September 26, 2014

The University of Texas at Arlington’s Center for Metropolitan Density teamed with HKS to embed graduate students in an Advanced Design Studio within the firm’s downtown Dallas headquarters.

The Center for Metropolitan Density Advanced Design Studio allows students to work on real-world projects. The class meets three afternoons each week during the semester at HKS’ Dallas headquarters.

“The collaboration gives architecture students a true feel for what the professional world will be like,” said Michael Buckley, director of the center, which is within the School of Architecture. “Doctors have hospital residencies. Lawyers clerk for judges. Why not architects? Architects should receive some academic training within a professional architectural firm.”

HKS President and CEO Dan Noble, FAIA, FACHA, said students aren’t the only beneficiaries.

“We get fresh insight and connection to research groups at UTA’s Center for Metropolitan Density,” Noble said. “We believe bringing the design studio into a professional office environment is a great first step in engaging students in real-world architectural challenges.”

The real-world experience started on a trial basis in the spring. That test drive went well so the embedded design studio class was made a continuing option for this academic year.

The UT Arlington School of Architecture’s Center for Metropolitan Density teams with professionals, regional associations and governmental entities to address the challenges of built environment with an emphasis on sustainable, higher-density development in the 21st century. Along with the School of Architecture, the School of Urban and Public Affairs and UT Arlington’s Institute of Urban Design, the center has its fingerprints on urban planning to accommodate growth expected in North Texas.

Ralph Hawkins, HKS chairman, noted that, “UT Arlington nurtured my passion for architecture. I graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Design in 1973. I was given tremendous opportunities and I’m proud that our firm is giving back to future architectural students.”

Buckley said it’s a terrific advantage to have professionals talk to students about what they’re working on, their development challenges and design solutions they conceive.

He said HKS has “tricked out” some of their conference rooms – with the latest smart boards and Internet/computer-aided design and display options – so that students can take advantage of cutting-edge technology in their pursuit of academic degrees.

The class has proposed strategic vision plans for Dallas’ central core and a new proposed SciCiti for Fort Worth along with studies in tax increment financing districts and urban infill for San Antonio’s Nogalitos District.

Lizardo Meza, a second-year architecture graduate student, said he believes embedding the classroom has brought a sense of reality to the classroom.

“We’re all about aesthetics in the classroom,” Meza said. “Here at HKS, it’s interesting and important to see how much parking, construction and development will cost. Mr. Buckley has brought in the idea of financial feasibility testing for real estate development and related costs as well as financial returns to the projects we design and study.”

Meza said that’s vital to students when they start their first jobs. “Of course, I think it would help employers as well as their new employees to engage with their firms immediately.”

About UT Arlington

The University of Texas at Arlington is a comprehensive research institution and the second largest institution in The University of Texas System. The Chronicle of Higher Education ranked UT Arlington as the seventh fastest-growing public research university in 2013. U.S. News & World Report ranks UT Arlington fifth in the nation for undergraduate diversity. Visit to learn more. Follow #UTAdna on Twitter.

About HKS Inc.

HKS, Inc. is a leading architectural design firm ranked among the top five architectural engineering firms, according to Building Design+Construction magazine. Since its founding in 1939, HKS has completed construction projects totaling more than $77 billion in more than 1,498 cities located in 84 countries. The firm operates from 27 offices worldwide. For more information, visit or follow #hksarchitects on Twitter.

Tagged Dan Noble, Ralph Hawkins, University of Texas at Arlington, UTA, UTA Advanced Design Studio