The firm was founded in 1988 as Barnes and Cavagnero, and in 1993 became Mark Cavagnero Associates, grounded in a set of core values with a strong focus on public and institutional projects and a belief in the power of collaboration and community building. Our wide-ranging portfolio of completed work includes large and small-scale institutional, non-profit, commercial, residential and work spaces. In all of our work, we balance the critical concerns of budget and schedule to create contemporary facilities that are contextual, timeless and offer a dignified presence to the communities they serve.

Our vision is sensitive to the ever-evolving needs of the built environment. We consistently pursue design solutions that will ensure long-term benefits for the communities we work in to result in legacies that will last for generations. In pursuit of innovation, we investigate design concepts through an iterative process to resolve complex design issues with clarity and simplicity.

Our founder, Mark Cavagnero, is especially sensitive to the cultural heritage and historic significance of place. Throughout his career, he has deliberately developed and honed his talent for preserving it. Adhering to this philosophy, by carefully investigating the cultural roots and social patterns of each place, we arrive at a response to each context.

Our office consists of more than 70 multi-disciplinary professionals, committed to the practice of architecture, and in pursuit of design excellence. Mark is a socially and environmentally conscious architect, with a significant contribution to the context and quality of San Francisco’s civic life. Our company was founded by Mark’s creative endeavor and commitment to the practice of architecture—a spirit that each one of us carries forth as we take on new roles to solve complex problems and seek fresh solutions to each project.


In support of innovation, we encourage each member of a project team to investigate the experiential qualities of our work. Drawings and models are our mediums of thinking, enabling us to bring conceptual trajectories to life. Through the process, we are consistently balancing the synthesis of the client’s needs, the community wants, and budget.


Our practice was built on a foundation of serving civic, cultural and institutional clients; thus, we approach each project with a focus on the immediate and greater community it will serve. This is a consistent thread that we carry through all of our projects. The community’s and the users’ needs and stories, informs and enriches our design. Through actively engaging with individuals we learn important aspects of the essence of our communities, enabling us to create spaces that are unique to and reflect the culture of a place.


While many of our clients initially approach us with a goal of building green, we strive to adopt sustainable strategies in all of our projects. Sustainable design continues to be an ever-more important part of our practice. We approach a new project by carefully observing the parameters of each specific site, including light patterns, seasonal variations, and location of existing trees. We then integrate the requirements of the program, sustainable technologies, and methodologies of construction to achieve clear responses to the qualities demanded by the client, the site, and the program.

Design Approach

Mark Cavagnero’s practice of architecture is founded on respect for each generation that has been committed to recognizing the value of place making. His work, while refined, is not one with pretentious character. His attention to detailing demonstrates great care and respect for the clients and the users of each project. It is timeless, as it doesn’t follow a certain fashion or style, allowing each building to be a unique reaction to its specific requirements. His continued selection of a minimal material palette has achieved great richness in each project by creating subtle contrasts and contradictions that emphasize the true nature of each material.

Concrete, glass, steel, and wood are manipulated, combined, and detailed to create simplicity and clarity in his designs, belying the complexity of thought and specificity of intention. He seamlessly integrates environmental, cultural, and contextual strategies in a holistic design approach that is a direct response to the unique parameters of each project.

Noteworthy Accomplishments of Mark Cavagnero Associates

Our work is marked by rigor and balance, marrying programmatic and technical demands with the ability to create inspiring public spaces. In all of our work, we strive to create a contemporary facility that is contextual, timeless, durable, and remains a dignified presence in the community it serves. This holistic approach to architecture has garnered us over 100 honors from state, local, national and international organizations. Our firm was honored with the American Institute of Architects (AIA) California Council’s 2012 Firm Award, the highest honor that the organization bestows upon a firm. As the founder of the firm, Mark Cavagnero, FAIA, has been personally recognized with the AIACC 2010 Distinguished Practice Award and the AIACC 2015 Maybeck Award for outstanding lifetime achievement, among many other accolades. The firm’s work has been featured in prestigious publications such as Architecture, Architectural Record, the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Dwell, Business Week, Metropolis, and Preservation, among others.



Clients List