September 3, 2015

In August 2014, young HKS thought-leaders gathered in the Dallas office to meet with senior leadership and envision impactful change for our firm and our future. The group focused on initiatives such as developing the whole architect, creating a culture of accountability, recruiting and retaining best talent, and integrating research with design. 

The topic of research and design was particularly important to us. We began by asking, “What is research?” Research begins by asking a question, continues with curiosity and tenacity and concludes with the desire for a higher level of knowledge and expertise, along with tangible results.  Research is rigorous, thorough, exhaustive and accurate. We wanted to push past the myth that architecture is so different as a discipline and form of knowledge that normal research definitions or processes cannot be applied to it — a myth that will lead to the marginalization of our profession. We would argue that architecture is a form of knowledge that can and should be developed through research. 

At HKS, we believe in the importance of research, which is evident through our Center for Design and Research Evaluation (CADRE), HKS DesignGreen group, Knox Advisors and HKS LINE studio. These groups confirm our commitment to becoming a leader in providing our industry with knowledge resources. However, we feel that we can expand on the knowledge and expertise of these groups to further integrate research into all HKS studio teams. Our challenge is to shift this paradigm from research as a separate entity, to one where research is infused in all of our projects, processes and culture. 

To catalyze a shift in this paradigm, we launched the Idea Fellowship – an HKS Research Collective. The Idea Fellowship (IF) offers anyone at HKS the opportunity to ask a question … a question about anything. To discover a new way of thinking, of problem-solving. To be passionate about an idea. An idea that will make us better at what we do. It offers a challenge to search for the answers to that question. To find the why and how. To be an industry thought-leader. To innovate. We challenged HKS to take the opportunity and to ask the question. 

The IF goes further than challenging the inherently curious minds at HKS. It empowers people to explore new ideas, to challenge existing paradigms. It builds leaders, fosters mentorship opportunities and inspires people to take initiative. It builds new and unique areas of expertise in our firm, while developing the knowledge and data that our clients are increasingly asking for. It encourages collaboration across our sectors, offices and industry. The Idea Fellowship will provide insights that can be shared, leading to continuous improvement in our projects, processes and culture. 

Since the launch of the IF, ideas have flowed, teams have been established, subject-matter experts have been sought out and strong research methodologies have been developed. We received 11 outstanding Fellowship applications, spanning 13 offices worldwide, across 10 sectors and encompassing 37 potential IF team members. After a robust and systematic review of these applications, we are thrilled to announce our 2015 Idea Fellowship projects and teams. 

Rethinking the Clinic:  Optimizing the Outpatient Standard
With an ever-growing need for outpatient primary care exam rooms, support services and facilities, there is a lack of understanding of the efficiency in which they are being used from a hospital standpoint. From point of patient entry to leave, approximately 45 percent of time is wasted for everyone involved (physician, maintenance, patient) (Applegate, 2008). Hospitals request more exam rooms under one roof to satisfy the growing population, and with every inch of square footage in a hospital getting more expensive, it is the designer’s responsibility to both design for a flexible work environment and educate the client regarding best practice for an efficient workplace. In addition to healthcare needs, the concept of exam room efficiency ties in well with the workplace sector. By utilizing design talent and current HKS knowledge on similar subject matter, we can combine healthcare and workplace, growing our knowledge simultaneously to help find similar confounding variables and thus validating our findings. 

Idea Fellowship Project 1-1

Holistic Design Workflow
Architecture continues to evolve as a discipline, and is beginning to see some major paradigm shifts in cross-disciplinary collaborations and methodologies. These collaborations are essential to the ongoing evolution and innovation of our discipline. As architects, we are in a position to influence and drive this cross-disciplinary paradigm. By engaging and establishing critical partnerships with industry leaders in other disciplines, we can reinvigorate our capacity to design and innovate. The insights provided by our engagements, with advancements in science, engineering and technology, will lead us toward more efficient and significantly richer cross-disciplinary experiences, including computer science, building, engineering and logistical technologies. Our hypothesis is grounded on a reimagined architectural process, through the utilization of advanced computational systems, bringing to practice a holistic approach to design. 

Idea Fellowship Project 2-2

The Future of Work Culture
What will work spaces look like when Generation Z replaces millennials? How do designers and strategists track and shape the future to offer clients progressive environments? Work happens more and more outside of the traditional office setting — in cafés, parks, hotel rooms and residences. These spaces possess value that is not easily measured, yet their seclusion and on-demand proximity generate positive returns. To quantify these elements, we will utilize an exploratory or inductive approach to investigate the next generation of work spaces. 

Idea Fellowship Project 3-3

Each team now has 365 days, 800 hours and the initiative to seek the answer to its question. 

Stay tuned for updates on their projects throughout the year. Follow our updates on Twitter at #whatif.

The HKS Idea Fellowship Committee – Kate Renner, Mason Couvillion and Elise LaPaglia

Posted in All Markets

Add your comment