The history of HanaHaus in downtown Palo Alto started with a vision. More than 18 months went into the thoughtful planning and execution of Hasso Plattner’s idea of an innovative space that is open for everyone, before the launch in March 2015. Corinda Wong remembers when SAP and her firm, Gensler, kicked off translating the vision into a physical space. As a design director, she was one of the leading heads, when the brand HanaHaus was created and the New Varsity Theater became a café and a co-working space. Read in our new blog what Corinda told us about how she and her team started creating HanaHaus and what kind of challenges they faced.

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Name: Corinda Wong

Origin: San Francisco, California

Job Title: Design Director

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Working on the HanaHaus “project” was about…
“…imagining how the space and its brand would manifest itself. Our task was to discover together with SAP, how we could embody Hasso Plattner’s visionary concept. The first task was to identify the right location and building. Once the Varsity Theater was selected, creating the space from a customer’s point of view defined the design, organization of spaces, selections of color, material, furnishings and lighting. I like to show potential clients and customers spaces that support the thinkers, makers and innovators in Silicon Valley and that’s the reason I show them HanaHaus.”

When it all started in the end of 2013…
“…we researched other co-working spaces and coffee shops in San Francisco and Palo Alto, but also those in Germany. We wanted to translate the culture of European coffee houses, where politicians gathered to share information and pursue ideas, into the modern American high-tech world. We wanted a design that connects coffee, food and co-working. At the same time, we were searching for the right location. We looked at different buildings in the downtown area of Palo Alto. Social networking is part of everyone’s life, so work should happen closest to the buzz and activity. Downtown Palo Alto was perfect.”

The outstanding thing about this place was…
“…the fact that it used to be a community space. Whether it was a bookstore or a movie theater - it has always been a place where people met and shared ideas. It’s hard to find a place that has such history and remains a critical foundation to the community.” 

The project was challenging…
“… because it was a new conceptual approach to a project type for the SAP team. For example, we had to explore merging the experiences of food and work. The places that existed were either small cafes which serve food and drinks or large co-working spaces with limited food. The task to create a place for innovation and ideas with all the modern high tech tools in a historical building was challenging, too.  In the end, we were able to merge future of work while maintaining the integrity of the building. We celebrated the theater by maintaining the marquee, encourage activity in the courtyard with a variety of seating types and string lights, use the original lobby to house the café and re-emphasized the building arches with a new palette.”

Today HanaHaus is unique because…
“…of the variety of choices. You can come here to have coffee, to work in the open work space or meet business partners in the conference rooms. It feels like a café, but at the same time like a co-working space where there are tools to support entrepreneurial work. Thoughtfully designed spaces disappear when you work in them - you literally forget where you are while you’re here. That is the magic of seamless design and why it’s successful.”

Seeing HanaHaus in the best Co-Working space in the San Francisco Bay Area…
“…is amazing. The biggest joy for a designer is to watch people use the space as intended. Great design should live by itself and evolve. I think HanaHaus does! Every time I come here, it’s busy and full of life. There is a line at the café, families sitting in the courtyard, people working at the tables and lounges. That’s a great thing.”

My favorite place at HanaHaus is…
“…the standup bar right behind the coffee condiments. I spend most of my time sitting, so I just want to stand in the very middle and watch how everyone is using the space.”

HanaHaus in three words is…
“…fluid, inspirational and energetic.”

In our new blog series, People of HanaHaus, we present the folks that fill our workspace cafe with life: Start-Uppers, entrepreneurs, artists, founders, innovation managers, students, unicorns, venture capital investors and the people who make HanaHaus unique. We want to learn about their journeys and what brought them to Silicon Valley. We ask them to speak about their current projects and why how they leverage HanaHaus for their business.