Chuk Lindberg

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Chris Tromp

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Akhil Hemanth

HKS’ Atlanta Office Design Reimagines the Future of Work

HKS’ Atlanta Office Design Reimagines the Future of Work

What is the office for?

This important question is a driving force behind the new Atlanta office of global design firm HKS.

Responding to the extraordinary shift toward hybrid work worldwide, HKS looked to its own real estate portfolio and employees’ evolving needs to reimagine the future of work. Located in Atlanta’s Buckhead neighborhood, the office is the first of several at HKS to undergo a holistic real estate analysis and commercial interior design process targeted at creating and implementing innovative post-pandemic workplace strategies.

The project began when the HKS Atlanta team identified a need to relocate from Downtown Atlanta. Surveys and strategy workshops — led by HKS’ real estate experts, designers and researchers — revealed that employees desired an office central to where they lived, closer to their local client base and in a community where they aspired to build more connections.

The team determined the ideal setting would be located along a major thoroughfare, Peachtree Road, and situated within the Atlanta tree canopy with views across the city. With these criteria in mind, the team worked with an existing real estate client to lease a 9,800-square-foot space in Buckhead.

A Connected, Choice-Driven Environment

When designing the new space, HKS dove deeper into this central question: what is the office for? Collaborative visioning sessions resulted in a shared ideal: the office is not just for work or productivity — it is for people. This workspace would be for HKS employees, clients and community partners. 

Designed with a vision to “mirror the city,” the HKS Atlanta office accommodates a contemporary hybrid workforce and invites community members in for engagement gatherings, workshops and events.

“We were thinking about a holistic work environment where we come together to create, collaborate, meet with clients and produce and deliver our work,” said HKS Atlanta Office Director Julie Volosin. “We host a lot of client meetings, tours, industry events and gatherings here in the office. It’s a wonderful opportunity for us to share what we’re doing to push the limits of innovative workspace design.”

The design team conducted surveys, work sessions and interviews with HKS Atlanta staff members, analyzed workplace data and ultimately devoted a significant portion of the new space to collaboration, less to private workstations.


The new workplace features an “idea theater” for creative work sessions and events, “rapid ops” rooms for project teams on deadline and havens where colleagues can work or take breaks, which HKS’ industry-leading research on brain health shows are critical to well-being and performance.

The design draws on HKS research about effective work ecosystems and provides several types of environments employees can choose from to accomplish their best work.

“For a creative field, it matters that we can change our ambience very quickly and really leverage it to bring our creative solutions,” said Sheba Ross, HKS Global Practice Director, Cities and Communities, who is based in Atlanta. “The fact that reflection and very vibrant collaboration can coexist is something that is a differentiator at the Atlanta office.”

With digital equity and sensory comfort as key design drivers, the space ensures a connected, accessible working experience for all team members and external collaborators.

“If there’s anything the past few years taught us, it’s that we need community. And one of the benefits of the new HKS Atlanta office is that it creates community in different ways,” said Ross. “Our spaces are multipurpose. You could bring in a team and have a huddle together while also engaging with an online group. All our technology has been set up in a way that allows seamless collaboration.”

Ethan Hopkins, Job Captain, HKS Atlanta, said that having a choice of work environments helps learning and mentorship come naturally in the office.

“Every day that I come in, it’s just a different experience because of different individuals that I sit next to. I don’t just learn what they’re working on, but who they are a little bit better,” Hopkins said.

Measurable ESG Impact

The new HKS Atlanta office is much more than an innovative commercial workplace design that prioritizes employee choice and community connection. It is the product of a well-designed real estate process with tangible connections to business objectives and Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) goals.

The square footage of the new office is 38% less than that of the previous office, enabling HKS Atlanta to redirect financial resources towards engaging talent, developing business market growth and strengthening social impact projects.

With a 60% Average Daily Occupancy program and planning approach, the space can support large fluctuations in headcount within an efficient office footprint. The office has supported growth from 55 full-time employees (FTEs) to 85 FTEs, decreasing the rentable square footage per FTE from 178 to 115.

“Through studying how we work and monitoring our work patterns, we’ve reduced our real estate footprint. That saves us significant real estate costs long term,” Volosin said.

A life cycle analysis of the project revealed the office design has a 23% lower embodied carbon footprint compared to other office spaces in a benchmarking study conducted by the Oakland, California-based Carbon Leadership Forum. The HKS Atlanta office incorporates high-performance systems and healthy materials to reduce carbon footprint and improve employee well-being, and the firm is pursuing LEED Platinum and WELL Platinum certifications for the space. HKS is also pursuing a Brain Health certification for the office, which will set a new measurable standard for workplaces the firm creates for itself and clients in the future.


The design’s emphasis on supporting people is underpinned by a commitment to Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (J.E.D.I.) in HKS policies and programming. Since opening, the Atlanta office has attracted new, diverse talent; 50% of new hires based in Atlanta over the last year identified as a minority and the office has risen to the third highest firmwide for the number of languages spoken.

The surge in multicultural representation in the Atlanta office has led to new market revenue streams and advanced the office’s Citizen HKS public interest design programs that help develop vibrant, socially equitable neighborhoods.

According to Ross a multicultural, multigenerational, multidisciplinary staff ensures projects are considered from a variety of perspectives.

“It’s our ability to listen and adapt and connect the dots that makes the difference,” she said.

The HKS Atlanta office is a model for resilience in office development and design, a necessity in today’s ever-changing landscape of work. It exemplifies that an innovative design process that includes people from all levels of an organization can contribute to business goals, create connections across boundaries and even help answer profound questions like “what is the office for?”

Based on the success of the Atlanta workplace, the firm has implemented similar solutions in the real estate and design process for new HKS offices in Phoenix, Salt Lake City, New York City and Washington D.C., with more to come.

Volosin said HKS Atlanta staff continue to discover new ways to use their prototypical workplace and they’re eager to share what they’ve learned with their HKS colleagues and the entire industry.

“We’re so excited to be on the forefront of realizing what new work environments can be.”

HKS Wins Two 2024 AIA Healthcare Design Awards

HKS Wins Two 2024 AIA Healthcare Design Awards

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) announced HKS has won two 2024 AIA Healthcare Design awards

AIA is honoring HKS for Emory Musculoskeletal Institute (EMSK), Brookhaven, Georgia, and the Children’s Hospital of Richmond (Virginia) at VCU Children’s Tower. This is the second year in a row that two HKS projects have merited AIA Healthcare Design awards, which recognize the best in health facility design and planning.

The awards were officially announced at AIA24, the AIA’s national conference in Washington, D.C.  

Norman Morgan, HKS Partner and Global Practice Director, Health, said this high level of excellence is due to HKS designers and researchers taking the time to listen and provide guidance to clients. 

“They aren’t coming to us just to put a building together,” Morgan said. “We’re here to make a difference in the projects we do – to change the experience of patients and staff for the better.”

Emory Musculoskeletal Institute

The EMSK project included extensive research into the design of the facility’s clinic spaces and operating rooms (ORs). 

Deborah Wingler, PhD, HKS Global Practice Leader, Applied Research, said HKS and Emory Healthcare made strategic decisions early in the project that allowed them to “lay the groundwork for being able to thoughtfully test the efficacy of design decisions following occupancy.” 

The team collected data from existing Emory Healthcare clinics to use in evaluating the design of a new clinic module implemented at EMSK. And they partnered with the Center for Health Facilities Design and Testing at Clemson University to conduct a functional performance evaluation of the new facility’s ORs.

The clinic module study demonstrated the value of co-locating clinic spaces with related specialty services, such as imaging. Staff rated the new clinic module highly in terms of visibility and travel distances, despite the module’s larger footprint. The OR design was shown to reduce surgical flow disruptions that can lead to adverse events for patients. 

Wingler said, “We’re finding that some of these design considerations are making a meaningful, measurable difference.”

Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU Children’s Tower

The Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU Children’s Tower vertically and horizontally expands the Children’s Pavilion to create a full-service free-standing destination for pediatric healthcare.  The 16-story tower creates a visual landmark for the VCU Health campus.

Kate Renner, HKS Studio Practice Leader, Health, said the project team focused on “creating spaces that can be both an oasis for healing and a beacon for health.”

The team took a collaborative approach to designing the Children’s Tower. Project stakeholders include more than 300 health system team members and more than 125 community members – including pediatric patients and their families – who provided input over the course of the building’s design and construction.

“It’s truly an honor to be recognized at the national level for this project that really does connect intent to impact,” Renner said. “Thank you to everyone who participated and joined us on this journey.”

Ana Hercules Merritt

Stories

Case Studies

IMPACT Atlanta – Studying the Intersections of Culture, Access, and Place

IMPACT Atlanta – Studying the Intersections of Culture, Access, and Place

The HKS Southeast Fellowship (SDF) is a design charrette that seeks to cultivate emerging talent, simulate innovative design approaches and provide service to nearby communities. Each year, the SDF rotates between the HKS Atlanta, Miami, and Orlando offices to offer regional design thinking for local design challenges. The SDF pairs HKS design professionals with university students selected from some of the region’s top design programs for architecture, interior design, urban design, and other related programs.

In Fall of 2024, the Fellowship will focus on the intersections of culture, mobility, and place along Buford Highway in Atlanta. HKS is collaborating with the City of Brookhaven and local organizations to understand the places and people around Buford Highway, to develop a hypothetical design prompt for a cross-disciplinary response providing real IMPACT.

Lens of Investigation

Background

The city of Atlanta is well-known for its diversity. Residents and visitors alike can experience a blend of cultures and traditions that have developed in the city’s built environment, culinary destinations, and social interactions. The epitome of this cultural melting pot can be experienced along Buford Highway, a road extending northeast out from Atlanta that is specifically renowned for its ethnic diversity.

Although coined as the “Cultural Corridor” of the city, the street and its surrounding areas often lack elements that celebrate the rich tapestry of cultures defined in the area, not to mention issues regarding safety, accessibility, and connectivity. In response, this year’s fellowship seeks transformative and impactful proposals that not only address the built environment but also celebrate the multi-cultural heritage and diversity of the communities served by the roadway. Creativity, empathy, and a deep understanding of the cultural and social dynamics of the Buford Highway community will be essential for addressing the complex problems presented in the design challenges.

How do you evolve a multi-cultural vehicle-centric corridor to better serve its community, i.e to celebrate the community’s sense of place yet maintain and amplify its character?

Design Challenges

One site, multiple challenges. Once accepted into the fellowship, teams will be asked by the end of the research phase to propose a way forward through either: 1) respond to one of the following prompts; 2) respond to a strategic combination of two or more; or 3) suggest their own based upon their findings. The Fellowship will adapt to the interests and disciplines of the selected attendees.

1. ADAPTIVE / TRANFORMATIVE REUSE | Northeast Plaza

The Northeast Plaza is currently a cultural center for the surrounding community hosting annual events and festivals. However, the expansive surface parking contributes to a large urban heat island and lacks a sense of place reflective of the rich communities that visit. How can this lot be reimagined to better serve the events and people that it hosts? How can urban, architectural, and interior design signal that this space is of and for the community it serves? Consider the history and culture of the surrounding community, inclusive and universal design, and precedents in effective public space.

2. GATEWAY | Intersection of Buford Highway and Briarwood Road

The irregular intersection of Buford Highway and Briarwood Road creates inefficient land parcels and contributes to safety issues for both vehicles and pedestrians. What adjustments to Briarwood Rd NE could improve this intersection, and how can buildings and open space respond to this adjustment to create a new gateway into Buford Highway? How can an intersection function as more than just the point where two roads meet? What else could happen here? Consider vehicular and pedestrian circulation, the greater context of Brookhaven, and precedents in prominent architectural and urban interventions.

3. CONNECTIVITY | Peachtree Creek Greenway

The Peachtree Creek Greenway along the North Fork Peachtree Creek is creating new opportunities for respite, mobility, and access to nature. Nevertheless, many existing buildings still turn their back to the greenway, and surrounding neighborhoods may lack easy access to the trail. Where are opportunities for businesses, communities, and public spaces to better integrate with the Greenway? Consider innovative designs with topography and nature, and precedents in greenway and ‘rails-to-trails’ development.

4. AFFORDABLE HOUSING | North Cliff Valley

The neighborhood community west of North Cliff Valley Way NE provides affordable housing to many inhabitants. However, it is currently located within a flood plain, which poses future threats to safety and stable housing. How could this area be repurposed as public space, while creating and relocating current inhabitants to safe and affordable housing options? How can affordable housing be elevated through finishes and user experience that may otherwise be lost? Consider resilient design, phasing strategies, precedents in stormwater parks, and interior residential design.

5. WELLNESS DESIGN | Sitewide

In recognition that the population in the area consists of mostly immigrants, access to healthcare and affordable health insurance face challenges that may not exist for other populations. How can the district promote preventative and holistic health and well-being throughout the built environment and all that it influences to elevate the mental and physical health of its served populations? What could community-scale wellness look like in an area with such a diverse population? Consider universal access, healthy materials, walkability, enhanced landscapes, access to education and resources, and biophilic design principles.”

Design Values

The below design values transcend through each challenge and should be considered as teams formulate their final responses.

  1. Cultural Celebration | Incorporate elements that reflect and celebrate the diverse cultures present in the area to ensure the final design reflects the needs and aspirations of the community.
  2. Wellness Minded / Universal Access | Ensure that the design promotes individual and community well-being and prioritizes accessibility and safety for all users.”
  3. Placemaking and Activation | Create a vibrant and inviting public space that encourages social interaction, recreation, and cultural exchange.
  4. Environmental Sustainability | Integrate sustainable design principles that minimize environmental impact and enhance the area’s resiliency to climate change.
  5. Uniqueness | There exists a specific uniqueness to this area’s identity, design character, and sense of place. A strong proposal should embrace and expand this uniqueness by learning from its site.

Location and Schedule:

During three days of collaboration, SE-DF participants will investigate, iterate, and propose solutions, based on a design prompt. The workshop will begin on Friday, August 30th and culminate on Sunday, September 1st. A final review and exhibition will be held Monday, September 2nd in the HKS Atlanta office. Specific 2024 SE-DF design challenge information will be presented to students selected to participate in the fellowship during the alignment sessions before the in-person collaboration.

HKS Atlanta Address: 3280 Peachtree Road NE, #900, Atlanta, GA 30305

Fellows will receive lodging and meals during the fellowship. HKS will provide transportation to the project site. Students are responsible for their travel to and from Atlanta.

Southeast Design Fellowship – Application

The 2024 application period closes on July 19th, 2024.

The application consists of three parts: 1 – Work Sample, 2 – Design Approach, and 3 – Thesis Response.

*No photos of yourself or name on the submission; please keep all submitted materials anonymous.

To apply, please email the following information to [email protected]
Subject Line – “Application submission for HKS SE-DF 2024”

1 | Work Sample

A single, one-sided 11×17 page or brief video/reel (no longer than 4 minutes) highlighting any work that reflects who you are as a designer. This can be academic, professional, or personal work and can range from a single image to a sampling of work from multiple projects.

2 | Design Approach

A brief description of your design approach and how collaboration factors into your thinking. Responses can include discussion about your process, tools/software utilized, and/or specific skills you bring to the table which aid in your thinking. *Responses for this section are limited to 300 words.

3 | Thesis Response

Listed below are 5 key design values that will all play a critical role in diverse ways within our fellowship’s exploration. Please select 2 or more of the below values you are most passionate about and write a brief response to how you could address each through design, being sure to note any connections you may draw between your chosen topics. *Responses for this section are limited to 500 words.

  1. Cultural Celebration / Preservation
  2. Wellness Minded / Universal Access
  3. Placemaking and Activation
  4. Environmental Sustainability
  5. Uniqueness of Place

University of Georgia Baseball Stadium Expansion

Case Study

University of Georgia Baseball Stadium Expansion Revamped Baseball Locker Room Gives University of Georgia Bulldogs Program New Bite

Athens, GA, USA

The Challenge

The University of Georgia baseball program wanted to completely change the look of their current locker rooms, to make the space more player-centric and elevate it to one of the best, if not the best, in the highly competitive Southeastern Conference. HKS designers faced the challenge of creating the new locker room space within a limited existing footprint by eliminating deficiencies in the space plan, which will allow more capacity for the players. Comfortable and vibrant player-centric spaces are vital in supporting and exciting players, fostering team unity and attracting recruits.

The Design Solution

The HKS design team responded to the existing conditions by considering the athlete first. They spent a great deal of time analyzing how the players use the building to support the well-being, training, team building and performance, and how these components come together as part of the new strategy for this facility.

Based on that analysis, new field access points were added for frictionless movement from the locker room/mudroom to the field to increase efficiency in the facility. The design also limited demolition in these spaces, which helped to correct layout deficiencies and utilize as much of the existing footprint as possible for the required program.

The design of the locker and team meeting spaces emphasizes the importance of the athlete’s story of feeling a part of something bigger than themselves. That experience is curated by engaging the whole athlete and building a deeper connection to collegiate pride and the team. The play of red and crisp white lighting, elements of contrast, and volume of space create drama and bring layers of energy for the athletes.

The locker room layout is crafted to foster interaction between players, promoting camaraderie as they prepare to head out to the field. The integrated sound system allows for player control over playlists that can infuse the atmosphere with energy and motivation through music. HKS’s sensory design approach encompasses lighting, textures and sound to envelop the players in an immersive world. Dramatic, layered lighting can shift to match the intensity of the team, setting the stage for game day. Every aspect of the design is supported by brand elements, ensuring a cohesive and memorable environment that leaves a lasting impression on all who enter.

The Design Impact

The new design eliminated unnecessary space and all players now have the same locker room space and the same vantage points. The large central open area encourages interaction with all the players, leading to better team camaraderie and connection.

The locker and team rooms are the first phase of a larger transformation of the UGA baseball complex and a testament to the university’s commitment to the sport. When players know that the university is committed to them, they cultivate deep beliefs in themselves. As the next chapter of Georgia Bulldog baseball is written, their facility transforms along with them to gain efficiencies, provide state-of-the-art player-centric environments and support the journey of the collegiate athlete.

Project Features

“We’ve got these facilities, and it is like, WOW!”

Wes Johnson, Head Baseball Coach, University of Georgia

How HKS Invests in Improving Health and Housing

How HKS Invests in Improving Health and Housing

Health is inextricably linked with where we live—from our individual units to our neighborhood designs. Over the past year, HKS has leveraged research to evaluate how this link defines local communities. One track of our HKS-sponsored grants program is called “Incubators,” where we empower practitioners to invest time and energy into meaningful research initiatives.

A Denver Incubator team approached health care by whether people have—or don’t have—access to permanent housing. And in Detroit, the Incubator team took stock of the city’s housing and disease prevalence, creating a roadmap for design strategies that have research-backed connections to better outcomes.

Housing is a social determinant of health, meaning that homes are one of many non-clinical contingencies on well-being. As a firm, we’ve long examined the home as a health issue. While homes may lack ventilation and clean water, those who inhabit them may lack access to health resources, and observing neighborhood-level trends unveils where we should first intervene.

­Our firm embraces a design continuum at different scales—from individuals and buildings to entire organizations and neighborhoods. That is, one research intervention may prescribe “nudging” individuals to take the stairs, but another may assess population-level statistics and inequitable access to resources, providing the building blocks to outline the next steps for our cities’ residential planning by way of optimized outcomes.

If Housing is Health Care What About the Unhoused?

Having a good home contributes to healthcare, so lacking one altogether may mean the opposite.

The number of days spent unhoused is tied to worse health outcomes. That is, permanent housing is better than the alternative. Point-in-time approximations show nearly 600,000 homeless people in the United States, and the total in December 2023 hit a historical apex.

And we must explore this issue at the local level—because homelessness is fundamentally local. Consider the fact that 75% of people who experience homelessness do so in the same county in which they lost their home. Our team in Denver, Colorado, used an HKS-sponsored grant to investigate the link between health and housing. They did so by finding opportunities where the design community may influence collaboration between community professionals to offer solutions that address the overall well-being of unhoused populations in downtown Denver.

The Denver team leveraged the concept of “Whole Health,” a comprehensive approach that explores well-being as a system of many parts, to explore local solutions for the unhoused.

A visual created by the Denver incubator team, adapted from the Eight Dimensions of Wellness

In the summer of 2023, Mayor Mike Johnston declared homelessness a crisis, calling to reduce point-in-time counts by 50% by 2026. To do that, one of the primary goals is to increase the annual number of households served in re-housing and supportive housing programs to 3,000 and reduce the average length of time residents experience homelessness to 90 days (down from 366 days) by 2026.

Over the past 10 years, there have been more than 17,000 street sweeps due to a camping ban enacted in 2012. One leader of the Denver Incubator team, Savannah Gregory, suggests that our approach to homelessness must include permanent supportive housing.

“Architects, designers and planners need to reevaluate their traditional roles only as the creator of place,” Gregory said. “They should expand their roles to help find solutions through legislation, planning and conversations to create healthy housing outcomes for all.”

Permanent Housing is Only One Component of a Health and Housing Paradigm

Given the broad spectrum of housing conditions in the US, uncovering problematic design elements is a critical step in creating healthier communities.

In cities across the world, many residents believe their homes are out of sync with their health. A quarter of New York City’s public housing residents believe their housing impacted their health negatively. Exposure to lead, carbon monoxide, extreme temperatures, or wastewater leads to poor health outcomes, and unfortunately this exposure often happens in the home. Indoor air pollution alone may account for 2 million excess deaths per year.

HKS has carved inroads through our novel approach to sustainability and health—applying what we’ve learned to residential design. In 2017, HKS launched a tool to help designers make healthy product choices. Our practitioners integrate tools to gauge material toxicity—or non-toxicity—in everything we design, including homes.

A broad review of studies that have addressed architecture health indices (AHIs) find major categories fall under air quality, lighting, acoustic indicators, thermal comfort, and are most associated with reducing communicable diseases and injuries. Health-ier cities may have a lower prevalence of communicable diseases, and their residents may report below average rates of cardiovascular disease, obesity, or asthma. And next-order considerations may include mental well-being and social cohesion, but as researchers have reported, few studies on AHIs discuss them.

Our Detroit Incubator team, including Betsy Williams and Nikola Gjurchinoski, gathered that the prevalence of various ailments—from asthma and obesity to cardiovascular disease and cancers—may vary significantly city by city, and often, block by block.

“Detroit is a place known for innovation, strong community organizations, highly ranked hospitals, Detroit-focused research institutions and . . . a renewed commitment to exceptional planning and design,” Williams said. “There is great potential for health to be a driver in this design momentum and innovative spirit.”

The incubator team gathered data and information, looking at existing evidence, frameworks, case studies, and held conversations with local partners such as non-profit organizations and healthcare providers to inform which health outcomes to prioritize—and therefore, which design elements to target first.

Based on its research, the team identified nine key evidence-based health outcomes impacted by housing design. For the scope of their HKS-funded research, however, the team focused on the two most critical outcomes for the city of Detroit—obesity and mental health. A gap analysis revealed asynchronies between the community, providers, and housing developers. At one scale, the team investigated the average dwelling unit, analyzing how unit features—from operable windows to envelope and wall design—may impact health outcomes.

A visual created by the Detroit incubator team

Public health research continuously reveals the nominal risks that extrinsic health variables—our behaviors, the environment, and other variables outside our biology and clinical care—play in community mortality rates. Lifelong cigarettes use takes about 10 years off the average lifespan. Cities that lower driving speeds see fewer fatal car crashes and real effects for injury-related mortality. Increased caloric consumption of trans fat poses significant risks to overall mortality.

The Housing Crisis is Often Framed by Affordability, but What About Health

Despite the push for greater affordability, public rental housing is itself considered a risk for all-cause mortality. Those in low-income neighborhoods, including public housing, are termed “marginally housed.” Research suggests  that the marginally housed are significantly more likely to not only suffer worse health outcomes, but to overutilize the emergency department, rather than receive care through other means, such as primary doctor’s visits or urgent care centers. For instance, one study found that 40% of respondents who were marginally housed received care through the emergency department over the past year.

The physical and social realities of low-income neighborhoods pose health risks. In many areas, large clusters of public housing developments create segregation, concentrations of poverty, and because of the physical state of many public-housing buildings, the health of residents is compromised.

Our firm elevates community health through health-conscious decision-making. That means we approach population health through a mixed model of connected service points. From our urban designers to residential architects, our firm integrates how we see housing typologies as layered with proximal community amenities, by combining traditional site analysis with geospatial analysis and nature of place research.

“In every instance where these collaborations have occurred in authentic and inclusive ways, we’ve uncovered data points that were used as key drivers to inform positive community impact and design strategies that inform program and other design decisions,” said Alexander Briseno, AIA, Office Design Leader in our Atlanta studio.

Health inequities and the affordability crisis all reveal the fragilities of our communities. But we can take concrete steps toward resiliency. After the COVID-19 pandemic began, we introduced our Community-BLOC concept, a resilient community paradigm with principles like net positive design, digital infrastructure integration, and flexible mobility. The Community-BLOC ensures sustainability and adaptability during pandemics, but also emphasizes inclusivity, health, and education as cornerstones for community resilience, offering a blueprint for designing healthy communities amid crises.

While HKS research delves into the intricate relationship between health and housing, our practitioners actively examine the implications for each scale—from individual units to entire neighborhoods. Investigating health outcomes linked to housing conditions, like homelessness and substandard housing, guides the firm’s efforts in creating healthier communities.

HKS Research operates by a “design to outcomes” framework, where the work we incubate, ideate, and prototype will—once fully realized—integrate with the project processes of our designers, architects, and planners. That’s the model we use as a research-based firm.

Our design research is how our firm progresses toward informed outcomes. The research program at HKS is both a sandbox of creativity and a model for investigating the most pressing issues facing our communities. In the past year, we’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the link between health and housing. Research is a paradigm where there are always more questions than answers, but it is also the paradigm of interlinking the decisions we make—in partnership with our clients, stakeholders, and communities—with intentionality and a legacy of rigorous research.

Ameliorating Health for Denver’s Unhoused:

Bridging Health & Housing: Design Strategies for Healthier People, Home Community and Climate

HKS Global Design Fellowship Promotes Exploration and Innovation in Design

HKS Global Design Fellowship Promotes Exploration and Innovation in Design

The HKS Global Design Fellowship invites employees from throughout the firm to apply for the annual program, which brings designers together to explore big ideas. Employees selected for the fellowship work in teams to develop projects that respond to pressing issues in architecture.

The Global Design Fellowship “gives young designers an opportunity to step away from (day-to-day) designing of documents and think more broadly,” said Rand Ekman, Chief Sustainability Officer and Partner at HKS.

“It’s about exploring and developing new ideas,” Ekman said.

Throughout the Global Design Fellowship, the teams’ “ideas are generated in a collaborative way and they receive feedback from advisors as their ideas are created,” Ekman added. He said the program models HKS’ design critique process, which encourages diverse thinking to create impactful projects.

The 2024 Global Design Fellowship recently culminated with an event at HKS Dallas, where the design fellows presented their ideas in person to the firm as well as to a panel of Dallas-Fort Worth cultural, governmental and architectural design leaders.

Flexibility and Resilience

The 2024 Global Design Fellowship class consisted of nine HKS employees who were divided into three teams:

The design fellows sought to answer the question, “Should the built environment embrace nomadic flexibility, or should it seek resilient longevity that invests in future generations?” The teams were tasked to develop design solutions to help societies manage extreme weather conditions that will force people to either shelter in place or pack up and leave.

Teams examined the problem through the lens of the Dallas-Fort Worth region, which in recent years has experienced several negative impacts of extreme weather. These include tornado damage, flooding, record-breaking heat and droughts and an arctic blast that strained the region’s energy infrastructure.

Each team of fellows met virtually for two months to research, define the problem and present their progress to a team of HKS advisors. The teams then participated in a week-long design charrette at the HKS Dallas office. During the charrette, the teams met with advisors to refine their ideas and finalize their presentations.

New Ideas

Brown, Sotudeh and Kevin Zhang (Team X) collaborated on a design to activate Dallas’ downtown pedestrian tunnel network to provide shared, shaded space for the public to enjoy. The team’s future-thinking model supports mental health by offering shelter from extreme heat and promoting social interaction.

The team reimagined the tunnel system to create welcoming entry points and spaces for activity, respite, creativity and social connection, as well as areas where users can experience nature and sunlight and connect with the world above. The team also designed a wayfinding element to guide people through the underground system and to help them understand what to expect inside.

Nyondo, Castro and Qining Zhang (Team Y) developed a phased development plan to reverse the downward spiral of economic disinvestment, cultural decay, mass vacancy and property decline experienced in neighborhoods throughout the U.S. The team’s presentation demonstrated how to acknowledge the mistakesof the past and provide tools for reclaiming beloved, vibrant spaces for future generations.

The team used The Bottom District, a once-thriving historical community adjacent to the Trinity River in Dallas, to show how a lightweight design intervention in a neighborhood can progress to semi-permanent and then permanent structures over several years. Their plan utilizes community pride in the local high school marching band to generate excitement about and involvement in the project. They created a Community Building Handbook to help make the first phase of the plan simple, low-cost and easy for community members to implement.

Roots, Terwilleger and Pierson (Team Z) showcased a method for using mushrooms to break down construction materials including drywall, plastics and wood.  

Using the former Valley View Center shopping mall in Dallas as an example, the team showed how a bamboo structural frame could be built over an abandoned structure and seeded with mushroom spores. The resulting mycelium membrane, a material composed of mushrooms growing over the bamboo framework, would provide shade, prevent spores from spreading uncontrollably and shelter mushrooms that decompose the remnants of the former building. These mushrooms could also be used to create consumer goods and new building materials.

The team proposed that over approximately 85 years, this process could reclaim the site of an abandoned building, create green space in the city and help establish a sustainable, circular building economy.

‘Opportunities to Dream Bigger’

Following the teams’ presentations, Ekman led a panel discussion that included three Dallas-Fort Worth leaders who represented unique perspectives, from performing arts to public policy.

Panelists included Lily Weiss, Executive Director, Dallas Arts District; Genesis Gavino, Chief of Staff and Resilience Officer for the City of Dallas; and Austin Allen, Associate Professor of Practice, University of Texas at Arlington College of Architecture, Planning and Public Affairs.

Allen said that with his background in teaching landscape architecture and film, he was especially interested in how each team used media to “give other people a sense of how the built environment functions.”

Gavino said that she loved the fellows’ innovative approaches.

“That’s the future of what architecture looks like, right? It’s really introducing those thoughts and planting the seed in bureaucrats’ brains that this is the future that’s possible,” she said. “You give us these options for opportunities to dream bigger.”

Weiss said she was particularly impressed with the sculptural aspects of the Valley View Center rewilding project; the stage-like, inviting entries designed for the Dallas tunnel network; and the emphasis on community involvement in the project to reclaim The Bottom District.

The panelists agreed on the importance of soliciting community input and involvement in design projects.

“Town halls are where you’re going to get your support and you’re going to get the questions that need to be answered now” to accomplish a project, Weiss said. “You have to be ready to listen to that feedback and you have to trust the people.”

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BayCare Wesley Chapel Hospital

Case Study

BayCare Wesley Chapel Hospital Prototyping to Lead the Market

Wesley Chapel, Florida, USA

The Challenge

BayCare is one of the largest health care providers in the fast-growing Tampa Bay/Central Florida region. The health system was formed 23 years ago when several area hospitals joined together to offer high-quality, compassionate care in a community setting. BayCare needed a design partner to develop a prototype hospital that could be built quickly and create an architectural representation of the BayCare brand, and asked global design firm, HKS, to lead that effort.

As part of BayCare’s larger growth strategy, BayCare Hospital Wesley Chapel is the first prototype hospital to be built in the heart of Pasco County, recognized as one of the fastest-growing counties in the nation. The program includes a 235,000-square-foot (21,832-square-meter), 50-bed acute care hospital with all required support services and an attached 85,000-square-foot (7,896-square-meter) medical office building.

The Design Solution

Drawing inspiration from the wind, water, and earth pervasive to the Florida landscape, the design utilizes soothing colors, vibrant textures, and flowing patterns to create healing spaces. Great attention was given to the connection between the interior and exterior.

The BayCare brand is visually represented in architectural elements both inside and out. The open architectural framing on the exterior signifies openness and welcoming. This open framing is repeated throughout the interior with wood cladding over registration desks, conference spaces, patient room doors, headwalls, and elevator lobbies representing thresholds and anchoring community spaces. The varied wooden shapes are reflected in the tile patterns on the floor.

The interior palette focused on hues and textures of Florida’s coastal environment including sand, water, and earth tones to bring warmth to the spaces. This palette is seen throughout the hospital, enhanced in different ways throughout each space.

Each patient floor was carefully choreographed with soothing colors in paint, big graphics, and accent tiles that gently remind us of the coastal breeze and waves to bring a sense of soothing calmness as our patients receive care.

The Design Impact

By analyzing BayCare’s existing facilities and HKS benchmarks, the prototype design has a more efficient and compact footprint and can adapt to different locations and growth avenues. The hospital’s branded look is repeated both inside and outside to give patients and visitors a unique BayCare experience.

BayCare Wesley Chapel Hospital provides full diagnostic, treatment, and inpatient services to the expanding communities in the Wesley Chapel area. The hospital is fitted with the latest technology, including SmartRooms that give patients and families control over their own environment and data. Patients can open shades, change lighting and temperature, view charts, or page the nurse using voice commands.

The campus connects to the surrounding communities and parks through a recreational path. A 38,000-square-foot YMCA with an aquatic center and soccer fields is currently under construction just south of the hospital, adding healthy lifestyle options to the campus. This prototype hospital design was so successful, an additional campus is currently under construction in Plant City, and is scheduled to open in 2024.

Project Features

Awards


Jeremiah Community

Case Study

Jeremiah Community Virginia's Jeremiah Community Offers a Lifetime of Care, Security and Well-Being

Fredericksburg, Virginia, USA

The Challenge

Rising population and soaring living costs will likely escalate homelessness and housing insecurity nationwide. This absence of permanent housing fuels hefty spending by localities on managing crime, public health issues, and social injustices. Micah Ecumenical Ministries, experienced in aiding Fredericksburg, VA’s homeless, proposes an intentional solution: a holistic supportive housing community. Partnering with Citizen HKS and engaging the community, the Jeremiah Community aims to offer affordable, permanent homes tailored to the unhoused. This initiative includes health care programs, access to nature and faith, fostering a cohesive community for those transitioning from homelessness to a stable, supportive environment.

The Design Solution

The Jeremiah Community focuses on lifelong healing through deliberate design choices, ensuring well-being, safety, and accessibility. Citizen HKS, contributing expertise in place analysis, master planning, and unit design, collaborates with Micah’s partnerships at the University of Mary Washington Healthcare System and Virginia Supportive Housing. They strategically position essential facilities like the health care clinic, market, maker space, chapel, community center, and gardens to create varied public, social, and personal spaces catering to community healing needs— ranging from physical to spiritual.

Citizen HKS’ holistic approach balances environmentally friendly strategies and urban design principles on the dense site. Pathways carve pocket neighborhoods, connecting diverse programming while emphasizing nature’s role in wellness. These areas, centered around shared green spaces, encourage communal immersion in nature, addressing erosion and heat island effects passively.

This sustainable urban plan showcases how integrated design strategies create healing spaces within the Jeremiah Community, supporting individual and communal well-being for all.

The Design Impact

The Jeremiah Community seeks to eliminate chronic homelessness by offering ongoing care and stable housing for more than 100 individuals. Citizen HKS’ design approach emphasizes Housing, Purpose, and Relationship principles, empowering the unhoused community in the design process. This collaboration fosters a master plan prioritizing affordability and a sustainable, healthy environment for transitioning to permanent homes. As this community pursues choice and self-determination, our design journey will continue to align with their progress as we engage in future project phases.

Project Features

“Without the [unhoused] community, I would have lost the only possession I had left [when I was on the streets] – hope.”

Peg Phillips, Micah, Servant-Leader of Neighbor Care