Memorial Cancer Institute

Case Study

Memorial Cancer Institute A Cancer Center of Excellence

Pembroke Pines, FL, USA

The Challenge

Memorial Healthcare System aspired to transform the site of two defunct big-box stores, located on the edge of the health system’s Pembroke Pines medical center campus, into a primary destination for cancer care in South Florida. In addition, the new facility, adjacent to the health system’s Memorial Hospital West, would also serve as a landmark that communicates Memorial Healthcare’s presence in the community.

The building site is constricted on four sides by existing structures and two major roads. The project team needed to anticipate future expansion on site and design the institute to accommodate future additions.

Memorial Healthcare System also challenged the HKS-led project team to be good stewards of resources. The health system tasked the team with creating a facility that requires minimal maintenance – for reduced operating costs and increased sustainability – and that maintains optimal function for the life of the building.

The Design Solution

Memorial Cancer Institute is a 4-story, 121,000-square-foot outpatient cancer center designed to support research and clinical trials, advanced cancer screening and diagnostic testing, radiation treatments, chemotherapy and cellular therapies, surgical options and integrative medicine.

The institute is arranged around a central atrium with a grand staircase that rises throughout the building. The atrium stairway promotes physical activity for healthy users, simplifies wayfinding in the facility and affords easy deconstruction for future expansion. The building is designed for horizontal expansion, to meet future community needs.

Infusion bays are positioned on the building’s exterior, with large windows that frame views of the surrounding area and the institute’s rooftop garden.

Located atop the fourth floor, the garden includes meandering walking paths, lush greenery and shaded seating areas that give patients, their families and cancer institute staff direct access to nature. Research shows access to nature can improve well-being and aid in the healing process.

The garden features native plants and pollinators to support local biodiversity. To minimize water runoff, the rooftop landscape is fortified with drought-resilient plants that can handle intense South Florida rainfall and storms.

The master plan for the project includes a future inpatient cancer hospital that will integrate with the institute’s outpatient services, for enhanced patient support and clinical care.

The Design Impact

The institute features 63 exam rooms that are designed for multidisciplinary cancer care teams. This is more than double the number of exam rooms (29) the health system previously had available for cancer care. In addition, the building has 51 private infusion suites, up from 38.

The facility provides a state-of-the-art cancer care environment that supports Memorial Healthcare’s research alliance with Florida Atlantic University. The state of Florida designated Memorial Cancer Institute/Florida Atlantic University a Cancer Center of Excellence, one of a select group of organizations in the state that are conducting leading-edge clinical research and advancing patient care.

The institute also supports Memorial Healthcare’s partnership with Moffitt Cancer Center, a National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center. Comprehensive Cancer Centers are recognized for their leadership, resources and substantial transdisciplinary research.

According to Memorial Healthcare, Memorial Cancer Institute enables the health system to provide stronger cancer care, including expanded services not previously available in the region.

Project Features

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


Dee Dee Bonds

HKS’ Southeast Design Fellowship Promotes Equity & Resiliency in Orlando

HKS’ Southeast Design Fellowship Promotes Equity & Resiliency in Orlando

Orlando, Florida, often referred to as “The City Beautiful” and synonymous with the happiest place on earth, is a vibrant metropolis in the heart of the Sunshine State. However, like many growing cities, there is a marked disparity in socioeconomics among some Orlando communities. One such area is the historic Parramore neighborhood near downtown.

Developed in the 1880s, Parramore was an economic and cultural hub for African Americans in Central Florida until the 1960s, when Interstate 4 was built between Parramore and Orlando’s affluent central business district. The raised expressway displaced more than 500 properties and created a distinct divide in downtown Orlando.

HKS engaged with the City of Orlando and the city’s Future-Ready Initiative to create designs for addressing inequities and deploying resilience hubs within Parramore. The HKS Orlando office recently hosted our 2023 Southeast Design Fellowship (SEDF), an incubator for young designers with a passion for solving complicated challenges in their communities.

The SEDF design charrette occurred in two phases, a month-long research phase and a four-day design phase during which five teams of HKS Southeast Design Fellows met with Orlando city leaders, toured the community and presented their design concepts and solutions.

The Southeast Design Fellows were tasked with using the American Institute of Architects Framework for Design Excellence to investigate Parramore, develop an understanding of the community’s history, culture and environment and develop design solutions that mitigate and adapt to hazards, so the people of Parramore can thrive.

Below are descriptions of each team’s design and guiding principles.

Parramore Farmline

Designed by Brian Lachnicht, Fernando Arana and Mahnoor Faheem

Urban interventions introduced into a historically disenfranchised community empower healthy, positive interactions, engaging change through activation, celebration, connection and education.

Activate: Repurpose abandoned lots into wetlands, green spaces and urban farms.

Celebrate: Soft scape spaces to reduce surface run-off, build a bioswale to filter run-off before it drains into lakes and sell fresh produce at a local street market.

Connect: Connect various sections of Parramore’s urban fabric through bike lanes, continuous sidewalks and green belts.

Educate: Educate residents of Orlando and Parramore through didactic measures that include developing bike routes that pass through historic sites of Parramore, providing farming classes to enable residents to grow, eat and sell food and providing access to Wi-Fi and electricity for charging devices through resilience hubs.

Learn more

Circular Economy

Designed by Maria Guruceaga, Zeid Omeish and Karla Orellana

This group evaluated three options through the eyes of a child, to create a network of security for children based on playing, learning and creating. Designing a circular economy through an interconnected network of varying scales promotes children’s safety, education and ownership.

Community Center: Main providers for resources, learning and civic involvement.

Resilient Pod: Creating a safe space for networking, production and learning.

Mobile Unit: Providing distribution, refill programs, collection and community outreach.

Learn more

Resilience Avenue

Designed by: Carlos Rivas, Danna Bermudez and Elizabeth Chew

Reclaiming the underused sectors of Parramore Avenue introduces a resilient “public canvas” to engage and celebrate the community while providing a platform to showcase innovation and progression.

The “public canvas” introduces a flexible community-focused space tailored for gathering and sociological analysis. This typology is meant to encourage innovative solutions in the pursuit of community well-being and catalyze the large-scale implementation of successful case strategies. A community space that provides access to first aid, clean water, Wi-Fi/electricity, food and prep space and public facilities promotes resiliency.

Learn more

Bodega in Parramore

Designed by Hossein Mirzajani, Luiza Heleno and Ja’Nai Ferguson

Community cornerstones increase engagement, bridge the generational gap and empower the community through resilience.

Drawing inspiration from a typical bodega, this group evaluated locations to provide modular, prefabricated community cornerstones. Four sites throughout the community will provide unique resiliency features including restrooms and showers, clean drinking water, book exchanges, art and educational spaces, internet and charging stations, areas for food exchange and waste disposal, fitness areas and historic preservation honoring the community heritage.

Learn more

The Parramore Collection

Designed by Chris Tromp, Claudia Reyes and Shantanu Parikh

This team proposed a two-fold approach for children to cement ownership of their community’s future.

First, the team created an illustrative platform that represents children’s potential and allows them to author their own stories.

In conjunction with this platform, the team proposed a series of architectural interventions to support the spread of vital information and meet community needs.

Graphic novels portray the possibilities in an approachable way that allows kids to envision their future and create a sense of pride about where they came from and where they are going. Community parks create engagement and provide kids with a safe space to explore.

Learn more

2023 HKS SEDF Fellows


HKS would like to thank GATE, Armstrong, dri-design, Sherwin Williams, KONE, Steris, NOVUM and ASSA ABLOY, the sponsors of the 2023 Southeast Design Fellowship. 

Join HKS in Designing a Better World at the AIA 2023 Conference on Architecture

Join HKS in Designing a Better World at the AIA 2023 Conference on Architecture

The American Institute of Architects will host its 2023 Conference on Architecture at the Moscone Center in San Francisco from June 7–10. The four-day, annual conference will feature an Architecture Expo for industry-wide networking and more than 400 additional events centered on designing a better world.  

This year’s Conference will debut seven education tracks aimed at streamlining the experience for conferencegoers who wish to attend sessions tailored to their interests. Five panels will feature a total of eight HKS architects and designers.

Please join HKS for the following events:  

Relationship with Technology (Practice vs. Process) Panel at the TAP Symposium at A’23 

Wednesday, June 7 — 2:15 p.m. to 3:45 p.m. PDT 

Speakers: Vibhuti (Vickie Patel) Harris, Firmwide BIM Leader, HKS; Matt Wheelis, Senior Vice President of Strategy, Build and Construct Division, Nemetschek Group; Sam Omans, Industry Strategy Manager, Architecture, Autodesk; Kim Dowdell, AIA, NOMAC, 2023 First Vice President, The American Institute of Architects; Brad Prestbo, FAIA, Boston Office Director, Studio NYL. 

Harris will join the TAP Symposium’s third panel to discuss the lack of software designed to meet the evolving demands of project delivery and the AEC industry’s role in collaborating with software companies to effect positive change.  

Empowering Communities Through Empathetic Listening

Wednesday, June 7 — 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. PDT 

Speakers: Erin Peavey, AIA, Health and Well-being Design Leader, Community, HKS; Jessica Roddenberry, AIA, Studio Practice Leader, Education, HKS

Peavey and Roddenberry will host a discussion on the power of empathetic design in granting communities participation and choice in the development of their everyday spaces.  

Performing Beautifully — The COTE Top Ten Awards 

Thursday, June 8 — 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. PDT 

Speakers: Michelle Amt, AIA, Director of Sustainability/Associate Principal, VMDO Architects; Katie Ackerly, AIA, Principal/Sustainability Director, David Baker Architects; Avinash Rajagopal, Editor in Chief, Metropolis; Lori Ferriss, AIA, Principal, Director of Sustainability and Climate Action, Goody Clancy. 

The COTE Top Ten Award, architecture’s most prestigious sustainability award, honors design excellence. A panel including COTE award jury members will discuss real-world implementation of design that considers climate action, equity and environmental performance. Tommy Zakrzewski, Director of Building Engineering Physics at HKS, will also briefly talk about the firm’s design of its COTE Top Ten-winning North Torrey Pines Living and Learning Neighborhood. 

Please join Zakrzewski and Rand Ekman, Chief Sustainability Officer at HKS, in celebrating the firm’s 2023 COTE Top Ten Award at the AIA COTE Top Ten Toast on June 8 from 7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. PDT, and the AIA Honors Awards Celebration on June 9 from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. PDT.  

Virtual Models & the Future of Digital Delivery: SoFi Stadium 

Thursday, June 8 — 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. PDT 

Speakers: Cory Brugger, Assoc. AIA, Chief Technology Officer, HKS; Heath May, AIA, Global Practice Director of LINE, HKS; Devin Lewis, AIA, Senior Architect, Solomon Cordwell Buenz; Timothy Dufault, FAIA, Chief Revenue Officer, ConcertVDC. 

Brugger and May will discuss HKS’ award-winning SoFi Stadium and its use of virtual models throughout construction.  

Stronger Together: The Future of Latinx in Architecture 

Thursday, June 8 — 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. PDT 

Speakers: Yiselle Santos Rivera, AIA, Director of Justice, Equity, Diversity & Inclusion, HKS; Patricia Alcaron, AIA, Principal, Ratcliff; Bayardo Selva, AIA, Architect, cre8 Architects; Ingedia Sanchez, AIA, NCARB, LEED BD + C, Sr. Technical Director/Associate, UrbanWorks, Ltd.; Patricia Centeno, AIA, Principal, BAR Architects & Interiors. 

As the Latinx population increases in the United States, Latinx architects are working to expand resources for Latinx design professionals. Rivera will join a group of architects to discuss diversity within the Latinx community and representation in the design industry.  

Leveraging Integrative Frameworks for Resilient Design 

Thursday, June 8 — 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. PDT 

Speakers: Amanda Barton, AIA, Project Designer, HKS; Sammy Shams, AIA, Sustainable Design Professional II, HKS; Ibrahim Almufti, Associate Principal, Risk & Resilience Team Leader, ARUP; Thomas Packer, Associate Principal, ARUP.  

Barton and Shams will join ARUP representatives to discuss both firms’ respective, yet complementary, frameworks that promote design resilience.  

Greening Large: Advancing Organizational Sustainability Through Regenerative Projects

Friday, June 9 — 1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. PDT

Speakers: Allison Smith, Assoc. AIA, Sustainable Design Leader, Vice President, HKS; Wes Sullens, LEED Fellow, Director, LEED, U.S. Green Building Council.

The Harvey Milk Terminal 1 Boarding Area B at the San Francisco International Airport is the world’s first LEEDv4 Platinum- and WELL Platinum-certified airport terminal. Smith will join a discussion of the project’s sustainable design, as well as the potential impact of large new projects on an individual organization’s sustainability progress, certifying bodies and the AEC industry at large.

Becoming a Citizen Architect 

Friday, June 9 — 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. PDT 

Speakers: Julie Hiromoto, FAIA, Principal, Director of Integration, HKS; Kira Gould, Hon. AIA, Principal, Kira Gould CONNECT; Angela Brooks, FAIA, Principal, Brooks + Scarpa Architects, Inc.; Christian Solorio, AIA, Arizona State Representative.  

Hiromoto will join a panel of fellow award-winning architects to discuss the citizen architect’s role in government and civic engagement.  

College of Fellows Investiture Ceremony

Thursday June 8 – 3:00pm – 5:00pm PDT

HKS’ Bernita Beikmann, Chief Process Officer, Principal and Executive Vice President, will be officially elevated to the AIA College of Fellow during the annual investiture ceremony.

HKS Nurses Provide Unique Perspective to Health Care Design

HKS Nurses Provide Unique Perspective to Health Care Design

Michelle Jutt always wanted to be a nurse.

“I’m just a natural caretaker,” Jutt said. “It’s what I was born to do.”

But she never expected her career path to lead to an architecture firm.

Jutt is a Partner and Global Practice Director, Advisory Services at HKS. She is also one of seven nurses employed by the firm.

Why would a global design firm hire seven nurses? Because they provide valuable expertise as advisors, strategists, medical planners and company leaders. May is National Nurses Month and HKS is celebrating the contributions of its nurse employees.

Why would a global design firm hire seven nurses? Because they provide valuable expertise as advisors, strategists, medical planners and company leaders.

In addition to Jutt, another nurse at HKS is Principal Jennie Evans, Global Development Director of the firm’s Communities sector. Senior Managers Laura DiConti and Lisa Sgarlata; and Managers Ana Hutchins and Shawna Langworthy, all with the firm’s Advisory Services group, are also nurses.

The nurses at HKS have worked in specialties ranging from pediatrics to geriatrics, in diverse geographic regions, in inpatient and outpatient environments covering the entire continuum of care. Together, they bring a total of 188 years of nursing experience to the firm.

“There’s so much creativity that comes from a band of nurses working together,” said Evans.

From left to right Michelle Jutt, Jennie Evans, Laura DiConti, Lisa Sgarlata, Ana Hutchins and Shawna Langworthy

Shared Passion

The seven nurses followed different roads to the nursing and design professions, but they share a passion for caregiving.

Jutt, who is based in Orlando, made her way to HKS in 2017 after a hospital career that included bedside care; human resources; quality, risk and safety management and executive leadership roles.

“I felt like there was something missing for me after almost 20 years,” Jutt said. “I wasn’t feeling the challenge quite like I had in the beginning.”

A friend who worked at HKS told Jutt about a job opening at the firm. Jutt said that as she considered the position, she thought, “You all design hospitals, and I get to be part of that. I get to tell you what works and doesn’t work within a hospital. What a great idea!”

Michelle Jutt, recognized as a Jewish Hospital Health Network Nurse of the Year, 2002 / presenting at an HKS client meeting

Langworthy is based in the Chicago office. Like Jutt, she has wanted to be a nurse since childhood. “I never thought about anything else, ever” as a profession, Langworthy said.

She worked her way through college, beginning with an associate degree in nursing and continuing her education throughout her career as a nurse and nurse executive, culminating with a doctorate in 2020. Langworthy said that some of her most memorable accomplishments at the hospitals where she worked involved facility design and construction projects. She came to HKS to leverage her experience as a nurse and as a leader to influence health care design.

DiConti, from HKS Los Angeles, started out as a hospital employee at age 19, collecting menus from patients. “My whole career has been focused on health care,” she said. “The hospital is my second home.”

DiConti worked several years as a registered dietitian nutritionist before making the move to nursing at age 30 because she wanted to spend more time with patients. She spent nearly a decade in bedside care, earned her master’s degree in health administration and went on to serve in clinical management, care management and consulting. She was being recruited for a Director of Nursing position when she saw an online posting for a job at an architecture firm.

“Health care design sounded fascinating, and I thought I’d take a risk,” DiConti said. Nine years into her career in health care design, she jumped to HKS, where she’s now worked for eight years.

Laura DiConti with medical dispensing equipment, 1990s / on a site visit with fellow HKS nurse Ana Hutchins and HKS architect Ethan Hopkins

Evans, who is based in the HKS Dallas office, began her career as a health care assistant in Canada. In that role, she learned to provide basic hands-on patient care, such as taking blood pressure readings.

“I made a list of 10 things that I really wanted to do with my life,” said Evans. “I wanted to travel, I wanted to help people – nursing fit all of those” requirements.

Her job as a traveling nurse ultimately took her to Dallas, where she planned to stay for six months. “That’s 20-some years ago now,” Evans said with a laugh.

Evans’ responsibilities at Children’s Medical Center of Dallas included helping to usher in multiple facility design projects, including working with HKS designers as the hospital’s Clinical Liaison for Design and Construction.

Evans, who has a Master of Business Administration degree in international/global studies, now works at HKS to develop strategic relationships for the firm’s Community sector, helping create healthier and more livable communities worldwide.

Evans said that having multiple nurses on staff demonstrates that “HKS is serious about being the best health care architect.”

Jennie Evans nursing school graduation, 1987 / presenting with HKS Health Studio Practice Leader Kate Renner

“Soup to Nuts”

According to Evans, nurses possess skills that lend themselves well to design projects.

“We’re trained to observe,” she said. “We’re trained to look at the bigger picture. And we have to be efficient.”

Plus, said DiConti, “we’re really good listeners.” As a result, nurses can clearly understand what health care providers want to achieve with a project – and they can help hold the project team to that vision.

“We relate and connect (with clinicians) on a different level,” said Jutt. “We speak their language.”

“Nurses on architecture teams are translators,” said Evans. Nurses not only help translate operational needs into health care spaces, but they also help clinical and design professionals communicate with one another.

Evans described a planning session for an emergency department (ED) design project during which a hospital nurse kept saying that 80 percent of the facility’s patients were older than 80 years old. Evans said she turned to an architect at the meeting and explained, “That means their length of stay in the emergency room is longer than what we would typically plan,” because elderly patients require more time in the ED.

“We understand staffing. We understand operations. We just understand the health care environment, soup to nuts,” Evans said.

Quality Care

When Jutt joined HKS, she was initially concerned that she might miss having a hand in direct patient care. “But what I have found is that I get to make a difference in a much, much larger way,” she said.

Jutt recalled attending the ribbon-cutting ceremony at HKS-designed Emory Musculoskeletal Institute in Atlanta and thinking back on all the site tours and user interviews she’d participated in to help develop the operations plan that guided the facility’s design.

“In that moment, I just cried,” Jutt said. “I thought, ‘This started with a piece of paper and now it’s a building that’s going to take care of patients from all over.’ That’s a really proud moment that will stick with me.”

Langworthy said she hopes her work at HKS creates a legacy of improved satisfaction and safety for hospital patients and staff. “It makes a difference, the design of the projects we’re working on,” she said. “That’s incredibly important. Health care is a risky business. Patients are really sick these days.”

“At the end of the day, we’re taking care of patients,” said Jutt.

“Most Trusted Profession”

While their professional focus has shifted from direct care to design, HKS nurses maintain their nursing credentials.

Jutt, for example, keeps her nurse executive and human resources certificates up to date because “those are important to me personally and I think they continue to give credibility to what we do” at HKS, she said.

Evans maintains her nursing license to help health care professionals recognize that she understands their world. She said that being a nurse gives her work validation.

“Nursing is the most trusted profession in the world,” she said. “Why not have that on your business card?”

A Winning Design for Championship Venues

A Winning Design for Championship Venues

For decades, Wheaties cereal has carried the tagline, “The Breakfast of Champions.” But HKS has had its own high-level championship run over the years. 

Since 2010, HKS-designed buildings have hosted Super Bowls, the World Series, NCAA Final Fours and the College Football Playoffs National Championships. The streak continued in 2021 when Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis hosted the NCAA Men’s Final Four basketball tournament for the third time. That was followed in June by the U. S. Gymnastics Championships, highlighted by Olympic Gold Medalist Simone Biles, which were held at Fort Worth’s Dickies Arena, yet another world-class venue that involved HKS designers. 

In February 2022, Super Bowl LVI was held at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California. In August of that year, the Chengdu Phoenix Mountain Sports Center in China — which has one of the world’s largest curved, open cable domes — was the site of the World University Games. The Games were postponed from 2021 because of COVID-19 concerns. 

The pace hasn’t slowed down, either. The American Airlines Center in Dallas hosted the 2023 NCAA Women’s Final Four this spring, and the College Football Playoffs National Championship was held at SoFi Stadium in January. The stadium will be in the spotlight again when it hosts the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the 2028 Olympic Games. In 2026, it will be a host site for the World Cup, along with HKS-designed AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. 

Also upcoming are the 2026 NCAA Men’s and 2028 Women’s Final Fours at Lucas Oil Stadium, and in July of this year, SoFi Stadium will hold the CONCACAF Gold Cup Final. Arlington’s Globe Life Field will host the MLB All-Star Game in 2024.  

While the participants in championship contests are unknown at the start of their respective seasons — with the final determinations all decided on the field or court — the buildings that host them are years in the making, with the opportunity to hold championship events a major focal point of the planning and design. 

Championship Design Means Creating ‘a Wow Factor’

Although AT&T Stadium (Dallas Cowboys), U.S. Bank Stadium (Minnesota Vikings), Lucas Oil Stadium (Indianapolis Colts) and SoFi Stadium (Los Angeles Rams and Chargers) were all designed to meet the specific desires of the home teams that play in them, the team owners also had bolder ideas for their facilities. They wanted their new sports homes to be big enough and grand enough to host Super Bowls and other high-profile events. 

As Cowboys owner, Jerry Jones put it in a 2009 Wall Street Journal article about his team’s then-new home, “we wanted this stadium to have a wow factor.”

The owners of the Texas Rangers also anticipated big things for its new HKS-designed Globe Life Field before the COVID-19 pandemic abruptly shut down those plans on the eve of Opening Day in 2020. At the time, there was no way to know it would welcome the World Series later that year, but the retractable roof stadium, with its ample concourses, swanky clubhouses and climate-controlled seating area became the perfect home after the pandemic prompted Major League Baseball to use a single site for its Fall Classic.

Those who attended Super Bowl LVI were exposed to a variety of digital upgrades. Like his Colts, Cowboys and Vikings contemporaries, Los Angeles Rams Owner and Chairman, E. Stanley Kroenke, asked HKS designers to develop plans for SoFi that would allow it to host global entertainment events and turn them into ultimate experiences for a live and television audience.

The scoreboard displays a Congratulations message to the Los Angeles Dodgers after defeating the Tampa Bay Rays 3-1 in Game Six to win the 2020 MLB World Series at Globe Life Field on October 27, 2020 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Maxx Wolfson/Getty Images)

Staying Local and Flexible

To deliver on those requests, HKS designers approach stadium designing with some clear thoughts in mind. One design element that is a hallmark of HKS-designed stadiums are clarity of structural expression and transparency, which heightens the fan experience. So fans who walk into AT&T Stadium, Globe Life Field or SoFi Stadium will immediately recognize the ability to sort of “see through” the structures to the outside even though the stadiums themselves are enclosed or covered.

There are other important factors as well. Even though the stadiums will be showcased to the world, designers look at them as a vital and visible part of the local community. The owners of the Colts, for example, wanted the look of Lucas Oil Stadium to pay homage to the fieldhouses found throughout Indiana, while the shape of U.S. Bank Stadium reminds of Northern European design.

In addition to leaning into those roots, U.S. Bank Stadium also had to satisfy another requirement to reach championship status; designers had to figure out a way to make it withstand Minnesota’s harsh climate. They designed the first ETFE roof in an American stadium, which allows lots of natural light while blocking the brutal cold. This design element was put to the test in February 2018 during Super Bowl LII, the coldest Super Bowl on record with temperatures in Minneapolis reaching a high of 9°F on game day. 

And at SoFi Stadium, architects had to embed it 100 feet into the ground so that it wouldn’t interfere with flights in and out of Los Angeles International Airport, which sits just three miles away. But the deep dig and the stadium’s proximity to LAX also provided designers with a unique opportunity to use the stadium’s roof — which contains LED lights — as a sort of real-time projection screen for passengers flying overhead.

In the case of Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, he wanted AT&T Stadium to maintain a tangible link back to the team’s iconic former home, Texas Stadium. So, the design for the new stadium’s signature retractable roof includes a “hole” in it when the roof is open that exactly matches the shape of the hole at the old stadium, including its rounded corners.

In addition, the stadiums all are designed to have a high degree of flexibility. Designers created AT&T Stadium with not only the ability to host championship football contests from high school to pros, but ones for college basketball or even professional Motocross. 

And the ability to quickly and seamlessly provide multiple uses isn’t limited to the world of traditional sporting events. With Major League Baseball shut down at the time, the first events at Globe Life Field in 2020 were local high school graduations. The inaugural event at SoFi Stadium was scheduled to be a two-day Taylor Swift concert before COVID-19 disrupted those plans.

An Enhanced Fan Experience

To offer those various events, though, requires that designers and their clients team up to create a greatly enhanced fan experience. For the past decade or so, team owners have realized that simply making a trip to a stadium to see their favorite player is not enough for most fans. Their guests want to know what they are going to see — and do — once they get there. If it’s not glitzy enough, many patrons will opt to stay home and watch games from the less-expensive comfort of their own TV rooms.

For most stadiums designed recently, that enhanced fan experience begins with upgraded technology features, particularly a large, high-tech videoboard.  When AT&T Stadium opened in 2009, it held what was then the largest LED videoboard in the world, stretching from one 20-yard line to the other. The high-definition Mitsubishi picture gave fans seated at the highest points of the stadium, the ability to watch a game as if they were watching at home on their own big-screen televisions. And that was the point.

But SoFi Stadium, which opened without fans in 2020, is the newest king of championship stadium design. It’s 2.2-million-pound, dual-sided, center-hung, circular scoreboard is largest ever built and will provide practically every fan who visits, no matter where inside SoFi they sit or stand, with a simultaneous view of the information on the screen.

The videoboard is the only 4K end-to-end production in sports and features the largest LED content playback system in history. The board also provides fans with unique programming including live content, statistics and animated content — important data for aficionados of the increasingly popular fantasy sports leagues.

“For us, it was how would we go about thinking about reconnecting fans with media in a different way,” said Lance Evans, AIA, a principal at HKS and one of the primary SoFi architects. “If I was going to watch a game at home, I’d have my iPad, I’d have my phone. How could we do that at an NFL game, at the same size, across the entire field?”

So, what will the design of the next Super Bowl or World Series stadium look like? HKS designers already have some ideas that Evans describes as both “exciting and endless.” Among them, pushing the concept of the “stadium” beyond its limited physical footprint into the limitless virtual realm.

“The integration of technology in physical environments extends venue access exponentially,” said Mark A. Williams, FAIA, HKS Principal in Charge of the SoFi Stadium project. “Imagine a venue that sells 70,000 physical tickets to an event and leveraging technology to reach previously untapped audiences and markets around the globe.”

And that means that perhaps one day soon, a championship venue will exist at anytime and anywhere.

Miguel Botello


Case Studies

News, Announcements and Events

Turning Design Excellence into Effective Leadership: A Conversation with HKS CEO Dan Noble

Turning Design Excellence into Effective Leadership: A Conversation with HKS CEO Dan Noble

At HKS, we believe design can change people’s lives for the better. We strive to create beautiful buildings and communities that bring people together and solve real problems.

In his 39-year career at the firm, HKS President & CEO Dan Noble has observed the parallels between extraordinary design and impactful leadership. He’s noticed that the same character, purpose and relationships that contribute to excellent design lead to successful governance.

Reflecting on HKS’ legacy – and looking towards the future – Noble recently shared his thoughts on the firm’s rich history, his personal journey as a designer and leader and how lessons he’s learned from the design process translate into effective leadership.

What key aspects of HKS’ heritage are important to you as a leader?

HKS was founded in 1939 by Harwood K. Smith and his wife, Kate Robertson Smith. Harwood was an amazing entrepreneur, architect and artist. Born in Evanston, Illinois, he studied at the Art Institute of Chicago before moving to Dallas to pursue his passion for, and hone his skills in, architecture.

Harwood set the tone for informality and mentorship at HKS. He was known for walking through the office and engaging even the newest architects in discussions about what they were working on. That informality and humility, and the spirit that we are all in this together, set HKS apart today and contribute to our familial culture.  We are a large firm with a small firm culture.

For an 83-year-old enterprise, our line of succession is not very long. I am only the fifth President & CEO, building on Harwood’s legacy.

How has your journey at HKS progressed from design leader to President & CEO?

My tenure at HKS began in the fall of 1983 after I graduated from North Dakota State University and worked briefly with smaller firms in Houston. Today, HKS employs over 1,500 people across 26 offices worldwide. When I started at the firm, we were about 200 people strong, with one office in Dallas.

I was fortunate to work under the direction of past HKS presidents, Joe Buskuhl and Ralph Hawkins. With Joe’s leadership, the firm became known for our management and technical expertise. Ralph was equally interested in design excellence and geographic expansion.

I became Global Design Director of HKS in 2002. I had always worked collaboratively on projects but now I had a more active role in elevating our design firmwide and helping project teams find creative design solutions. The design problem, for me, shifted from developing solutions for individual buildings to creating more successful and creative design teams. I was still hands-on with design, participating in pinups and charrettes, but I had to transition from doing to directing.

What does Design Excellence mean to you?

Design Excellence of course encompasses aesthetic considerations, such as scale, rhythm, proportion, repetition, proper editing, delight, beauty and harmony. But it also entails building performance, enhancing the human experience and understanding the behavioral science of improving the environment.

The process of creating and executing an excellent design is more alchemic than paint-by-number.

What lessons have you learned from design that translated to your role as President & CEO of HKS?

Over the course of my career, I’ve learned that Design Excellence correlates closely with leadership excellence. Qualities that are essential to the design process – collaboration, incubation, iteration, failure, empathy, connection, innovation and humor – are just as important to effective leadership.

Collaboration – Bringing diverse teams together to discover the most creative solutions is something HKS believes in highly. Best practices in Health design may inspire solutions in Education, Hospitality ideas may make Workplaces more user-friendly and understanding crowd movement for Urban Planning can inform design solutions for our Sports group. And of course, Research can be a huge differentiator for all our practices. HKS works across practices and geographies to bring our clients the best talent available worldwide.

Incubation – Part of finding great solutions is listening to multiple stakeholders – including clients, consultants, users and community leaders – and letting ideas settle in. Let the game come to you a bit. Slow down to go fast. Taking time to engage with diverse partners can help you arrive at effective design solutions quicker. Being open to new ideas is essential.

Iteration – Once you collect that feedback, you can begin exploring ways to create solutions. Here is where you must exhibit some humility. Ego needs to take a back seat. It doesn’t matter where the best ideas come from, we build off each other’s ideas. I like it when a project team leaves the room and nobody knows exactly where an idea originated, but everyone feels like it was kind of their own.

Failure – As HKS’ Design Director, I tried to create a safe space for people to experiment. Being vulnerable and open to others is essential to innovation. As a leader, you have to avoid jumping in and trying to solve other people’s challenges. Sometimes design ideas fail, but failure is an important teaching moment. I routinely engage in 360-degree reviews to receive feedback on my own performance and try to continually learn how to be a more effective leader.

Empathy – I love being an architect. I love being hands-on and in the thick of things. But as HKS’ Design Director and later as the firm’s President & CEO, I had to learn to step back and let others find solutions. Sometimes people don’t do things the way you would. But having the patience and empathy to let people find their own paths is important to developing the next generation of leaders.

Connection – Finding that synergy between place, purpose and design is what great architecture is all about. Finding essential connections between people is important to designing a successful project and to running a successful business. After all, people create the synergy that results in great design solutions.

Innovation – True innovation is hard to come by. At HKS, we strive to hire people who are constantly challenging the status quo. And then we let them experiment, fail and learn. We’ve developed an entire Innovation sector to bring focus to this type of thinking and working. Developing this sector may have been HKS’ most transformational move. Do you want to be a commoditized vendor or a trusted advisor and partner? In the end, our brains and our thoughts are the most valuable assets we can offer the world. What can be automated and commoditized will be. Let’s not compete in a race to the bottom.

Humor – As a leader, you can’t take yourself too seriously. We spend most of our waking hours working with others – we can make it fun and fulfilling or a chore and a drag. The gift of humor shouldn’t be minimized.

How can leaders design and build better teams?

Part of being an effective leader is being in touch with your people, developing friendships and learning people’s strengths and weaknesses, passions and personalities. With understanding and empathy comes trust. Our people are our differentiators. Hire the best people you can find who share your values and give them the tools, training and mentorship they need to grow and evolve. And then get out of their way. Let them figure things out.

High-performing teams are built through inspiration, transparency, a certain degree of ambiguity, and diversity and inclusion.

Inspiration – Our job as leaders is to emulate the transparent culture that we aspire to, to establish the strategic direction we want to go and to inspire others to come along. In the book, The Way of the Shepherd: Seven Secrets to Managing Productive People, Kevin Leman wrote, “If you want your people to go above and beyond, they must see your passion, your heart. If it’s greatness that you want, it’s greatness that you must give.” You can’t be afraid to show that you care and that you’re passionate and committed to your purpose.

Transparency – Two things I continue to strive for as a leader are more transparency throughout the firm and the support of an effective feedback loop that includes all our people, regardless of their rank or experience. People walk into my office all the time – I encourage it. We have an “Ask Dan” feature on the HKS intranet that goes directly to me and enables people to ask me anything they want, anonymously or not. We’ve also instituted checks and balances to make sure every member of HKS’ Executive Board, including me, is holding true to our Strategic Plan. We are all held accountable to the firm’s established values and vision.

Ambiguity – I’ve learned to accept holding opposing ideas in my head at the same time. Decisions aren’t always black and white. Embracing the messy gray is crucial – it’s where the most profound solutions come from. I like to say that I’m comfortable with ambiguity as long as we’re clear about what we want to achieve.

Diversity & Inclusion – It’s no surprise to hear that our profession has lacked diversity, especially in the leadership ranks. This is partly because people tend to hire and promote those who are most like themselves. To help break this pattern, at HKS we have created a robust Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion program with a dedicated JEDI Director who is leading community outreach, education and enrichment programs that are helping us build a more diverse team and leadership. These efforts include our recently launched partner diversity program, HKS xBE, which is designed to help disadvantaged businesses build relationships and pursue new opportunities in the architecture and design professions. Diverse teams give rise to innovative thinking and increase the value of our work in the communities we serve.

How do you view the future of leadership at HKS?

We are fortunate to have a cadre of qualified people who can step into leadership roles. What I am looking for in our future leaders is innovation, creativity, empathy, grit, honesty, humility, optimism and heart.

HKS in 2023: Projects To Get Excited About

HKS in 2023: Projects To Get Excited About

Named by Fast Company as one of the Most Innovative Companies in 2022, global design firm HKS is looking to grow our business and bring exciting, positive impact to communities around the world this year.

From improving design through innovation, research and equity-centered approaches, here’s an insightful snapshot of some projects and initiatives that we’re excited to see in 2023:

Pioneering Research and Designs that Transform Communities

1. Brain Health Research – HKS recently launched brand-new findings from the brain health study we conducted in partnership with the University of Texas at Dallas’ Center for BrainHealth® with insights into how people and companies can work smarter, more collaboratively and healthier. The report also includes what we’ve learned about designing workplaces to enhance cognitive functions and well-being.

2. Project Connect – The Austin Transit Partnership (ATP) just announced a major partnership with an international design team led by HKS, UNStudio and Gehl to create system-wide architecture and urban design for the light rail program of Project Connect, a major expansion of Austin’s public transit system.The collaborative team is getting to work on designing a technologically advanced, human-centric transit experience true to Austin’s culture and landscape.

Stunning New Places to Work and Relax

3. HKS New York City Office – Located in the NoMad neighborhood of Manhattan, HKS’ new New York City Office will open this spring. With a design inspired by the city’s complex transportation system and artistic culture, the office will be a center of creativity and innovation that serves as gateway destination for HKS’ global clients. Goals for the design include adaptable collaboration, acoustic comfort, access to nature and daylight — all key elements to support the health and productivity of designers working in one of the world’s biggest and busiest cities.

4. The Ritz-Carlton, Portland – HKS crafted the vision, developed the planning and strategy, sculpted the interior architecture and designed the furniture and finishes of the Ritz-Carlton that debuts this summer in downtown Portland, Oregon. This 35-story mixed-used high rise was created in partnership with Portland-based GBD Architects and BPM Real Estate Group. The interiors of the multifaceted building’s hotel, residential, retail and office spaces celebrate the beauty of the Pacific Northwest, native culture and craft and Portland’s spirit of exploration.

Game-changing Venues for Extraordinary Entertainment Experiences

5. ES CON Field Hokkaido – ES CON Field Hokkaido ballpark is a 35,000-capacity baseball stadium scheduled to open for play this spring in Japan. Home to the Pacific League’s Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters Baseball Club, the complex is the heart of a dynamic, master-planned mixed-used development. The stadium’s retractable roof and sliding glass outfield doors – which help grow natural turf – are among many firsts for a ballpark in the Asian market. Other highlights include a pair of 88-meter-long video boards that create an immersive digital experience, and traditional Japanese onsen natural hot spring baths that fans can enjoy while watching games.

6. Cosm — The first public venue for global experiential media company Cosm is undergoing construction throughout 2023 at Inglewood, CA’s Hollywood Park, home of HKS-designed SoFi Stadium and YouTube Theater. The venue will feature live sports, entertainment events and arts and music experiences in a future-forward immersive digital technology environment. Cosm is sure to bring even more cutting-edge entertainment value to the Los Angeles area when it opens next year.

State-of-the-art Education and Health Care Environments

7. Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center O’Quinn Medical Tower at McNair – The new O’Quinn Medical Tower, opening this spring, will house the Dan L Duncan Comprehensive Cancer Center, outpatient radiology and endoscopy services and an ambulatory surgery center. The medical tower and an adjacent 850-car parking garage addition are part of a multi-year project to consolidate patient care on Baylor St. Luke’s McNair Campus in Houston. This campus is located next to the Texas Medical Center and new TMC Helix Park, an area under development for world-class health care and research innovation.

8. UC San Diego Theatre District Living and Learning Neighborhood – Opening in the fall, UC San Diego’s Theatre District Living and Learning Neighborhood is a mixed-use student residential community that will also serve as a major public gateway to UC San Diego’s campus. Comprised of five buildings with student housing, academic, administration, a conference center and amenities such as dining, retail, and fitness, the Neighborhood is designed to enhance well-being and minimize environmental impact.

9. Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU Patient Tower – This full-service pediatric facility in Richmond, Virginia includes emergency, inpatient and outpatient care all connected to a robust academic medical center and the hospital’s award-winning CHoR Pavilion, also designed by HKS. Because children’s health care often causes significant stress on young patients, families, and care team members, the tower’s research-informed design is intended to create an oasis for children and make people feel calm and at ease. All areas feature easily navigable circulation patterns, natural light and soothing artwork and are intended to promote choice. The building will open this spring.

10. Mount Sinai Beth Israel Comprehensive Behavioral Health Center – Work at the Comprehensive Behavioral Health Center for Mount Sinai Beth Israel, a teaching hospital in New York City, involved the complete renovation of a six-story structure originally built in 1898. The facility, due to open this spring, is designed to support mental health care, physical health care, addiction treatment, social services and integrated outpatient care. It will be the first center for comprehensive behavioral health care in New York state.

Looking Ahead

These HKS projects, along with many others scheduled for 2023, continue to demonstrate how architecture and design can bring joy, comfort and connection anywhere in the world.

“These projects reflect our commitment to service and pursuit of excellence for our clients, partners and colleagues in the new year,” said Dan Noble, HKS President and CEO. “We appreciate the collaboration and partnership that led to these successes and look forward to the future.”

These projects reflect our commitment to service and pursuit of excellence for our clients, partners and colleagues in the new year.

Dan Noble, HKS President and CEO

HKS Launches HKS xBE to Cultivate Inclusion in Architecture & Design Industry

HKS Launches HKS xBE to Cultivate Inclusion in Architecture & Design Industry

HKS announces the launch of a new partner diversity program, HKS xBE, that gives xBE firms (a term inclusive of all disadvantaged businesses) and their members access to opportunities to build relationships, pursue new work and bolster innovation within the architecture and design professions.

The program has two primary components: a 12-week seminar, xBE Rise; and an xBE Network, which aims to increase diversity among the firm’s myriad partnerships for architecture and design projects.

“HKS is committed to building a more diverse workforce and partnership network across the AEC industry,” says HKS CEO Dan Noble. “We value a wide range of different ideas and perspectives which we believe enrich the profession of architecture, foster design innovation, and increase the community value of our work.”

“HKS is committed to building a more diverse workforce and partnership network across the AEC industry.”

HKS Director of Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, Yiselle Santos Rivera, notes: “HKS xBE is a step in opening the profession of architecture to become more diverse, equitable and inclusive. We look forward to the relationships it will inspire.“

HKS invites xBE firms and their employees to participate in two ways:

  1. Firms may enroll in the HKSxBE Network, so that we better understand your culture, expertise, and business goals in hopes of fostering future collaboration. Eligible firms will hold one of the following certifications: Minority or Women-Owned Business Enterprise (M/WBE), Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE), Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Businesses (SDVOB), Historically Underutilized Businesses (HUB), Disability-owned Business Enterprise (DIS), Small Business Enterprise (SBE) or LGBT Business Enterprise (LGBTBE).
  2. Individuals may enroll in our 12-week seminar, xBE Rise. The purpose of xBE Rise is to learn how we might partner most effectively so that we are better positioned to serve clients and deliver industry-leading work together. Topics will mirror the phases of project design and delivery, and will include subjects such as contracts & risk management, marketing, community engagement and sustainable design. In each session, participants will explore barriers to success as well as perspectives on success for diverse teams.
Learn More & sign up

Getting to a Brain Healthy Workplace

Getting to a Brain Healthy Workplace

Download Full Report

Why brain health? We’ve written before about the need to embrace mental health through the prism of brain health. This emerging and growing concept encompasses neural development, plasticity, functioning, and recovery over the course of our lives. In some ways, brain health is to mental illness what physical fitness is to disease. The current study focuses on employees—while we still have our eye on broader societal concerns, including isolation, anxiety, and various problems that come with balancing technologies in the digital age. In short, we found that brain health strategies work—those who engaged the BrainHealth SMARTTM Strategies experienced a marked improvement over the course of our year-long study, as measured by the Center of BrainHealth®’s BrainHealthTM Index. On a fundamental level, our work shifts the conversation about workplaces.

“It’s time to change the narrative around how we work and fully leverage our brain capital. And it starts with the actions we take internally, with our own people, to help them emotionally, socially, and cognitively thrive.”

Dan Noble, HKS President and CEO

In 2021, HKS partnered with the Center for BrainHealth for a pilot program to investigate the role of place, process/policy, and technology in creating a brain-healthy workplace. The Center for BrainHealth is a nonprofit research institute dedicated to advancing the science of brain health,” how the brain best learns, reasons and innovates; actionable ways to protect it from decline; and proactive protocols to repair and generate brain systems. The organization developed a training program for brain fitness that works just like any physical fitness regime, leveraging 9 BrainHealth SMARTTM Strategies that prime the brain to calibrate mental energy, reinforce strategic thinking, and ignite innovation.

The core of our research leveraged a representative sample of HKS employees who participated in the program by completing a brain health assessment, accessing training modules, and translating brain health strategies into their daily lives. Additionally, five HKS Living Labs participated during the summer of 2022, as employees returned to the office at a higher frequency as part of their flexible work experience. We captured data and insights through surveys, observations, and interviews. We also convened semi-structured gatherings with colleagues, as well as both virtual and in-person think tanks.

In all, we determined seven key findings from our year-long study. Some corroborate past studies—such as the growing need to address distractions and multitasking. At the same time, others contribute new elements to discussions on mental health. Here are a few key insights from our report:

1. The brain can be trained.

Our study showed a statistically significant increase in brain health index for individuals who went through the brain health training.1 Those that completed the core cognitive training had a higher average than those that did not.

2. Managing distractions is a key challenge for focused work in the office.

The office isn’t only for collaboration—workers need spaces deliberately designed for focus work. Acoustics and a lack of environmental control consistently ranked lowest in satisfaction among design elements.

3. Multitasking is related to reduced effectiveness and increased burnout.

43% of our study’s participants said they frequently multitask—a bad habit related to a host of issues, including burnout. Our workstations are also multitasking alongside us.

4. Where we work matters, and using a range of spaces helps.

Creating a range of spaces based on task type or working modality may unlock innovation. We found that when participants used a range of spaces, satisfaction with collaborative work effectiveness in the office was higher.

5. Digital and physical workplace habits need time to develop.

Our satisfaction with individual and collaborative tasks increases with the time we spend in specific locations—we need time to acclimate to our environments for optimum efficiency.

6. Being together in-person is related to improved connection to team and increased opportunities for informal knowledge sharing.

Over the course of our 10-week study, collaborative behaviors increased and perceived connections to one’s team increased.

7. Perceived connections to one’s team are strong, but connection to the community is lagging.

After months or years of remote work, we must continuously evaluate how hybrid work arrangements impact interpersonal relationships across the organization.

By creating workplace affordances, we translated our key findings into strategies for our work environments. Workplace affordances are how we perceive environments to meet our needs. Based on the research, we proposed five primary affordances: focus, exploration & ideation, collaboration & co-creation, rest & reflection, and social connection. Affordances denote the end goal of how users will engage an environment—but they also begin with a question. Consider—how does the workplace foster social connection and community building? Or, how does our workplace afford us the ability to focus?

We then identified three fundamental habits underpinning a workplace designed for brain health—these are our workplace ABCs. First, the intent of a task must be aligned with the chosen environment. Based on the work an employee must accomplish, they must leverage the unique digital and physical affordances available to them. We also identified that workers need balance throughout the workday. Balanced habits are about intentional variability: working in different modalities and accessing a diversity of spaces designed to meet those needs. Finally, connection is critical to the workplace for brain health. This means connecting with others to boost a sense of belonging and provide a sense of purpose. Relating to how we align what we do with where we work and finding balance, connection also means equipping workers with the autonomy to choose and the authority to have control over their environment.

What’s Next?

We’re embracing the experiment: building on what we’ve gathered from our Living Labs and insights that we’ve gleaned from those who participated in our year-long study. We know that we’re not done yet. Our firm’s Flex Work policy is changing based on our learnings. We’re partnering with the Center for BrainHealth to develop a brain healthy workplace certification to encourage brain health practices and build accountability. We’re also focused on how our brain health explorations support unique business needs, so we’re developing a robust business case and toolkit for brain-healthy workplaces that will extend the work from this insights report into actionable real estate tools and measured impact.

Citations: 1 Zientz, J., Spence, J., Chung, S. S. E., Nanda, U., & Chapman, S. B. (in review). Exploring how brain health strategy training informs the future of work. Frontiers in Psychology.

HKS Employees Discuss the Importance of Black Professionals in the AEC Industry

HKS Employees Discuss the Importance of Black Professionals in the AEC Industry

From the days of courageous architecture pioneers Paul Revere Williams and Norma Merrick Sklarek until today, Black professionals have long made significant contributions to the Architecture and Design industry. But for many of them, being a Black person in the field — whether as an architect, designer, engineer, or other professional — brings about unique challenges.

As part of HKS’ Black History Month celebration, three of our Black colleagues — Michael Pruitt, Shantee Blain, and Chandler Funderburg — discuss their thoughts on what it means to them to be a Black professional in the AEC industry, and why they believe that’s important.

Michael Pruitt

Design Professional in Technical Resources Group/Quality Management
Number of years in the industry: 25
Number of years at HKS: 17

It is extremely important to me to be a Black man with a career in architecture because it gives me the opportunity to show young Black boys and girls who look like me that there are many more careers that they can choose in life other than sports and entertainment. I grew up in the small Northeast Texas town of Clarksville. One disadvantage of growing up in a small town that is two hours away from the nearest major city is that I was never exposed or introduced to a lot of different career choices, and especially not architecture. Without proper resources and guidance, it has made my career journey a little harder than many of my colleagues. I sincerely feel that my purpose is to be a good example and inspiration for Black children who may have no idea what architecture is, and also let them know of the various possibilities and career opportunities that are available in our field.

A good friend of mine was a schoolteacher in a predominantly Black elementary school in Lancaster, TX, and each year she would invite me to present during the school’s career day. I participated in several of the events and they were something that I looked forward to each year. Our HKS marketing department would provide me with a projector along with a cd containing slideshows and videos of the many different projects the firm has designed over the years. It was always amazing to see the children’s faces light up as they watched those videos. The questions that they asked, and the newfound curiosity that they displayed, were priceless. Those interactions that I had with them are the exact reasons why I love what I do, and they are also the reasons why, again, it is so important to me to be a Black man with a career in architecture.

Shantee Blain, AIA

Washington, DC Office Director/Vice President
Number of years in the industry: 18+
Number of years at HKS: 18+

Being a Black Architect…

…means fulfilling a promise to my dad that I would be a great architect, one he would have wanted to collaborate with on the construction sites he managed. He told me, “I’ve worked with some bad architects, Shantee. Couldn’t answer questions. Wouldn’t collaborate. Hell, some couldn’t read their own drawings. If you’re going to be an architect, Shantee, be a great architect.”

My uncle was an architect. He taught me that a construction drawing is a work of art.

My grandfather was a master builder. He taught me to take pride in my work.

Being a Black architect means continuing a family tradition, setting an example for the next generation and taking a vested interest in another’s story and supporting them.

Being a Black architect means never thinking about being a Black architect until asked to. Or until you’re identified specifically for being Black. I wasn’t taught to be a Black architect, but to be an architect. The education I received at my HBCU, Florida A&M University, wasn’t for a future Black architect, but for a future architect.

Being a Black architect means sometimes being seen for the color of your skin before your ability or the position you hold.

Being a Black Architect means instead of measure twice, cut once, one must think twice before speaking once. Think about your tone. Think about your words. Speak calmly. Think about your audience. Think about perception. Speak safely. [Repeat]

Being a Black architect means finding your mantra; “Don’t apologize for your passion, lest you seem apologetic. Don’t apologize for correcting someone, lest you seem compliant. Don’t apologize for wanting more, lest someone forget your worth.”

Being Shantee, architect means being passionate about each project, feeling excited about the art of the drawings, and empowering the next generation of future architects.

Chandler Funderburg

Knowledge Manager with GKS and Structural Engineer
Number of years in the industry: 5
Number of years at HKS: 5

Representation has always been important, not just now. Much of America’s historic architecture exists because of the unpaid, unacknowledged labor of Black Americans, both enslaved and free. And yet we have been systematically barred from access to spaces where our ingenuity could flourish, leading to the exclusion of Black people from strategic involvement in the decisions that impact our communities. 

To change course, we must overcompensate for the lack of diversity in this profession. The myth of meritocracy and the belief that diverse populations just ‘haven’t worked their way up yet’ has contributed to the exclusion of Black professionals for far too long. Look around in your important decision-making meetings and ask yourself how many Black people are sitting at the table with you. 

Without intentionally elevating Black and other People of Color (POC) voices in architecture, we will inevitably miss the opportunity for innovation and improvement — in our design work, processes, and office cultures. Rather than asking Black people to prove or explain that their voices add value, let’s ask our leaders and non-POC colleagues how they can promote Black input in spaces where it is notoriously onerous to be heard. 

HKS has zero Black individuals on the executive committee, four Black Principals, and one Black Partner. With our emphasis on being industry leaders and influencers, we should strive to be the exception. No more obscure ideas, initiatives, or sentiments — we need zealous participation in changing the landscape of the profession, and only then can we attain the level of unparalleled design that we are capable of reaching.

How is Design Excellence Shaping the Future of Health Care?

How is Design Excellence Shaping the Future of Health Care?

Since 2020, the world has focused on health as we learned to live through a pandemic. The connections between personal health, community health, caring for patients and supporting caregivers are concepts that HKS’ global design teams are addressing in myriad ways as we explore how we can all live healthy lives, together. Here’s a glimpse at how some of our projects around the world are shaping the future of health care.

Piedmont Atlanta Hospital, Marcus Tower: Responsive, Flexible Design

Marcus Tower at Piedmont Atlanta Hospital demonstrates how facility design can help communities meet changing health care needs, even in the most challenging circumstances.

The expansive, 16-story Marcus Tower is designed to serve as a destination for cardiovascular care in the southeastern U.S. It has space for up to 408 patient beds and 16 technically advanced operating rooms, in addition to cardiac labs and other acute care services.

When the Integrated Project Delivery Team for Marcus Tower began initial design work in 2016, they developed a set of guiding principles and metrics by which to judge the success of the project. This proved vital when the world was gripped by a pandemic during the tower’s construction.

“We were able to open early, because decision making was so efficient on that project,” said Anthony Montalto, Chief Design Officer and Partner at HKS.

Piedmont Atlanta Hospital opened several patient units at Marcus Tower in April 2020, nearly four months ahead of schedule, to help meet a pressing need for intensive care beds due to Covid-19.

Montalto credits the streamlined design and construction process to the team’s agreed-on measures of success. “It was easy to align around them,” he said.

“We were able to open early, because decision making was so efficient on that project.”

Marcus Tower is prepared to respond to future community needs, as well. The patient rooms are designed to serve acute care and intensive care patients. This gives the hospital the flexibility to adapt patient units for different acuity levels, as necessary. In addition, shelled space on the patient floors will enable the hospital to build out additional operating rooms, recovery areas and patient units in phases.

Emory Musculoskeletal Institute: Beauty and Performance

Emory Healthcare’s Emory Musculoskeletal Institute (EMSK) integrates beauty and performance in a sustainable, intelligent, user-centered design.

EMSK is a six-story research and treatment center located in the Atlanta suburb of Brookhaven. The fluidity of motion and the structure of the musculoskeletal system are referenced artfully throughout the building’s design, in celebration of the Institute’s mission to help people regain physical motion and activity.

Smart building features reduce energy and water consumption at the facility and create a comfortable, easy-to-navigate environment for patients, visitors, physicians and staff. Custom smartphone apps provide digital IDs that automate functions such as unlocking doors and calling elevators. Electrochromic glass automatically adjusts to a lighter or darker tint depending on ambient sunlight, to control temperature and lighting in staff areas on the building’s south side. The building’s external airflow mixture is automatically monitored and adjusted to ensure the amount of carbon dioxide in the facility remains below industry benchmarks, to increase occupants’ comfort and productivity.

A 650-kilowatt solar photovoltaic array is in production and scheduled to be installed atop EMSK’s parking garage early this summer. This is one of several features that make the facility a leader in energy-efficient design.

“We’ve identified the path that it’s going to take to achieve net zero” at the facility, said Teresa Campbell, Studio Leader for HKS’ Health team and a Partner at the firm.

According to Campbell, reducing the energy load from a building – particularly an energy-intensive health facility – requires several strategies. Installing efficient mechanical systems, being mindful about glazing and solar heat gain, providing a renewable energy source and purchasing renewable energy credits all contribute to EMSK’s energy performance.

“These activities come together to neutralize energy consumption,” Campbell said.

“For a health care project, it’s pretty exciting. There’s a lot of alignment between trying to do no harm to the planet and trying to bring wellness and healing.”

Almoosa Specialist Hospital Bed Tower Expansion: International Culture and Context

The design of the new patient tower at Almoosa Specialist Hospital, located in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, honors the hospital’s Middle Eastern culture and context.

Created in association with Saudi Arabia-based DAR Engineering, the 230-bed LEED-Gold certified patient tower nearly doubled the size of the hospital, bringing the facility’s total bed capacity to 380.

The tower is designed to serve patients and visitors from throughout the Persian Gulf Region. The Sidra tree, a native tree that symbolizes qualities such as community, shelter and nourishment to people in the Arab world, inspired the design.

The Sidra tree is a key element in Almoosa health service’s logo and branding. “They wanted to tie their brand identity to creating that type of environment,” said Jorge Barrero, a Regional Design Director and Principal at HKS. “Something that’s welcoming, something that’s healthy…something that provides protection and brings well-being.”

The patient tower stands atop a podium that houses the building’s mechanical systems, surgery department and entrance lobby. The tower itself is a curvilinear form that represents a leaf.

“It was a challenging form for a health facility, but as team, we embraced the idea,” said Barrero.

He explained that the curved shape provided for little repetition in the design of recurring spaces like patient rooms, but that it gives the hospital a distinctive, meaningful, dynamic appearance.

The shape of the tower also takes advantage of prevailing winds, directing increased airflow to shaded terraces on the building’s west side. And curved windows maximize views from the patient rooms, to elevate the experience for patients, families and caregivers.

The design inspiration continues throughout the building’s interior. For example, each floor of the tower features graphic imagery derived from the Sidra tree, to help people feel welcome and cared for.

Sanford Health Virtual Care Center: What’s Next in Health Facility Design

Sanford Health’s Virtual Care Center (VCC) provides a preview of what’s next for health facility design.

Construction is underway on the two-story structure, which is scheduled to open in 2024 in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

The first floor of the VCC will house an Innovation Center and an Education Institute that will serve as testing and training grounds for tools and applications to advance virtual caregiving.

On the second floor, clinician workspaces outfitted with sophisticated telemedicine technology will connect directly with Sanford Health’s satellite clinics, in order to expand care for the health system’s rural patient population. Services will include on-demand urgent care, behavioral health care and primary care.

One of the main challenges in the design of the VCC was to create a building that is inviting and represents Sanford Health’s commitment to excellence in health care but won’t be mistaken by patients for an outpatient clinic.

A contemporary interpretation of Sanford’s traditional Collegiate Gothic architectural style provides visual cues that the VCC is a new type of building.

The facility’s layout metaphorically describes its programming, with the more grounded research and education activities taking place on the first floor and the cloud-computing-based virtual caregiving activity taking place above.

Vertical windows tie the floors together and afford access to daylight and views on all four sides of the VCC. “We wanted to provide really good daylight and views all around, especially in an environment where people are going to be sitting at their desk most of the day,” said Barrero.

A ground-floor terrace and upper-level balcony give visitors and staff additional connections to the outdoors.

Making a Difference

Research shows design can make a difference in patient outcomes, said Jason Schroer, Global Director of HKS’ Health team and a Partner with the firm.

“Our design process has evolved because of our knowledge and understanding of how design can impact outcomes,” he said.

HKS has created a robust research database to guide informed health facility design decisions, along with a Design Intent Documentation tool that helps project teams record the rationale behind design decisions, identify metrics to measure effectiveness and link design strategies back to the project’s guiding principles. As the Piedmont Atlanta Hospital Marcus Tower project demonstrated, this process is key to individual project success. It also drives continual improvement at HKS.

Research shows design can make a difference in patient outcomes.

Researching, identifying and recording ideas to explore in health design enables project teams to measure the impact of those ideas once a facility is built and operational, said Schroer.

By applying this knowledge, he said, “we’re going to be better for the next project.”

Erin Peavey, HKS Architect and Design Researcher, agrees. “We are constantly learning through our buildings,” she said.

Looking ahead, Schroer said designers “have a unique opportunity to be influential” in addressing health equity, by engaging with a broad range of health system and community stakeholders during facility design development.

This idea is aligned with the AIA Framework for Design Excellence, a set of principles HKS follows to promote public health, safety and welfare through our work.

Peavey noted that given the high cost and constantly changing nature of health care delivery, every health design project is a huge investment and huge opportunity to increase the triple bottom line: social, economic and environmental progress.

Every building can “help make a more just, equitable world,” she said.

HKS Celebrates Outstanding Team Members with Annual Awards

HKS Celebrates Outstanding Team Members with Annual Awards

Each year, HKS recognizes its people and projects during the firm’s annual Year-End Celebration Event. This festive event is attended virtually by employees in all 26 HKS offices worldwide. With “office shout-out” videos, contests, and cash prizes, the culmination of the Celebration is the individual and team awards.

These awards — seven individual and three team — represent different aspects of our firm, from architecture and interior design to sustainability and justice, equity, and inclusion. The awards are also peer-nominated, so anyone in the 1,600-person firm can be recognized regardless of tenure or location. Each category’s submissions are then reviewed by a jury that reviews, debates, and selects the winner, who is announced to the firm during the Celebration event.

Congratulations to HKS’ 2022 Annual Award winners:

Individual Awards

Excellence in Interiors: The Excellence in Interior Design award honors an individual who has contributed to the growth and prominence of the Interior Design practice at HKS. This person is not only a gifted designer but also a trusted advisor to clients, mentor to staff and recognized industry leader.

Sarah Clair, Sr. Interior Designer in Richmond, advanced and developed Interiors’ Revit families and libraries to maximize the team’s efficiency, reduce errors, and elevate the quality of design and drawings. In addition to managing the onboarding of our interior designers, she is the Interiors Sector liaison between Practice Technology and Quality Control. Additionally, she leads the All Interiors monthly meetings, which celebrate our design successes and promote sustainability within the firm.

Fierce Advocate: The Fierce Advocate promotes and encourages justice, equity, diversity and inclusion in all they do. Leading with empathy, vulnerability and authenticity, this person fosters belonging within our firm and beyond.

Courtney Krause, Architect in Detroit, continuously looks for ways to engage multiple unique viewpoints and encourages her colleagues to do the same. As an office J.E.D.I. champion, Courtney is a key member of her studio and contributes to its culture of psychological safety and trust. Courtney initiated a Month of Service partnership with Living and Learning Enrichment in Detroit, which helps participants with disabilities achieve their goals through therapeutic, work-based, community engagement. Advocating for her community is part of her character, and her impact is present at HKS and beyond.

Ashli Hall, Sr. Communications Project Manager in Dallas, has worked tirelessly to support and advocate for others through the J.E.D.I. program since its inception. She manages the execution of the Limitless Panel Series and also coordinates the xBE Partnership Program. She also helped lead the J.E.D.I. Council and engaged with the K-12 Outreach Chairs to support programs like Girls, Inc. Her selflessness and dedication are often behind-the-scenes, but the impact of her work speaks for itself. 

Fire in the Belly: With guts and grit, the Fire in the Belly has the inner drive and determination to fulfill our strategic pillars. This person is emotionally invested in our business and ardently dedicated to leading with knowledge, advising with influence and designing for outcomes.

Manzer Mirkar, Sr. Project Architect in Los Angeles, fulfills HKS’ strategic pillars through his dedication to his projects, initiatives, and mentorship. An invaluable member of the Venues group, his ability to take design to fabrication has infused his projects with innovative elements. He advises with influence by mentoring individuals, his team, VPEC, multiple students at local universities, and staff in the L.A. Office. He designs for outcomes, infusing his Research Champions knowledge throughout his projects and initiatives. He has dedicated countless hours to leading his office, and his drive to improve the firm and to mentor others does not go unnoticed. Manzer demonstrates his passion by putting the project above himself, but more importantly, places his peers and the junior staff above all else.

Insatiable Innovator: If creativity is thinking of new ways to solve old problems, innovation is putting those ideas into real action. The Insatiable Innovator challenges the status quo by fostering a safe place for discovering breakthrough solutions that will solve the problems of tomorrow.

A Sustainable Design Professional in Orlando working with the Design Green team, Sammy Shams consistently searches for new opportunities to incorporate sustainable design principles into projects across the firm. His work with influential clients such as Cleveland Clinic and Baptist South Florida strengthened those relationships and led to more sustainable solutions. He was instrumental in developing the HKS Resiliency+ toolkit, adopted by clients and AIA National as a primer on combating climate change and focusing on resiliency planning. The AIA adoption of the toolkit will allow firms worldwide to benefit from his team’s thought leadership and expertise.

Masterful Mentor: First and foremost, the Masterful Mentor is driven by its passion for helping others achieve their professional goals. A trusted confidant, supportive coach and enthusiastic advocate, the Masterful Mentor guides their colleagues, as well as the next generation of leaders, to succeed along their career paths. ​​​​​​​

Aimee Middleton, Sr. Project Architect in Atlanta, creates space to share knowledge, ask questions, and grow as an office, regardless of where team members are in their tenure within the profession. Her ability to define and create avenues for mentorship and learning in the day-to- day make her an exemplar for our firm. She is always willing to share her time, attention, and experience and has a genuine gift for engaging and exciting others with new learning opportunities. As one nominee wrote: “I’ve heard her called the best PA in all of HKS. Not only does she excel at her job in the role of serving clients, but she’s also an incredible mentor to those around her at HKS.”

Whole Architect: The Whole Architect takes ownership of the entire project to lead all stakeholders to success. A well-rounded thinker, this person owns the project from start to finish, collaborates with clients and partners to overcome challenges, leads with knowledge and delivers results. 

Kerry Bennett, Sr. Project Architect in Raleigh, is the epitome of The Whole Architect. She is committed to the entire project, client, and design excellence through meaningful collaboration as a devoted colleague. Her attention to detail, project organization, passion for success, and empathetic leadership makes her a trusted advisor for our clients. Kerry knows how to manage diverse project teams with various needs and experience levels and is always accessible, approachable, and helpful. Amidst the chaos, challenges, and opportunities, she always finds common ground and solutions to deliver an exceptional product to our clients and end-users.

Unsung Hero: Valuing their purpose, the Unsung Hero makes it happen behind the scenes. The person is the consummate team player, embraces accountability, and can be counted on to deliver under circumstances.

Oscar Angulo, Project Coordinator in Dallas, is known within the firm for his grounded knowledge and insight which help maximize creativity and deliver projects of the highest quality. He leads with humility, provides mentorship organically, and is a joy to have on a project team. Oscar is the consummate professional and every project is improved by his involvement. Even under tight deadlines, he provides a listening ear, a willingness to help others, and still manages to get the job done. Most importantly, he teaches the “why” behind things- why details are constructed a particular way, why sheets are set up the way they are, and why something works or doesn’t work. He promotes learning as a process rather than just the end result, setting up those less experienced for success.

Team Awards

Integrator Extraordinaire: This team’s superpower is its ability to connect the dots across our firm. The Integrator Extraordinaire leverages all of HKS to extract value for our practice, our clients and our communities. To the Integrator Extraordinaire, 1+1=3.

Federal Government Team

Bree Beal

Brent Wilson

Gene Corrigan

Jay Waters

Jim Whitaker

Kevin Sparks

Sarah Gray

This team of seven individuals lives and breathes the vision set forth by HKS with Limitless Thinking and our mission to support our federal government agencies with design excellence, committed leadership, and superior project management. ​By connecting the dots with the right personnel for the type of work, the Government Team crosses all sectors, service lines, and global offices to deliver outstanding and award-winning projects for our clients. ​From P3 to Design-Build to Integrated Delivery, the Government Team serves as advisers from the pursuit, start, concept to completion, working together with our HKS sectors and teaming partners.

Light Footprint:The Light Footprint team considers the impact of their work on people and the environment. This team’s unwavering pursuit of environmental sustainability inspires all of us to design a greener and more resilient world. 

Chicago Health, University of Wisconsin Eastpark Medical Center Team

Alina Chelaidite

Amber Wirth

Amy Kerkman

Arek Mazurek

Briana Pina

Carlos Barillas

Clint Nash

Colby Dearman 

Courtney Kraus

Craig Rader

Deborah Wingler

Gabby Pearson

Janhvi Jakkal

Josh Boggs

Joyce Sanchez

Kendra Price

Neetika Wahi

Nick Savage

Parsa Aghaei

Rupert Brown

Sandra Christian

Sarah Kleber

Scott Martin

Steve Jacobson

Steve Stroman

Tommy Zakrzewski

Tyrone Loper

Victor Valadez Gonzalez

As an academic institution, University of Wisconsin maintains progressive sustainability commitments and goals. ​At the beginning of this large, 365,000 square foot complex project, the team conducted a visioning session and nature of place process to set goals and align with the client. In all cases, the team has been able to advocate for and deliver upon the promised goals, as well as significantly reducing the project’s carbon footprint.

Starship Enterprise: The Starship Enterprise celebrates an Enterprise team that supports our vision through its limitless thinking. A valued advisor to leadership, this team helps to pioneer a course for us to boldly go where no firm has gone before. ​

Marketing Communications Team

Abby Fine

Amy Eagle

Ann Franks

Ann McGonigle Kifer

Annabeth Mohon

Apryl Dailey

Ashli Hall

Benjamin Robinson

Brenda Vizcarra

Caroline Casper

Chasa Toliver-Leger

Chelsea Watkins

Christie Ehrhart

Claire Sun

Danielle Celmer

Daryl Shields

Ellen Gao

Ellen Giles 

Francesca Rossi

Haley Ellis

Hannah Jaggers

James Frisbie 

Jamie Seessel

Jeanette Dvorak

Jennifer Stewart

Julie Obiala

Karen Funke Ganshirt

Kathleen O’Donnell

Kathryn Ward

Katie Carnival

Katy Dabbert

Kevin Sparks

Krista Corson

Lauren Marshall

Lauri Wilkins

Leah Ray

Leanne Doore

Louis Adams 

Maggie Dingwell

Mandy Flynn

Mary Catherine Smith

Mary Potter

Megan Finn

Megan Quain

Mekenzie McIntire

Michael Weekley 

Molly Mueller

Rachel Benavides

Selwyn Crawford

Shalmir Johnston

Shannon Simon

Shawn Sunderland

Shelley Shaffer

Sriraksha Ragunathan

Stephanie Butzke

​The members of the HKS MarCom studio meld their collective skills to provide unique storytelling opportunities for our people, projects, and firm. ​Through external and internal communications, client outreach, and pursuit development that brings in new work, they innovate, advise and integrate with each practice, region, service line, and enterprise group to support and communicate the firm’s key messages. 

“We could not accomplish our impactful, world-changing work without the brilliance and innovation of our people, and these award winners are leading that charge,” HKS President and CEO Dan Noble said. “I look forward to a bright future for our firm with this next generation of leaders at the helm.”

HKS is so thankful for each of its team members and the impact they have on our colleagues, our clients, and our firm. Congratulations to all of this year’s winners, and here’s to an outstanding 2023.

HKS Celebrates Innovative and Impactful Design With 2022 Top Projects

HKS Celebrates Innovative and Impactful Design With 2022 Top Projects

A former dump site for roofing shingles. An Arizona hospital geared to serve its surrounding Native American population. A sports stadium inspired by a traditional Chinese art form.

Those are among the winners of the 2022 HKS Top Projects Awards. The awards — now in their seventh year — celebrate some of the global design firm’s most innovative and impactful work.

Only HKS projects that opened in 2022, are works in progress, or are current research initiatives are eligible for the Top Projects honors, which recognize projects for exhibiting the highest integration of beauty and performance, pushing the boundaries of innovation and changing the world for the better.

Top Projects are judged for their beauty, proportion, materiality and overall expression, as well as their adherence to the principles for sustainable, resilient and inclusive design supported by the American Institute of Architects’ AIA Framework for Design Excellence.

The AIA Framework is aligned with the values of HKS, said Tony Montalto, Chief Design Officer and a Principal at the firm. Basing the Top Projects program on the principles expressed by that framework helps HKS designers communicate those values and “helps us better focus on what matters most to us,” he said. “We want our projects to impact people’s lives in a positive way.”

“We want our projects to impact people’s lives in a positive way.”

This year’s Top Projects demonstrate a variety of scales, sectors and locales. The four designs selected for honor awards include a neighborhood park to help residents of Dallas’ Floral Farms neighborhood reclaim their community after years of environmental injustice; a medical campus meant to express the culture, spirit and Navajo heritage of Flagstaff, Arizona; and a state-of-the-art venue for international sporting events in Chengdu, China, that references an indigenous artform throughout its design. The fourth winning design is for a major U.S. sporting venue that cannot be publicly identified now because of a confidentiality agreement.

An external jury selected the winning projects from a group of 20 finalists representing each of HKS’ practice areas. A diverse panel of seven distinguished guests with expertise in a range of design and construction fields served as jurists: Amanda Kaleps, Managing Principal, Wolcott Architecture; David Staczek​​​​​​​, ​​​​​​​Principal and Senior Designer, ZGF Architects; Joey Shimoda, Co-founder, Shimoda Design Group; Karen Robichaud, ​​​​​​​Founder, Karen Robichaud Strategy + Communications; Nicholas Holt, Founder, Holt Architects; Thór Jónsson, Global Director of Design and Construction, Warner Bros. Entertainment; and Tonya Bonczak, Director, Strategic Sourcing – Construction, Henry Ford Health.

The judges commended all 20 finalists on the compelling narratives and videos they submitted about their projects. “The videos were extremely helpful” in expressing project goals and outcomes, said Kaleps.

What set the winners apart was “detailed information across the board” that helped judges “connect better with these projects,” Jónsson said. “Specific measures, specific outcomes, specific aspirations” put these projects a step above and made them worth recognition, Holt added.

Presenting work for judging by outside experts “results in more meaningful projects” throughout the firm, throughout the year, Montalto said. “Every time we have a conversation around our work and appreciate other peoples’ opinions, it will lead to better understanding.”

HKS’ Top Projects 2022:

Park for Floral Farms

The Floral Farms neighborhood was founded in South Dallas around the 1950s. The neighborhood is home to some of Dallas’s most important flower nurseries and the origins of the Black Rodeo. Many of the Black and Latino families living in Floral Farms have been there for generations.

Through self-advocacy and partnerships with area nonprofits, the neighbors united to fight successfully for the removal from their neighborhood of Shingle Mountain – an illegal dumping ground of shingles that grew to be over six stories tall. HKS designers partnered with the neighborhood team through the firm’s Citizen HKS public-interest design initiative to help bring life to the neighbors’ dream of having a communal park to heal, gather and play.

The park design honors the neighbors’ vision with safe walking trails and sports fields where people can decompress, a playground and splash pad for children to play and a community garden. A symbolic hill of soft green grass rises to create a reminder of the Floral Farm residents’ slogan: Together, we can move mountains.

Northern Arizona Healthcare Flagstaff, Arizona, Campus

This tertiary medical center and ambulatory care clinic, in design for Northern Arizona Healthcare Medical Group, will anchor a mixed-use development and is intended to serve as a health and wellness destination in Flagstaff. The design team is creating a Health Village that expresses the culture and spirit of the community, including the local Navajo population.

The project considers characteristics of the site – a relatively untouched greenfield of mature Ponderosa Pine trees – in order to connect authentically to both the natural setting and the history and community of Flagstaff.

Health care staffing is a major driver for the building design and operational planning. The proposed service lines and departmental planning are designed to create an environment of excellence that will help attract and retain top talent.

Chengdu Phoenix Hill Sports Park

Chengdu Phoenix Hill Sports Park was recognized as an HKS Top Project in 2018, when the project was in design. Opened in 2022, the sports park is a state-of-the art venue for major global sporting events and a public place where the local community can gather throughout the year.

The design includes a comprehensive master plan to create a sports-centered district with public spaces focused on diverse experiences, a 60,000-seat soccer stadium and a 18,000-seat basketball arena. To give depth and meaning to the work, the design is inspired by Imperial Embroidery, an art form that originated in Chengdu. Nature and the existing river are woven into the design to create a sports park and urban forest that enhance the connection to the surrounding community.

The project is designed with sports as the driver, with a diverse mix of uses (office, hotel, retail, residential, recreation) to create a sustainable community and balance the investment.

Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital

Case Study

Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital The Power of Play as a Healing Force

Hollywood, Florida

The Challenge

Memorial Healthcare System faced a growing demand for specialized services at Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital, a tertiary care facility in Hollywood, Florida, that treats everything from minor childhood illnesses to complex medical conditions.

Memorial Healthcare needed to expand Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital to consolidate pediatric critical care services at the facility. The intricate vertical expansion project involved building four new floors on top of the existing four floors of the fully operational children’s hospital.

The major goals of the expansion project were to co-locate and successfully brand all children’s services in one building; create a unified, landmark facility; add capacity and create a specialty intensive care unit and surgical platform to support pediatric cardiovascular care. Memorial Healthcare also wanted to provide well-appointed respite areas for staff and parents and offer children and their families generous space for laughter and joy.

The Design Solution

The four new floors of Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital join seamlessly to the existing hospital structure. Colorful stair towers and an external frame connect the two building forms. With sensitivity to proportion and scale, the design team fashioned an intervention that blurs the lines of the individual elements and establishes a new whole.

The design of the building’s exterior pays homage to the hospital’s namesake, legendary ballplayer Joe DiMaggio, and references the intricate hand stitching on a baseball. “Stich, weave, mend” became the project team’s refrain, to describe how the project stitches two buildings together, interweaves the operational elements of the hospital and creates an envelope for mending lives.

The hospital’s interior architecture is designed to reduce stress through positive distractions and imaginative spaces. Playful colors and patterns on the four new patient floors express the hospital’s vision that “the power of play is a healing force.”

New features include a Cardiac Comprehensive Area for safer heart transplants, heart failure procedures and other cardiac critical care. In addition, a 7,000-square-foot (650-square-meter) family-centered support-work-play area offers children and families an escape for laughter, joy and energy.

The Design Impact

The vertical bed tower expansion more than doubled the size of Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital, increasing the facility from 180,000 square feet (16,722 square meters) to nearly 400,000 square feet (37,161 square meters) and adding 92 patient beds. The project improves the quality of health care delivery by consolidating the hospital’s critical care services and providing new surgical capabilities, treatments and amenities.

The expansion project ensures Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital can treat the most complex and critical conditions, so that children and families in the region do not have to travel far to seek exceptional specialty medical care.

Project Features

Why Mass Timber Makes Sense – and Saves Dollars

Why Mass Timber Makes Sense – and Saves Dollars

HKS is a firm committed to exploring new building methods and materials, community health, design excellence and sustainability. That’s why we are a major proponent of the advantages of mass timber construction. Even though mass timber buildings represent only a fraction — less than .000189 percent — of the country’s commercial buildings, there are many reasons why this building type is a smart choice.

While some claim mass timber can be as much as 5 percent less expensive than steel and concrete construction, additional cost savings are possible through shorter construction time of prefabricated panels, less labor required for installation and in lower foundation costs due to less structural weight than in the material itself, which can cost as much or slightly more than concrete per square foot.

Mass timber also sequesters CO2 and its manufacture is far less carbon intensive than either concrete or steel. In addition, mass timber has a high strength-to-weight ratio that allows it to perform well during seismic activity, and its fire resistance properties meet or exceed most code requirements.

Mass Timber Buildings Have Health Benefits

There are also considerable health and aesthetic benefits of mass timber construction.

Research shows a link between exposed wood structural elements and greater workplace satisfaction and productivity. Studies also point to a growing body of evidence that natural materials, plants, natural light and access to nature relieve stress, the underlying cause of many forms of physical and mental illness. Variations in color and texture of wood and its tactile qualities can be both healthful and beautiful.

There are also considerable health and aesthetic benefits of mass timber construction.

Health facilities have been wary of mass timber due to the need for infection control. Because mass timber is engineered, its surface is smooth, free from cracks and knots seen in raw wood. It can also be coated creating a surface that can withstand industrial cleaning agents. Unlike other building materials, it also has reduced off-gassing, which translates into better air quality.

HKS Principal Kirk Teske notes the advantages of bundling underfloor air distribution (UFAD) with mass timber.

“Because UFAD doesn’t mix the air in the occupied zones like traditional forced air systems, it’s healthier,” Teske said. “UFAD also allows you to keep the HVAC ducts, electrical conduits, and data cables under the floor leaving the wood structure exposed. Done correctly, you feature the biophilic aspects of the wood structure with only the sprinkler piping and lighting systems remaining as a part of the ceiling structure.”

Considering the post-pandemic state of the commercial office market, Teske believes this combination would provide that sector with a unique niche offering that is especially attractive to corporate users that value environmental sustainability and healthy alternatives for their employees.

The HKS-designed Colorado Research Exchange will feature a 15,960 sf amenity center constructed with mass timber.

The Flexibility of Wood

Our practice spans a multitude of building types from senior living to commercial mixed use, education to hospitality, health to sports and more. Regardless of the building type, our clients are interested in creating spaces that are highly functional, adaptable, affordable and celebrated by users and the community-at-large.

Mass timber products, which come in a variety of sizes and forms, can help fill the bill. Cross Laminated Timber (CLT), is a wood panel system that uses wood stacked crosswise at a 90-degree angle and glued into place. Its strength, dimensional stability and rigidity make it suitable for use in mid-and high-rise construction. Nail-Laminated Timber (NLT), is dimensional lumber placed on edge with individual laminations fastened with nails or screws.

Dowel-Laminated Timber (DLT), panels are stacked like NLT and friction-fit together with hardwood dowels. Its strength comes from friction of the dowels, so it doesn’t use adhesives, nails or screws making it more sustainable, easier to mill and attractive for exposed structures. Glued-Laminated Timber (Glulam), is a structural engineered wood product commonly used for beams and columns. It allows for long spans of exposed framing as well as curvature.

So, Why Aren’t There More Mass Timber Buildings?

While hailing the energy-saving features of mass timber, some skeptics have expressed concern for deforestation due to wood’s increasing popularity.

“Most of the wood used in mass timber comes from trees that can be sustainably managed through responsible forestry practices,” explained Teske. “With smart design and planning and collaboration with knowledgeable manufacturers and contractors, we can mitigate any possible downside to using wood. A 2014 study stated that using wood as a building-material substitute could save 14%-31% of global CO2 emissions and 12%-19% of global fossil fuel consumption. The positives greatly outweigh any negatives.”

“Most of the wood used in mass timber comes from trees that can be sustainably managed through responsible forestry practices,” explained Teske.

Another reason cited for not using mass timber is that it is not as cost effective as its purported to be. According to Ryan Ganey, HKS Structural Engineer who has worked on several mass timber buildings in the states of Washington and Texas, selecting consultants with experience in mass timber construction can help alleviate cost concerns.

“It’s important to work with a contractor who has had some experience in mass timber to recognize the full benefits,” Ganey said. “Some contractors price mass timber higher because they have not had as much experience with it and they want to cover themselves. But as it becomes more popular, contractors better understand the cost of materials and labor and can price more accurately.”

Another possible reason for not using timber is building codes. But in 2019, the International Code Council (ICC) approved a set of proposals that would allow tall wood buildings as part of the 2021 International Building Code (IBC). If design meets these code requirements, buildings can be built up to 18 stories.

But what about fire safety?

In a fire, heavy timber chars on the outside while retaining strength. That slows combustion and allows occupants to evacuate the building. According to David Barber of Arup, in recent fire testing, a seven-inch wall of CLT lasted three hours and six minutes — one hour longer than code requirements.

A few years ago, the only mass timber manufacturers were in Canada or Europe. Today there are about a dozen scattered across the United States making sourcing easier and further reducing the carbon footprint of the material by eliminating importing and shipping. In addition, mass timber can be beautiful and might make a significant difference in the speed of leasing or sales of commercial, mixed-use and residential space.

As of December 2020, 1,060 commercial mass timber projects had been constructed or were in the design phase across the U.S., according to Woodworks — Wood Products Council. Developers, investors and corporations are embracing the idea that mass timber may give them an edge in the leasing or sale of real estate and in recruiting and retaining top talent. We can’t wait to help them achieve their goals.