Building Resilient Futures: 2024 Mid-Atlantic Design Fellowship Applications Open

Building Resilient Futures: 2024 Mid-Atlantic Design Fellowship Applications Open

The 2024 Mid-Atlantic Design Fellowship (MADF) is a student design charrette that seeks to cultivate emerging design talent, excite and stimulate new design approaches and provide service to benefit the communities in which we live. The fellowship aims at fostering transformative architectural solutions for the heart of Virginia’s capital. In the midst of Richmond’s rich historical tapestry, we recognize the pressing need for sustainable urban development that harmonizes with the city’s unique identity. This fellowship extends a warm invitation to visionary designers passionate about crafting a resilient future for Richmond. The challenge is to reimagine urban spaces, integrating sustainable practices that not only enhance the quality of life for its residents but also contribute to the city’s cultural and environmental vitality. Join us in the pursuit of sustainable excellence as we work together to shape a more resilient and vibrant urban fabric for Richmond, where innovative design meets the distinctive charm of a historic city.

Location and Schedule

During three days of collaboration, MADF participants will investigate, iterate, and propose solutions, based on a design prompt. The workshop will begin on Friday, March 8 and culminate on Sunday, March 10. A final review and exhibition will be held Monday, March 11 in the HKS Richmond office. Specific 2024 MADF design challenge information will be presented to students selected to participate in the fellowship one week before the in-person collaboration.

HKS Richmond Address: 2100 E Cary St #100, Richmond, VA 23223

Selection

Typically, 6-10 fellows will be chosen by the design fellowship committee. All applicants will be notified of the status of their application via email within a week following the application deadline. Those selected for the Fellowship must submit a headshot photo and brief bio (up to 200 words) upon notification for inclusion in the welcome packet and website announcement.

Application

MADF is open to college or university undergraduates, graduate students and recent graduates (up to 1 year post graduation) of architecture, interior design, industrial design and other design programs.

The 2024 application period opens December 5 and closes on January 19, 2024.

To apply, please email the following information to [email protected]

Meals will be provided to participants during the four days of the MADF. Hotel and travel arrangements will not be provided, however, and are the responsibility of the Fellows.

The decisions of the design fellowship committee are final. For any inquiries, please email: [email protected]

Bridgett Baker Thomas

Case Studies

Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU’s New Tower: Space to Grow

Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU’s New Tower: Space to Grow

This story first appeared in the 2023 July/August Edition of Medical Construction & Design. It is reprinted here with their permission.

Situated at the gateway to VCU Medical Center’s campus, Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU’s new Children’s Tower is a landmark 16-story, 565,000-square-foot hospital. The building expands the existing Children’s Pavilion, creating a consolidated location for pediatric healthcare — an entire city block dedicated to serving the children of Richmond, the Commonwealth of Virginia and the region.

Adjacent to some of Richmond’s most important and historic civic structures, the design establishes a bold, signature identity. A yellow ribbon articulated along the façade visually stitches the tower and pavilion together, while colorful fins along the building’s exterior highlight the tower’s identity as a children’s hospital. It includes 72 critical and acute care inpatient beds, a Level 01 pediatric trauma center with a rooftop helistop, surgical and imaging suites, and a full range of support services, including a Ronald McDonald House, multi-faith chapel and child-friendly cafeteria.

Designed by children, for children

Early in the project, designers and researchers interviewed members of the CHoR Family Advisory Network to understand and map their care journeys in the current hospital.

CHoR FAN members also participated in design workshops, physical and virtual mock-ups and operational planning alongside care team members. Touchpoints and priorities identified through those engagements formed the basis of design, with each key moment being crafted to define the optimal future state. A community design fair enabled over 100 children and family members to directly engage in the design process, voting on concepts, themes and color palettes.

The tower’s colorful interior architecture and design draw inspiration from local nature and the James River, intrinsically connecting the building with its location and creating an environment that can be both calming and engaging. Animal mascots selected by children and families provide unique themes for each level. An interactive shadow play zone, faceted discovery niches and colorful hanging sculptural elements engage patients and visitors along their journey through the hospital. Panoramic views, access to natural light and artwork in patient care areas and care team spaces have a calming, restorative effect to reduce anxiety and stress, and ultimately, promote healing.

Beacon for well-being

The tower creates an environment intended to provide normalcy and support the developmental needs of children and adolescent patients.

Each patient room is private and provides opportunities for personalization with color-changing lights and dedicated family zones with comfortable accommodations for overnight stays.

Teen lounges provide space for adolescent young adults to interact with one another, read, do homework and play video games; playrooms with colorful activity niches and age-appropriate toys provide play space for younger children. Custom art panels featuring animals and educational facts create ‘seek and find’ opportunities for children and provide a sightly cover to cabinets with personal protective equipment for providers.

Other areas that serve children’s growth needs include an area for hospital teachers to help patients continue learning during their stay and a developmental gym with physical therapy space. An indoor garden and elevated garden overlook offer diverse spaces for respite and activities; a performance room provides event space with live streaming capabilities so children who are not able to attend in person can watch performances from their rooms.

Evidence-based, research-informed

The team incorporated an evidence-based approach throughout the tower’s planning process, aligning design strategies with intended outcomes. Post-occupancy performance evaluations provided insights into design and operational strategies, as well as opportunities to further enhance key elements for continuous improvement. The team also conducted a literature review in collaboration with the University of Virginia to identify a range of drivers transforming pediatric healthcare.

Plan analytics and rapid prototyping helped optimize adjacencies to reduce travel distances for care team members, while maximizing visibility to patient rooms and among peers. Scenario testing in physical and virtual mock-ups enabled methodical testing of details within key spaces. The design team created a full reference guide to use during operational planning and activation that ensured care team members had a grasp of the design intent, strategies and supporting evidence.

Interprofessional care team model

Team spaces are designed to support the interprofessional care model and enhance opportunities for connection and collaboration. Open workstations, quieter team rooms and small team stations offer flexibility for focused or collaborative work. Charting alcoves between patient rooms provide workspace directly adjacent to the point of care for easy monitoring, and bedside computer stations provide immediate access to records within the patient room. Standardized clinical support cores provide adjacency between key spaces to maximize workflow efficiency and minimize distances to patient rooms.

An off-stage care team zone provides additional space for collaboration and adequate space for respite, as do interprofessional team lounges where care team members can enjoy daylight and views. Dedicated relaxation rooms with dimmable lighting, windows, biophilic art and a reclining massage chair on each unit and in the emergency department are available for care team members to step away as needed during their shifts.

Designing for optimization and the ever-changing present

Built on a tight urban site, the tower maximizes the available footprint to provide appropriately sized patient care spaces. To further increase the footprint of the upper levels, the tower is cantilevered 15 feet out from the lower levels, providing adequate space for the 24-bed units. The pediatric trauma center is located on the seventh floor to also take advantage of the larger footprint. It has a trauma bay with two care stations and flexibility to surge to four if needed, as well as 22 universal exam rooms with exceptional views. A 275-foot-long bridge elevated three stories above the ground connects the tower to the medical center, ensuring safe and convenient access to services for care team members and patients.


The tower is designed to support future growth. Patient rooms are all universally designed, enabling future conversion to critical care beds if needed. Shell space within the tower and pavilion will enable the addition of 48 more inpatient beds for a total of 120 beds, as well as the future addition of diagnostic and treatment spaces, research and administrative spaces, and amenity spaces based on future growth needs.

An additional two floors of vertical expansion capacity are included in the structural design of the space above the pavilion, providing even more vertical growth potential.

A true team effort

CHoR and VCU Health leadership, the Richmond community and patients and families served by the Children’s Hospital of Richmond demonstrated exemplary, thoughtful collaboration with the design and construction teams to realize the Children’s Tower. Working hand in hand, this unified team brought its vision of an oasis for healing to life, creating a world-class hospital where generations of children and adolescents will come to heal and grow.

Kate Renner, AIA, EDAC, LSSBG, LEED AP, WELL AP, is a senior medical planner, vice president and health studio practice leader at HKS, located in the firm’s Washington, D.C. office.

Project team

• Architect: HKS Inc.
• Program manager: JLL
• Contractor: DPR
• MEP engineer: BR+A
• Structural engineer: Dunbar
• Structural engineer, parking consultant: WSP
• Low voltage, technology, medical equipment: Introba
• Civil engineer: TRC Companies
• Landscape architect: Reichbauer Studio PLC.
• Lighting design: The Lighting Practice
• Logistics, vertical transportation: St. Onge
• Helideck design: FEC Heliports
• Acoustic engineering: Convergent Technology Design Group
• Wind engineering: RWDI
• Wayfinding, signage: Exit
• Graphic illustrations: Liz Taylor Creative
• Operational, transition planning: HTS, ClarkRN

University Hospitals Ahuja Medical Center Phase 2

Case Study

University Hospitals Ahuja Medical Center Phase 2 Expanding with Flexibility

Beachwood, Ohio

The Challenge

University Hospitals has worked with HKS since 2007 and developed a master plan for its Ahuja Medical Center campus with a flexible growth strategy that allows the public and service spines to expand incrementally, from 144 beds up to 600 beds. Phase 1, completed in 2010, included a 375,000-square-foot full-service hospital. However, the emergency department quickly outgrew its space, and there was a need for sports medicine and dedicated men and women’s services and surgical expansion within the community. In addition, the original master plan called for building growth to expand to the northeast of the site. However, that area had become a place of respite for staff and visitors with a retention pond and walking paths. So as the Phase 2 planning began in 2016, the HKS design team needed to adjust the original master plan from an inpatient focus to also include inpatient and outpatient services and find a new location for the buildings that would nearly double the size of the campus.

The Design Solution

The design team proposed to locate the Phase 2 expansion to northwest of the site adjacent to the existing hospital in two new buildings: a South Pavilion was purposely located 40 feet apart from the existing hospital to create a healing garden and staff respite space, which also allowed the existing hospital windows to remain and the new South Pavilion to have windows as well. The programs included a new expanded emergency, surgery with central sterile processing, materials handling expansion, mother-baby and NICU services and breast health, and a second free standing building to house a one-of-a-kind Sports Medicine Institute, totaling over 300,000 square feet added to the campus. This expansion includes services that promote same-day care, allowing patients to use a state-of-the-art Field House for their Rehababilitation from injuries.

The South Pavilion is located next to the existing hospital to allow adjacencies between the existing imaging and surgery departments. The new emergency department, located on the first floor, was upgraded to Level II Trauma and has an expanded capacity for complex cases. And the surgery department on the second floor added eight operating rooms large enough to accommodate current and future technology. The ambulatory surgery suite including pre- and post-op areas are universally designed so they can be used for any procedure type and flex with with the timing of the day.

The Steve and Loree Potash Women & Newborn Center on the third floor provides a family-focused home for expectant mothers and newborns. The unit is designed to exceed the highest standards for quality, expert care while meeting the unique needs and delivery preferences of each patient and their family. The experience is like walking into a first-class hotel with a high touch, calming, service-oriented process. A special care nursery/Level 3 NICU and breast center are also located here.

Drusinsky Sports Medicine Institute is a clinical care and treatment destination for athletes of all ages and talent levels. It offers comprehensive orthopedic services including performance training, on-site surgical services, and physical therapy, hydrotherapy as well as education and services to keep them at the top of their game. The prominent design feature is a field house with three-story volume and glazing that contains half a football field, a partial basketball court, batting cages, track and field surfaces, ballet bars and weight training. The sports-centric design is carried throughout the facility to serve as an inspiration for recovering athletes to get back out on the field. The Cutler Center for Men on the third floor showcases a new model of care for men, offering a full range of health care services. It is designed like a men’s lounge overlooking the football field to help motivate men to prioritize their health through prevention and wellness care.

The Design Impact

The expanded Ahuja Medical Center campus allows caregivers to efficiently provide quality health care and enhance the patient experience. The hospital embraces a “community of care” philosophy, promoting the welfare of both patients and staff through improved efficiencies, safety, and medical technology. With ample natural light and materials, the hospital brings the outside in and blends with its natural surroundings.

The environmentally responsible design incorporates wetlands, bio swales and native plants, while taking maximum advantage of passive solar energy. The pavilion and sports medicine complex make access to health care services easier and place a focus on wellness.

Project Features


New Patient Tower Signals Hope for Richmond Children and Families

New Patient Tower Signals Hope for Richmond Children and Families

No matter how you approach downtown Richmond, VA, your eye will catch a glimpse of something special. Standing tall among the historic structures of the city center is a shimmering building clad with glass, a bright yellow ribbon and colorful fins: the new Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU (CHoR) Children’s Tower.

During the last several decades, CHoR has established itself as a premiere pediatric care provider, delivering a full range of services for children experiencing common diseases, injuries and complex health conditions. But until now, the hospital’s services and facilities were “fragmented” across the VCU Medical Center Campus.

“When care is fragmented, there are gaps and inequities that get created,” said Jeniece Roane, CHoR’s Vice President of Operations.

In 2016, the outpatient Children’s Pavilion opened and marked a big step forward in CHoR’s goal to consolidate services in a centralized, state-of-the-art environment. The Children’s Tower, which opened this spring, fully accomplishes that goal with 72 critical and acute care inpatient rooms and a Level 1 pediatric trauma center.

“Now, we’ve got a world-class facility that reflects our commitment and makes it very clear for parents and guardians where the best care for children is delivered,” said Roane, who has been a registered nurse for 30 years and has worked with CHoR for 25 years.

The Children’s Tower signifies the importance of investing in children’s health care for a rapidly growing region full of young families. HKS health studio practice leader Leslie Hanson, who served as Principal in Charge of the project, said that the building’s contemporary design also symbolizes an even broader transformation taking place in Richmond.

“This project, along with the Pavilion, is making a significant difference in how people look at the city. The design beckons to the future and sets a trajectory for Richmond as being progressive and forward-thinking,” said Hanson.

An Integrated Team and Process from Day One

To create a building that would signal a hopeful look forward, the design team searched outward and inward, relying on precedent projects, community engagement, research, and innovative thinking to guide them.

HKS, CHoR and VCU Health first began developing plans for new facilities as far back as 2006, when Hanson and health system leaders toured pediatric hospitals across the United States for inspiration. Over the next several years, the project went through multiple iterations before the idea to build the Children’s Pavilion and the Children’s Tower on a combined site emerged as the best solution.

The Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU Children’s Tower and Children’s Pavilion, both designed by HKS, sit on the same site and provide consolidated inpatient and outpatient services.

From the start, an integrated HKS team of architects, interior designers, and researchers sought to design a Children’s Tower that reflected the needs of everyone who would set foot in the building and create an oasis of healing for children. The team worked hand in hand with CHoR and VCU Health leadership, care team members, community partners, and the CHoR Family Advisory Network— which includes young adult and adolescent patients, as well as parents and guardians of younger patients — to accomplish these goals. Engagements included interviews, patient journey mapping, and a community design fair where more than 100 children and their family members gave input on design concepts and color palettes.

“The ability to partner with care team members as well as patients and families really helped ensure we were creating meaningful moments in the design,” said HKS’ Kate Renner, the architect, medical planner and researcher who led the project team. “We talked with them about their experiences in the current facilities and what opportunities we could leverage to create the ideal future state.”

Roane and Renner both said that the team responsible for creating the Children’s Tower felt like a unified group, where everyone worked toward the same goals.

“I felt very supported by the HKS team and that we’ve had a great partner,” Roane said. “They listened to the voices of our team, of our community, our caregivers, and patients and they’ve been able to translate that in a way that really reflects all the pent-up desire for this community to have a true children’s hospital.”

The design team leveraged almost every single health research tool HKS has in its toolbelt, according to Renner, including parametric analysis, intent and evidence documentation, shadowing, behavior mapping, benchmarking, rapid prototyping and FLEXX research. They gleaned insight from post-occupancy performance evaluations at the Children’s Pavilion and extensively studied interprofessional workflows. The team also built full scale mock-ups and tested them with care teams and stakeholders, making adjustments to the design based on feedback.

“We were able to address operational concerns at the same time we were designing the space,” said Renner, who has been working on CHoR projects for nearly a decade. “That level of collaboration resulted in spaces that are truly interprofessional throughout the clinical areas and different care team spaces that function better.”

Cara Timberlake, a registered nurse who works in the emergency department located on the Children’s Tower’s third floor has found that spaces such as an internal waiting room, private consultation rooms, and ample storage areas have all helped create more efficient workflows for cross-team professionals including nurses, physicians, social workers, child life staff members and security personnel.

Timberlake said that the new space fully supports the collaborative and collegial working dynamics she enjoys in her day-to-day work.

“The good relationships between everyone haven’t changed since we’ve moved into the new building and that’s something I really appreciate,” she said.

Care team members have ample space to complete clinical tasks, collaborate with other professionals, and connect with patients and families.

But many things have changed for care team members like Timberlake, who said the Children’s Tower’s staff amenity and support areas are a huge improvement over cramped facilities they used before. Separate locker and break rooms, as well as dedicated recharge and respite spaces called “Watson Rooms,” are conveniently located within each unit.

“I’m right down the hall from my patients and I don’t have to travel far or take travel time to get to there. Because of the location of the Watson Room, I’m able to close my eyes and truly relax a little bit more.” Timberlake said. “It’s a serenity space.”

Design that Promotes Well-being and Discovery

To promote holistic well-being of everyone at CHoR — from care team members to patients and their families — the Children’s Tower’s design includes abundant natural light and biophilic elements.

Many interior architecture and design details throughout the hospital are inspired by the James River, which winds its way through Richmond. The river itself influenced circulation patterns and colorful mascots representing animals native to river habitats bring a unique character identity to each floor.

“When you can have design features that are relatable to the community that they’re in, it softens the experience and makes it more approachable, more like home,” said HKS’ Corrine Kipp, the project’s lead interior designer who attended VCU and lives in Richmond.

The team also made design decisions influenced by the more abstract concept of “shadow play,” which is realized though unique shapes, fun colors, sculptural elements, and niches that offer exciting moments of wonder and interaction for children.

“These elements are more whimsical,” Kipp said. “They are inspired by things children really gravitate towards that adults don’t always necessarily find the beauty in.”

Colorful discovery niches throughout the building give patients and visitors exciting moments of engagement and calming places to take a deep breath

Kipp and Renner said that along with the stimulating shadow play features, elements of choice throughout the building play an important role in the design. Inside their rooms, for example, patients can control color-changing lights and TVs that offer variety of entertainment options when they need rest or treatment.

“Allowing a child to feel like they have some choice or some small amount of control, you can see stress melt away,” said Kipp, noting that being the mother of a young child helped her make informed decisions throughout the design process. “They feel trusted to do things they think are right for them, and that makes them feel safer and more at ease.”

Elements of choice also help support children’s long-term holistic development across the full duration of what can be lengthy hospital stays, Renner said. Outside of their rooms, patients have easy access to areas where they can be themselves including multiple play spaces, a teen lounge, a developmental gym, and a performance room — all of which contribute to developmental growth and provide a sense of normalcy during difficult times.

Because trying to feel “normal” can be just as hard for family members as it is for children in a hospital setting, the Children’s Tower also has numerous spaces that suit the day-to-day needs of parents and guardians. The family gym, cafeteria, Ronald McDonald House Charities support spaces and services, and personal quiet rooms where adults can take a phone call, close their eyes, or get some work done, all aid their ability to focus on taking care of their kids while not neglecting their own needs.

Further fostering a cohesive and comfortable experience, the team also created connections between the exterior and interior designs. The colorful fins on the glass façade, inspired by CHoR’s brand, take the form of playful hanging sculptures inside and influenced art and furniture selections. And the yellow ribbon that visually unifies the Pavilion and Children’s Tower outside extends indoors where the color and motif indicate touchpoints and vertical transportation, making the hospital easier to navigate.

Privacy and Comfort for Patients, a Bright Future for Richmond

Perhaps the most impactful decision the CHoR and HKS teams made when planning the Children’s Tower was making every patient room private. The hospital’s prior facilities included semi-private rooms where multiple families would have to navigate care and stressful circumstances while cohabitating — a challenge for patients, families and care teams alike.

“When care team members have to start out their care giving experience apologizing for the room and the fact that you have a roommate, it taints the experience,” said Roane, who oversees the people and teams responsible for providing care to patients.

Every patient room in the Children’s Tower is private, and comes with flexible furniture arrangements for families and customizable lighting.

Private rooms at the Children’s Tower include a single patient bed, large windows overlooking Richmond and the James River, and flexible furniture arrangements for families to comfortably socialize, eat and spend the night as needed. Timberlake, Renner, Roane and Kipp all said that the private rooms and amenities within them offer a completely different, much more positive hospital experience for patients and care team members as well as guardians, parents, and siblings.

“Private rooms help families still feel like families. They don’t have to worry about what the patients and families next to them are doing — they can be their own family unit within a space that feels safe and a little bit more familiar,” Kipp said.

Incorporating private rooms is just one of many design choices that has a hand in helping CHoR deliver on its vision to be a nationally leading children’s health care provider and education and research institution.

On a larger scale, the Children’s Tower and the Children’s Pavilion that came before it both reflect how partnerships like the one between HKS and VCU Health can positively impact peoples’ lives. Roane said the collaborative process of designing, building, and opening the Children’s Tower has galvanized CHoR’s commitment to attract and retain team members that can provide the best care for young people so Richmond will have the brightest future possible.

“I’ve been careful to make sure we don’t rest on our laurels,” Roane said. “Yes, we have the building, and now we have even more responsibility to deliver on our brand promise for children and families.”

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.

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

Case Study

Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU Children’s Tower A Hospital Tower that Offers Children and Families a Chance to Heal, Discover, and Grow

Richmond, Virginia, USA

The Challenge

Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU (CHoR) is dedicated to improving children’s health in the Richmond community. Driven by a passion to put children first, the building expands the existing Children’s Pavilion, creating a consolidated location for pediatric healthcare — an entire city block dedicated to serving the children of Richmond, the Commonwealth of Virginia and the region. The project’s goals included establishing a destination for health and well-being for children of any age, creating a clinical care environment that enhances interprofessional team collaboration, and engaging care team members, patients, families, and the community throughout the design process.

The Design Solution

The team first studied operations at the existing Main Hospital’s seventh floor pediatric unit, shadowing staff throughout their day to understand what worked and what didn’t. An ideal future state was developed based on these findings.

Patients and family members were invited to visioning sessions to hear about their challenges when visiting the hospital. A community design fair engaged more than 100 children and family members in the design process, with an opportunity to vote on concepts, themes and color palettes.

As the building and its departments began to take shape, the project team referred to evidence-based design concepts and processes to inform decision making. The team conducted a literature review in collaboration with the University of Virginia to identify a range of drivers that are transforming pediatric healthcare. The team also created a series of physical and virtual mock-ups so staff could experience and test department and room layouts to help determine the best configuration to support future operational workflows.

Plan analytics and rapid prototyping helped designers optimize adjacencies to reduce travel distances for care team members, while maximizing visibility to patient rooms and among peers. The design team created a full reference guide to use during operational planning and activation that ensured care team members had a grasp of the design intent, strategies and supporting evidence.

Built on a tight urban site, the tower maximizes the available footprint by expanding the upper levels 15 feet wider than the lower levels in three directions. Two additional floors of vertical expansion capacity are included in the structural design of the space above the Pavilion, providing even more growth potential.

The Tower’s colorful interior architecture draw inspiration from the James River and its diverse habitats. Each level features an animal mascot native to the river along with a color theme for improved wayfinding. An interactive shadow play zone, discovery boxes and colorful local artwork add to the playful experience and help reduce the anxiety of a hospital visit.

The Design Impact

The Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU Children’s tower is a success story 30 years in the making. ChoR and VCU Health leadership, staff, and the patients and families they serve came together to develop an oasis for healing. Like the children it cares for, it is designed for future growth.

The building’s private, standardized universal patient rooms offer flexibility for various levels of care and staffing utilization. Rooms are larger to accommodate families and future technologies. Soft space, shell space and future vertical expansion capacity provide ChoR with the ability to grow and adapt to the ever-changing healthcare environment. Dedicated spaces for care team members, including respite rooms, off-stage breakrooms with daylight and views, and workplace choice, ensure that the health and wellbeing of those providing care is a top priority.

Since opening, the new hospital has changed how kids and adolescent young adults experience healthcare in the Richmond region. The whole building and its diverse spaces were designed to suit their needs and desires, making the experience of going to the hospital more comfortable. Post-occupancy performance evaluations will provide insights into design and operational strategies, as well as opportunities to further enhance key elements for continuous improvement, helping the ChoR team continue their legacy of providing world-class care in a place where generations of children and adolescents will come to heal and grow.

Project Features

Awards


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

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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.

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.

How First-Class Collegiate Sports Facilities Fuel Winning Teams

How First-Class Collegiate Sports Facilities Fuel Winning Teams

During his 44-year career at Texas Christian University (TCU), T. Ross Bailey oversaw $650 million in construction of athletic facilities at the Fort Worth university. Those shiny new structures, Bailey said, have helped propel the Horned Frogs’ recent on-field success, including this year with the school’s first trip to the College Football Playoffs.

“As we saw facilities grow, we’ve seen athletics grow, whether it be conference football championships, Bowl games, or four straight trips to the College World Series,” said Bailey, retired Senior Associate Director of Athletics at TCU. “That growth of success on the fields, on the courts, in the arena, goes right along with the growth of athletic facilities.”

For college athletics leaders such as Bailey, who still works with TCU Athletics as a consultant, there is little doubt in their minds that first-class facilities translate into victories and championships. They help boost recruiting, practice and game performance, and attracting financial contributions from alumni and other supporters.

HKS has a long history of working with colleges and universities across the country to design and develop top-notch stadiums, arenas, natatoriums and other athletic facilities. In addition to the firm’s partnership with Bailey and TCU, it has ongoing projects at the Universities of Mississippi, Georgia, Western Kentucky, the Air Force Academy and several others.

“Spaces help define us,” said Meggie Meidlinger, an HKS Project Architect. “For collegiate athletes, if you are in a space centered around excellence – excellence of training, excellence of performance, excellence in education, excellence in team camaraderie and support for your school, then that just pushes you out of the gate and onto the field for better player performance.”

Meidlinger, a pitcher on the USA Women’s National Baseball Team, is one of several current and former athletes at HKS who design athletic facilities. She noted that one key to athletic success is to practice like you play. “How you perform on the field is a grand summary of all the little things you do throughout your day to train and practice for the main event,” she said.

Rise to Prominence

Back at TCU, the television broadcast of the team’s last home game of the seasonat the school’s 50,000-seat Amon G. Carter Stadium reached a reported 4.34 million viewers. Recent updates at the historic stadium are the result of a nearly 15-year, multiphase project by the university and HKS to revitalize TCU’s practice and game environments.

“It’s been a really wonderful project, because it coincided with TCU football’s rise to real prominence,” said David Skaggs, HKS Architect and Principal.

Originally a member of the now-defunct Southwest Conference, TCU was invited to join the Big 12 Conference in 2012. “Facilities development was part of why the Big 12 was interested in TCU,” said Bailey. Not only were the university’s sports programs investing in new facilities, “they were filling them,” he said.

But long before those stadium or arena seats are filled with adoring fans, the athletes, coaches, and staff must put in hours of planning, preparation and perseverance. HKS designers are a big part of those pre-game, out-of-the-spotlight processes as well.

Fred Ortiz, Global Practice Director of HKS’ Sports & Entertainment practice and a Principal at the firm, said well-designed facilities help athletes to better prepare, perform and recover.

“There’s a flow to that,” said Ortiz, a former football player at the University of Texas at Arlington. Properly laying out spaces for activities like nourishment, weight training and hydrotherapy “creates those touchpoints that allow the student-athletes and the coaching staff to work in a very efficient and effective way,” he said.

Efficiency is incredibly important for collegiate athletic programs, said Mike Drye, Director of HKS’ Richmond, Virginia, office and a Principal at the firm. The NCAA limits student-athletes’ daily and weekly participation in what the association terms “countable athletically related activities” (CARA), so an athlete’s every minute is valuable.

Drye noted that one advantage of indoor facilities is that they allow teams to avoid weather delays during practices. Virginia Tech Beamer-Lawson Indoor Practice Facility, designed by HKS, and Virginia Military Institute Indoor Training Facility, designed by HKS in association with Richmond-based Commonwealth Architects, are two such examples.

“You see a lightning strike, you don’t have to go into your locker room and wait for it to pass. You just move practice into the indoor facility and keep practicing, so you lose five minutes, not 20,” Drye said.

Indoor training facilities provide collegiate sports teams a range of training opportunities. Pictured: Virginia Military Institute Corps Physical Training Facility in Lexington, VA

Supporting the Whole Athlete

In addition, the more time that streamlined facility designs can give back to a player, the more a sports program is “enhancing the whole person: mind, body, spirit,” said Ortiz.

HKS embarked on a research project in 2021 to learn more about leveraging the built environment to enhance athletic performance, recovery and well-being. An interdisciplinary team including experts from HKS’ Sports & Entertainment and Health practices, and the firm’s Advisory Services group, identified five characteristics of facilities designed support the whole athlete. Such facilities are:

College “athletes are on all the time,” said Drye, a member of the research team. “They finish practice and they run back to class. Having spaces that prioritize the entire health and well-being of athletes…is really important.”

This approach to facility design can include details as fine as installing circadian lighting, which mimics the progression of sunlight throughout the day. Circadian lighting is designed to help regulate individuals’ sleep/wake cycles, so they rest better at night and are more alert during the day – an especially useful feature when players return to a facility late at night from an away game or meet.

Spaces for studying, tutoring, socializing or receiving mental health care “speak to the well-being of athletes on many levels,” Skaggs said. “Athletic departments realize they need to provide these kinds of environments to attract the top-flight student-athletes to their programs.”

Energy and Excitement

Collegiate sports facilities can also impact athletic performance by delivering an extraordinary experience for alumni and other fans.

“When you have a stadium that’s jam packed and it’s loud, that just hypes you up more for your playing experience,” said Meidlinger.

“You want to play for any crowd with energy and excitement,” added Michelle Stevenson, HKS Senior Project Architect and Principal. Stevenson is a former Rice University soccer player who is part of the HKS effort to design a new women’s soccer stadium at the University of Mississippi.

Amon G. Carter Stadium at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth is designed to elevate the fan experience.

She noted that there are several details involved in designing spaces for an elevated fan experience, including lighting, acoustics, restrooms, food service (including local favorites), site lines that work for a variety of events, patron flow and life safety measures.

“These are table stakes,” when it comes to designing collegiate sports facilities, Stevenson said, adding that those facilities must also be “steeped in the tradition of the school.”

This requires an understanding on the part of the design team of, for example, the traditional location of the student section or pep band. Seating can then be designed to ensure that other fans’ views aren’t obstructed by tubas or students who stand and cheer throughout the game.

Designing Beyond Gameday

Well-designed facilities also tailor the game-day experience for different types of fans.

“It’s not all seats,” says Meidlinger. For example, she said that HKS’ latest baseball stadium designs include areas for fans down the left field line, standing room only areas near the home and visitors’ bullpens, and priority seating.

“You’re bringing in everyone who wants to see a game – not just one group of people, but those who want to sit and watch every inning, those who want to talk and hang out and those who want to be loud and annoy the visiting team,” said Meidlinger, who is part of the design team working on a new baseball stadium for the University of Georgia.

And exceptional fan experiences reverberate beyond gameday.

“Stadiums today stand for something, have a personality and become iconic designs for players and fans,” said Meena Krenek, HKS’s Global Practice Director of Venues Interiors and a Principal at the firm. “We are always expressing a team’s brand and emotion in unique ways, so fans can find greater connection to the team and their values,” she said.

“Stadiums today stand for something, have a personality and become iconic designs for players and fans.”

Collegiate athletic facilities enhance a community by serving as venues for collective experiences, both for the campus and the local community around it. Bailey noted that as TCU sports programs rose in prominence, the school’s enrollment also increased.

“And I’ll tell you, man, all of that helps Fort Worth grow,” Bailey said, adding that with Amon G. Carter Stadium, the goal was “not just to build another football stadium. Our goal was to build a destination spot for our fans and alumni.”

Penn State Health Lancaster Medical Center

Case Study

Penn State Health Lancaster Medical Center Accessible Health Care Focused on the Community

Lancaster, PA, USA

The Challenge

One of Penn State Health’s missions is to provide quality health care close to home for the people of central Pennsylvania. Lancaster County is home to a large Amish community as well as a diverse mix of businesses. The residents needed a health campus that is rooted in the local community, that highlighted the culturally important ideas of agrarian heritage, craft and tradition. Penn State Health set out to develop a new campus on former farmland that integrated the latest technologies and showcased its brand while being flexible to adapt to future community needs – and do it quickly.

The Design Solution

Penn State Lancaster Medical Center design draws from two main sources of inspiration: the City of Lancaster, with both modern and historic masonry architecture, and the surrounding farmland. The campus is accessible both by automobile and horse and buggy, with a shaded spot in the parking lot where water is available for horses. The green plaza connecting the hospital, medical office building and dining areas provides a place for respite. A pedestrian path circling the campus offers access to rehabilitated wetlands, which were formerly buried along the back edge of private farmland.

The interiors reflect a clean, modern design that represents the humble agrarian concept. Natural finishes highlighted with nature-inspired graphics and artwork demonstrates its connection to the outdoors. Abundant natural light pours into the multilevel circulation concourse that connects public areas for easy navigation through the hospital.

The project team used lean design and construction principles with an integrated project delivery approach to build quickly and stay within budget constraints. The team made sure to address resiliency, including the infrastructure required for pandemic screening equipment and patient units that can flex into infection control areas if required.

An important component of the hospital is the women’s services department. The LDR rooms feature spa lighting with soothing, acoustically sensitive finishes and large windows overlooking the surrounding farmland. A flexible LDR/postpartum room includes an enlarged family zone to accommodate larger family sizes common to the region. A continuous circulation corridor in the department provides a walking path for mothers in labor.

The Design Impact

From a cornfield to a hospital campus in just 36 months, Penn State Health Lancaster Hospital was delivered two months ahead of schedule and under budget.

The sleek design and optimized spaces helped the hospital recruit high-quality, experienced staff, even though it is in a remote area. Health care workers are eager to serve at this facility, which has created a new culture of patient care and positive outcomes.

Sitting on 27 acres of land, the modest-sized campus has room to grow. Penn State Health envisions doctors’ offices nearby in the future, and the hospital contains a shelled floor for an additional 24 beds.

Project Features


Kaiser Permanente Caton Hill Medical Center

Case Study

Kaiser Permanente Caton Hill Medical Center A Total Health Environment

Woodbridge, VA, USA

The Challenge

The Caton Hill Medical Center embodies Kaiser Permanente’s mission to provide high-quality, affordable health care and wellness services to its members and the communities it serves. The design includes features of Kaiser Permanente’s next generation of facilities to enhance the member experience, maximize flexibility and improve facility efficiencies, operational workflow, and supportive technology.

The Design Solution

The new Caton Hill Medical Center serves as a “bridge to wellness” for the Woodbridge community and surrounding area by providing a healthy building filled with natural light and continuous connections to nature. The open and efficiently planned interiors offer clear sight lines to pleasant views of selectively preserved woodlands and green roofs. The “bridge to wellness” continues with a community health park that promotes active living. The park includes thoughtfully designed walking trails, exercise stations, meditative gardens and areas of respite that align with Kaiser Permanente’s Thrive campaign promoting long, healthy, thriving lives.

Clear and welcoming sight lines are thoughtfully designed as part of the entry experience from the garage and the member drop off. As the journey progresses inward, members and staff will find a variety of gathering areas offering an assortment of seating.

Community rooms are centrally located adjacent to a meditation garden, providing a continued connection to nature. A strategically positioned ‘Thrive’ stair balanced with a backlit graphic art wall serves as a central connection within an active patient environment and connects directly to the Health Park.

The Integrated Project Delivery and pre-established Kaiser Permanente Enterprise Facility Design Standards were used to foster enhanced collaboration and efficiency of delivery throughout the design process. The facility also features virtual visit space in a flexible and highly technology-enabled environment. It provides easy access and interface between members and staff by supporting multiple care delivery options.

The Design Impact

Modular clinic pods and prefabricated building components including structural frame connections, unitized building enclosures, and interior demountable partitions work together to provide maximum efficiency of planning, design, and construction. The new facility provides the Woodbridge community with a broad range of health care services, including advanced urgent care and ambulatory surgery center all in one, easily accessible location.

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.