Firm Profile

Directed by Principals Kava Massih, Jerry Mastora and J. Conner plus Associates Mark Schlientz, and Mary Young-Williams, Kava Massih Architects has been a driving force behind a wide range of innovative architectural designs in the Bay Area since its founding in 1996. The firm does not focus exclusively on one building type but applies the totality of the staff’s collective experience to many different kinds of projects. The firm has completed a wide variety of project types including public institutions, commercial buildings, restaurants, market rate and affordable housing, and highly specialized medical facilities. This studied flexibility is an essential skill when designing for challenging urban sites or where existing structures must be incorporated into a rehabilitation project or preserved.

Like much new construction in the Bay Area, many KMA projects are located in former industrial areas that are now transitioning into vibrant mixed-used and residential districts. The Sierra—an eleven-story, 500,000 sq ft mixed-use development comprised of ground floor retail, 227 loft-style condominium units, a recreational facility, and three levels of parking, occupying an entire city block—is an excellent example of a project that incorporates industrial scale and detailing with residential warmth.

The firm has also focused on working with many non-profit groups and educational institutions. Principal Kava Massih often donates additional services and time to help non-profits secure financing through grants and fundraising efforts. We are adept at expediting the approval process by investigating and addressing community concerns early in the design process. This kind of commitment to clients and the community has helped the firm establish long-term working relationships with both private clients and public institutions.

The firm organization is characterized by an open and collaborative spirit that extends to its clients and communities. Our long list of repeat clients is testament to our creativity, dedication and flexibility.  We have earned a reputation as a firm capable of delivering innovative design on time and on budget. Our professional services include feasibility studies, programming, space planning, architecture, interior architecture, construction documentation and administration through occupancy. 

We believe in a holistic approach to design which allows a balance between the current needs of our clients and a respect for the future needs of the planet. We fully understand that sustainable development needs to be an integrated process involving all members of the project team. Commitment to a sustainable process leads to a high quality product with minimal impact on the environment and a solid return on investment.

Kava Massih - principal

Since founding Kava Massih Architects in 1996, Kava has guided its steady growth, built its strong reputation, and garnered the respect of many repeat clients. Kava brings to all projects clear, innovative, and inspiring designs. He leads the firm’s design initiatives and his personal involvement in each phase results in a consistent quality for all projects.

In an article published in Diablo Magazine, Kava was described as a “visionary” who is “on the frontier of East Bay architecture…reshaping our world…Kava Massih’s buildings stand out.” Under his leadership, the firm has received numerous awards and jury invitations, including recognition as an “Emerging Talent Firm” by the California Council of the American Institute of Architects (AIA).

Kava’s philosophy is to approach each project without preconceived ideas in order to find the best design solution for that project. His environmentalist views and dedication to public service are also reflected in the values of the firm. Through his service as a member of the Emeryville Planning Commission, he brings an in-depth understanding of how cities approach the planning and approval process.

Kava works extensively with project stakeholders, keeping them interested and involved, ensuring that their concerns are addressed, and integrating their vision for the project into the design. He is regarded as a master consensus builder, able to satisfy the needs of various constituencies. Through his ability to listen and communicate effectively with multiple stakeholders, he ensures that all participants are on board with a design.

Jerry Mastora - principal

As a founding partner of Kava Massih Architects in 1996, Jerry has been directly involved with many of the firm’s significant projects and long term clients. With over 25 years of architectural experience, Jerry has effectively directed complex, large-scale projects, coordinating input from a wide range of stakeholders to develop architectural programs that set the course to reach client’s goals. He has extensive experience in feasibility studies, programming, and master planning, with a proven ability to balance client objectives with project budgets. Jerry is also skilled in construction technology and directing construction administration for complex institutional projects.

Jerry has designed and managed the projects of several prominent Bay Area hospitals, including UC San Francisco, Saint Francis Memorial Hospital, Alta Bates Summit Medical Center, Alameda County Medical Center, and Children’s Hospital Oakland. One of his more notable projects was the re-design of the Emergency Department for the Summit Campus of Alta Bates Summit Medical Center, including 25 treatment and resuscitation rooms. The project included careful construction staging so that emergency services could continue without interruption. He also designed the Health Sciences Building for Children’s Hospital Oakland. Because the building houses a sophisticated diagnostic tool known as a Ferritometer, it had to meet sensitive magnetic and vibration requirements, while also being cost effective, child friendly, and responsive to the historic context of the hospital’s Research Institute campus.

J. Jarrell Conner - principal

Since joining Kava Massih Architects in 2000, J. has been an indispensable asset to the firm. In his over eighteen years of architectural experience J. has successfully overseen numerous projects through all stages of development—from contributing to the initial design efforts to managing the project through completion and close-out.

J's expertise spans a wide variety of project types including market-rate and affordable housing, restaurants, tenant improvements, new construction, renovations, commercial, retail, and institutional. He is especially well-versed in project management and construction administration. He has successfully guided many projects through the entitlement process, skillfully negotiating with user groups, neighborhood groups, consultants, and regulatory agencies in order to gain consensus and keep these projects on schedule. He is flexible in his approach, easily accessible to clients, and an excellent communicator with the entire project team, insuring projects move forward successfully.

J received a Bachelor in Architecture from the University of Virginia and a Master of Architecture from University of California, Berkeley. He is a LEED accredited professional.

He is currently overseeing a large market rate housing project in the SOMA neighborhood of San Francisco.

Mark Schlientz - senior associate

After completing a master’s degree program at the University of Texas in Austin in 1997, Mark returned to the Bay Area where he joined the newly formed firm of Kava Massih Architects. In his over 16 years with the firm, Mark has worked on a wide range of project types, including several institutional projects, as well as adaptive reuse, commercial, multi-family housing and healthcare. He played a key role in planning and designing of several large projects including, Rosa Parks Elementary School in Berkeley, the Bentley School in Lafayette, and the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s headquarters in Martinez, taking these projects from early stage programming through construction. Mark excels in project team communication and maintains positive on-going relationships with clients, consultants and contractors through project completion and beyond. He was invited to become an Associate of the firm in 2003 and a Senior Associate in 2010.

Mark is currently overseeing the design of a 472 unit mixed-use development in Los Angeles.

Mary Young-Williams - associate

Mary’s architectural experience spans a wide range of project types including healthcare, institutional, commercial, education, and multi-family housing. She is involved in every aspect of the architectural process from early planning/schematic design to code review to construction and client move-in. Mary has been especially involved in tenant improvements, coordinating with the building owner, the tenant, and the contractor to arrive at the final product. Having experience with design-build, she has worked closely with both the owner and the contractor to arrive at the final product. She also specializes in all aspects of interior architecture—from space planning and interior design to the selection of color palettes and furniture. Since joining the firm in 2008 she has been an invaluable team member. Mary was invited to become an associate in June 2012.

2014 Awards + Publications

Award of Merit - Affordable or Workforce Housing2014 Builder's Choice Award,  The Ambassador, Emeryville, CA  

HealthcareDesign Magazine, PhotoTour: Stanford Children’s Health Specialty Services, February 14, 2014.
San Francisco Business Times, Structures, "Kava Massih: An architect learning to let go, and when not to." by Steven E.F. Brown, April 4-10 2014.

2013 Awards + Publications

AIA East Bay Design Awards Program - Citation Award for Architecture, SE Division Street. Portland, OR
Healthcare Design Magazine, March 2013, “New Faces of Senior Care”,  pg. 28, Golden Valley Health Center’s Senior Health & Wellness Center, Merced, CA
Healthcare Design Magazine, October 2013, pages 36-39, “Give Me Strength”, Pain and Rehabilitative Consultants Medical Group Outpatient Clinic, Emeryville, CA
Illumination Awards - Award of Merit, The Illumination Engineering Society of North AmericaPat Brown's Grill, University of California, Berkeley. 
People’s Choice Award for “Distinguished Architecture” sponsored by the Action for Beauty Council in Walnut Creek,  Rossmoor Table Tennis Facility, Walnut Creek, CA
AIA East Bay Design Awards Program - Merit Award for Architecture, Berkeley Bowl West. Berkeley, CA

2012 Awards + Publications

AIA Design for Aging Review, 11th Edition, Publish Award Building - pages 118-123.  “Agesong at Bayside Park”, Emeryville, CA

2011 Awards + Publications

Focus on Healthcare Foodservice, Spring 2011, featured projects - cover + pages 10-12, 14, 16. Janice Cha, “UCSF’s Mission Impossible,” UC San Francisco Medical Center Parnassus Campus - Moffitt Cafe, San Francisco, CA 

Semi-Finalist, International Competition, Bangladesh Cyclone Center. Selected as 1 of 4 semi-finalist invited to site in late March.

2010 Awards + Publications

Award for Design Excellence, Berkeley Design Advocates, West Berkeley Bowl, 920 Heinz Avenue, Building Types - Commercial, Berkeley, CA

Merced Sun-Star, November 15, 2010, “Services for senior care to be offered under one roof” Golden Valley Health Center, Merced, CA

Design through Dialogue, by Karen A Franck and Teresa von Summaruga Howard, J.W. Wiley & Sons. Ltd., pages 31, 64, 79, 95, 101, 122, 124, 150.

Grocery Headquarters, April, pages 31-38, Richard Turcsik, “Perfect Game,” Berkeley Bowl West, Berkeley, CA

California Home & Design, February/March, page 56, “A Warm Welcome,” Ashby Lofts, Berkeley, CA 

East Bay Monthly, April, pages 7-9, Lauri Puchall, “Bowled Over Again,” Berkeley Bowl West, Berkeley, CA

Architectural Record, “Berkeley Bowl West”, August 16, 2010,  Berkeley, CA

2009 Awards + Publications

San Francisco Business Times, May 8, p. 8, “AgeSong to wrap up Emeryville facility” AgeSong Assisted Living. Emeryville, CA 

Oakland City Council, Resolution recognizing Kava Massih Architects for their commitment to sustainability and green building, congratulating Zephyr Gate on its GreenPoint rating through the Build It Green certification program. 

San Francisco Chronicle, June 9, John King, “Postcards from the edge of Emeryville,” page E-1, Glasshaus, Emeryville, CA

SF Gate, September 1, 2009, John King, “New Berkeley Bowl Dares to Stand Out” Berkeley Bowl West, Berkeley, CA

2008 Awards + Publications

East Bay Business Times, September 19, “SF firm to build $29M senior residence,” AgeSong Emeryville, Emeryville, CA

San Francisco Business Times, June 6, “Retail development planned for Southeast Division,” 3103 S.E. Division, Portland, OR

Contra Costa Times, July 22 “District Attorney’s Office opens new headquarters,” Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office, Martinez, CA

The HayWord, July 28, “Celebration officially begins for Casa Verde,” Casa Verde, San Leandro, CA

San Francisco Chronicle, February 12, “Place: West Berkeley builds community,” page E-1, Activspace, Berkeley, CA 

Archnews, February issue, p. 8, “Firm Profile: Kava Massih Architects” Bentley School, UC Berkeley Public Health Library, and The Sierra. Lafayette, Berkeley, and Oakland, CA

Inside Bay Area, May 13, “Casa Verde opens in San Leandro,” Casa Verde, San Leandro, CA

2007 Awards + Publications

National Association of Home Builders - Pillars of the Industry Awards Finalist, Best Garden/Small Scale Condo Community, City Limits. Emeryville, CA

Berkeley Daily Californian, January 17, p. 5, “Dining Uncommon”, University of California Dining Commons. Berkeley, CA

arcCA, February issue, p. 26–27, “Design Review in San Francisco: Three Perspectives”, Elephant Pharmacy and The Sierra. Berkeley and Oakland, CA 

Oak and Octavia Invitational Competition, Invitational competition to design a mixed-use residential building in San Francisco’s Hayes Valley neighborhood.

Architecture of the San Francisco Bay: A History & Guide by Mitchell Schwarzer, 2007 © William Stout Publishers. The Sierra p. 148 and Bentley School Gymnasium p. 158.
2007 Educational Interiors Awards, Bronze Citation, University of California Berkeley, Cafe 3, Berkeley, CA

2006 Awards + Publications

San Francisco Chronicle, February 12, p. CM15, “T-Rex Still Evolving”, T-Rex Barbeque. Berkeley, CA

Oakland Tribune, February 8, p. Living 1, “Gourmet To-go” Epicurious Garden. Berkeley, CA

Contra Costa Times, January 6, “BBQ Buzzes with Brontosaurus-Size Bones” T-Rex Barbeque. Berkeley, CA

Greenstop Design Competition, Competition Finalist. Tulare County, San Joaquin Valley, CA

Charles L. Edson Tax Credit Excellence Awards Special Needs Housing, Honorable Mention, University Neighborhood Apartments, Berkeley, CA

PG&E Savings by Design Award, Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office, Martinez, CA

Diablo Magazine, November issue, p. 96, “Chow House: Berkeley Architect Kava Massih is Master of Tastefull Design”, Epicurious Gardens, Nation’s Giant Hamburger and T-Rex Barbecue, all in Berkeley, CA

San Francisco Chronicle, July 18, p. D3, “Humble Burger Bistro Gets Stylish Treatment” Nation’s Giant Hamburger. Berkeley, CA 

2005 Awards + Publications

Business Week, November 28, p. 108–109, “Home is Where the Factory Is” City Limits. Emeryville, CA

San Francisco Chronicle, September 15, p. E1, “Plans for new D.A.’s office in Martinez offer a smart step forward”, Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office. Martinez, CA

San Francisco Chronicle, November 10, p. E1, “Don’t Let Architectural Snobbery Interfere with Your Enjoyment of These Five Ugly Duckling Bay Area Buildings”, Chevron Station. Emeryville, CA

Invitational Competition, Finalist. Luther Burbank Center. Santa Rosa, CA 

AIArchitect This Week, August 1, Project Watch,“Unique Partnership Produces Nation’s First Affordable, Universal-Design Apartment Complex”, University Neighborhood Apartments. Berkeley, CA

Multi-Housing News, August issue, p. 13, “Universally Designed AH Opens in Berkeley,” University Neighborhood Apartments. Berkeley, CA

Architecture, April issue, p. 72–73, “Stair-Case Studies”, Evolve Software. Emeryville, CA

Multi-Housing News, September issue, “The Nation’s Top 100 Multi-Housing Architects”

West Berkeley Foundation Award, West Berkeley Foundation. Berkeley, CA

Builder Magazine, December issue, p. 154–156, “The Starter Set”, City Limits. Emeryville, CA

Competitions Magazine, Winter issue, p. 20–27, “Learning to Love the Freeway, MOCA at the Luther Burbank Center”

Access by Design, Winter issue, #105, p. 14–17, “University Neighborhood Apartments–A Case Study from the USA”, University Neighborhood Apartments. Berkeley, CA

2004 Awards + Publications

Oakland, July/August issue, p. 86–91, “Living Aloft”, The Sierra. Oakland, CA

Gold Nugget Awards, Award of Merit - Best Attached Project—30 dwelling units/acre, Liquid Sugar Lofts. Emeryville, CA

Gold Nugget Awards, Award of Merit - Residential Project of the Year—Attached, Liquid Sugar Lofts. Emeryville, CA

Architectural Record, July issue, cover, p. 9–12, Review: “Small Schools, No Small Effort”, Bentley School. Lafayette, CA

Affordable Housing Finance, Volume 12, No. 3 “Pioneering ‘Universal Design’ project gets under way.”, University Neighborhood Apartments. Berkeley, CA.

Architectural Record, March issue on website – Bentley School. Lafayette, CA

San Francisco Chronicle, February 22, p. G1–G12, “The Name Game”, Liquid Sugar Lofts. Emeryville, CA

Architectural League of New York Finalist, Invitational Competition

Museum of Contemporary Art, Finalist, Invitational Competition. One of three top firms invited to final stage of competition. Luther Burbank Center. Santa Rosa, CA

Contra Costa Center for Jewish Education, Winner, Invitational Competition, Campus Masterplan and Expansion. Walnut Creek, CA

McGeorge School of Law, Finalist, Invitational Competition, Sacramento, CA

2003 Awards + Publications

Oakland Heritage Alliance - Partners in Preservation Award. Adeline Lofts. Oakland, CA

Home and Architectural Trends, Vol. 19, No. 4, p. 98–112, “Lofty ideas” Liquid Sugar Lofts. Emeryville, CA

Oakland Tribune, Sunday, May 4, p. B1 “Lofty Living”, The Sierra. Oakland, CA

San Francisco Chronicle, April 18 “A new Berkeley development is 21st century artists’ colony.” Activspace. Berkeley, CA

Berkeley Voice, January 10, p. B2 “Leading residential developer enters Bay Area market” The Sierra. Oakland, CA

East Bay AIA Design Awards Program - Merit Award for Architecture, The Sierra. Oakland, CA.

Arch•Tech, January/February issue, p. 16 “Integral Lighting–Office Design”, Evolve Software. Emeryville, CA

East Bay AIA Design Awards Program - Merit Award Silver—Out of the Box,  Sliver Project. Emeryville, CA.

East Bay AIA Design Awards Program - Merit Award for Architecture,  Bentley School Gymnasium. Lafayette, CA.

East Bay AIA Design Awards Program - Merit Award for Interior, Evolve Software. Emeryville, CA

Architectural Record, "The architects carve an expansive school project out of a challenging site". Bentley Upper School Gymnasium. Lafayette, CA.

National Home Builder Association Awards Finalist, Attached Community of the Year, Liquid Sugar Lofts. Emeryville, CA

National Home Builder Association Awards - Best Interior Merchandising, Western United States Regional Winner. Liquid 2. Emeryville, CA

2002 Awards + Publications

California Construction Link, June issue, p. 30 “Oakland’s Iron-Deficient Building” Children’s Hospital & Research Center Oakland. New Health Science Building. Oakland, CA.

Diablo Magazine, April issue, p. 48–57 “The Mod Squad; Four Hot Architects are making Modern Art in the East Bay’s ’Burbs.” 

San Francisco Business Journal, March issue, p. 21, “Oakland’s former PG&E building reborn, again”, Oakland, CA

Architecture, February issue, p. 40–42, Health Science Building, Children’s Hospital & Research Center Oakland. Oakland, CA

Architecture, January issue, p. 34, Sliver Building, Emeryville, CA

San Francisco Chronicle, July 21, p. A23 “London Calling”, The Sierra. Oakland, CA

San Francisco Chronicle, July 21, p. A27 “Lofty goals for Oakland warehouse district”, The Sierra. Oakland, CA

East Bay Business Times, Structures 2000 – Interior Design of the Year Award Crown Renovation Project. Emeryville, CA

Berkeley Design Advocates Award. 8th Street Lofts, 3 live/work units. Berkeley, CA

Berkeley Design Advocates Award The Dakota. Berkeley, CA. Warehouse rehabilitation project.

2001 Awards + Publications

San Francisco Business Journal, May 4–10, p. 38, “Sound Structure.”

Architectural Record, June 2001 issue, p. 158–160,"Retaining an old factory's airy gradeur", Evolve Software. Emeryville, CA

Western Metal in Architecture, May/June, p. 8–9, Hollis Business Center. Emeryville, CA

SF Examiner Magazine, February 18, p. 28, Evolve Software. Emeryville, CA

AIACC and Monterey Design Conference, Statewide invitational competition. Emerging Talent invitational award winner and Monterey Design Conference presenter. Sponsored by the AIACC, Spring. Asilomar, CA

Downtown Berkeley Association  Excellence in Design Award, Kaplan Educational Center. Berkeley, CA

AIASF and SF Examiner Magazine Best of the Bay—Inside, Merit Award, Evolve Software.
Emeryville, CA

Places Magazine, Winter issue, p. 6–9, Rosa Parks Elementary School. Berkeley, CA (Formerly Columbus Elementary School)

2000 Awards + Publications

Berkeley Daily Planet, July 19, p. 1., “Facelift for newly remodeled building revealed to public,” Kaplan Education Center. Berkeley, CA

Award of Merit: Commercial Over 10,000 SF, AIA San Francisco, Evolve Software, Emeryville, CA

San Francisco Business Times Real Estate Deals of the Year - Best Rehab/Renovation Finalist EmeryTech. Emeryville, CA

Building Design & Construction, February issue “Give Me Shelter”, Shattuck Senior Homes. Berkeley, CA

San Francisco Chronicle, March 21, Datebook B1, “Emeryville on the Rise,” EmeryTech. Emeryville, CA

San Francisco Business Times, May 12, p. 13, “Another Emeryville Warehouse Conversion”, Glashaus Project. Emeryville, CA

Interiors, October, p. 83, “Industry Non-Standard,” Evolve. Emeryville, CA

1999 Awards + Publications

Gold Nugget Awards, Merit Award, Best Affordable Housing Project, Shattuck Senior Homes. Berkeley, CA

National Council on Seniors’ Housing, Honorable Mention, Shattuck Senior Homes. Berkeley, CA

Architectural Record, February issue “Seniors with Style”, The Avalon. Emeryville, CA

Berkeley Design Advocates Award - Affordable Housing, Shattuck Senior Homes. Berkeley, CA

Gold Nugget Awards, Merit Award, Best Multi-Family Project, Shattuck Senior Homes. Berkeley, CA

1998 Awards + Publications

AIA East Bay Merit Award Shattuck Senior Homes. Berkeley, CA

Award of Excellence, Berkeley Design Advocates, Pyramid Brewery, Berkeley,  CA

AIA East Bay Merit Award  Pyramid Brewery. Berkeley, CA

Outstanding Adaptive Re-use Award, The Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association - Pyramid Brewery & Alehouse, Berkeley, CA

920 Grayson Street
Berkeley, CA 94710  

Phone: 510.644.1920

95 Federal Street
San Francisco, CA  94107

Phone: 415.357.1740

Follow us on:

Sign up for our newsletter and announcements:

Job Listings

Our firm is always interested in reviewing the qualifications of talented architects and designers. Kava Massih Architects encourages highly qualified applicants with skills in both design and construction documentation to submit their resumes for consideration by email to: jobs (at)


Ashland Place Completed!

May 24th, 2016

Can a building help to transform a neighborhood? We think it can. Completed in February 2016, Ashland Place not only provides low income residents a stable and safe place to call home, it has become an integral part in improving the economic development of the area.

Ashland Place, developed by Resources for Community Development (RCD), provides 85 units of affordable housing for residents whose income does not exceed 50 percent AMI. Fifteen of these units are reserved for young adults transitioning out of foster care or are at risk of homelessness. 

The project site is in unincorporated Alameda County between San Leandro and Hayward. Funding for the project came in part through redevelopment funding via the County Development Agency to improve the area by better serving its residents and raising the overall economic vitality. The County also deeded a portion of property, allowing a re-alignment of the intersection, creating a more pedestrian-friendly street plus a small public plaza.

At this prime corner location of E 14th Street and Kent Avenue, a community-based market and café will open in 2017, at the ground floor retail space. It will be a market for local food related businesses, retail job training and a community gathering space. Read this article: CAEconomy, for more on how this retail space will bring commerce and jobs to the neighborhood.

Situated near the Bay Fair Bart Station, and many public transit lines, Ashland Place received GreenTRIP Certification from TransForm, in recognition of the project’s efforts to minimize greenhouse gas emissions and encourage the use of alternative forms of transportation. 

Crossing Signal Mosaic at Parc on Powell project wins National Design Award

February 10th, 2016

We are thrilled to announce that artist Therese Lahaie's, “Crossing Signal Mosaic” at Parc on Powell, received the 2015 LuciteLux® JUST IMAGINE Award.

“Crossing Signal Mosaic” was part of the City of Emeryville Art in Public Places Program and is prominently placed at the entrance to Parc on Powell which was completed in 2015.  

“When I began research for the project, my video documentation of the saturated colors and rhythms of the pedestrian crossing signals were the most compelling images,” said Lahaie. “In ‘Crossing Signal Mosaic’ I decided to transform the ordinary iconography of these traffic signals by creating a conversation with the adjacent intersection and inviting a playful interaction between the signals and viewers. The crossing signals characters in the sculpture can be whatever color they want, and they can wave and dance.

The JUST IMAGINE Awards celebrate designers who embrace the originality of working with, and creating light sculpture, using LuciteLux® acrylic. This award recognizes a designer’s achievement in their field and celebrates their distinctive contribution to the world of design using the material.