie Engels
Christine Laing

ENR #1 Green Building Design Firm in Commercial Offices,
Building Design + Construction Giants #1 Office Sector Architecture Firm,
Interior Award for Education

225 West Santa Clara Street, Suite 1100, San Jose, CA 95113

About Gensler

Gensler remains one of largest architecture firms in the world and continues to top Silicon Valley lists, and for good reason. They have contributed significantly to the advancement and improvement of the valley and deserve the recognition for their incredible work. Gensler dates back to 1965, founded by Art and Drue Gensler and their partner James Follett. Their projects span from Adobe, North First Street, and COG in San Jose, to Intel RNB and Pivot in Santa Clara and Intuit Cook Campus Center in Palo Alto. Gensler continues to lead year after year in interior design, healthcare, and top design firms and maintains their status as a forerunner in sustainable building design.

Featured Projects

Gensler beautifully renovated Terminal 2 of the San Francisco International Airport and truly encompasses the Bay Area culture and vibe. Terminal 2 accommodates 14 additional gates and aims to improve the passenger experience through reducing traveler stress, highlight art installations, and emphasize sustainability and comfort. The hotel-style seating areas and wide range of eateries provide guests with a memorable experience. Terminal 2 is actually the first LEED Gold-certified terminal in the United States, supporting goals of zero waste and a reduced carbon footprint. In 2012, it won the 4th Best Terminal in the World and the Top Terminal in the US. Another notable project is 826 Valencia Tenderloin Center, a mixed-use learning space that aims to assist under-resourced students. Located in the Tenderloin district, the retail space is a whimsical and encouraging space that includes eclectic doors and secret passages. Gensler partnered with several other groups to create the space and give the community a boost. The center won the 2017 Interior Award for Education.

Pelli Clarke Pelli

Cesar Pelli
Fred W. Clarke
Rafael Pelli

AIA Architecture Firm Award,
AIA Gold Medal

1056 Chapel Street, New Haven, CT 06510

About Pelli Clarke Pelli

Pelli Clarke Pelli is responsible for some of the world’s most recognizable buildings. These include the World Financial Center (New York), the Petronas Towers (Malaysia), and the International Finance Centre (Hong Kong). Pelli Clarke Pelli tops this list for the sweeping change they are bringing to Silicon Valley and for changing the way we view the area’s tech companies and workspaces. The firm has a long list of projects in their portfolio, including buildings in academia, museums, institutions, research centers, and government agencies. Like others on this list, they received the AIA Architect’s Firm Award, and in 1995, Cesar Pelli received the AIA Gold Medal.

Featured Projects

In a truly groundbreaking move, Pelli Clarke Pelli was hired to build the Salesforce Tower in San Francisco, making it the tallest building in the city and rivaling only the Golden Gate Bridge and the Transamerica building as the skyline’s defining features. Pelli Clarke Pelli won an international competition in order to design the tower, as well as the Salesforce Transit Center at the base. The structures will be an innovation in sustainable urban architecture. The skyscraper is 1,070-feet tall and is a slender, more simplified look. This marks a symbolic shift of tech giants moving from Silicon Valley into the city and redefining how they portray status. This move represents an entirely new notion of what analysts are now calling “vertical campuses,” and thinking up rather than spreading out.