HKS Wins ICONIC AWARD 2023 for Chongqing Luneng City Phase III

HKS Wins ICONIC AWARD 2023 for Chongqing Luneng City Phase III

Global design firm HKS has won an ICONIC AWARD 2023: Innovative Architecture for concept in urban planning for Chongqing Luneng City Phase III in Chongqing, China.

Annually awarded by the German Design Council, the ICONIC AWARDS: Innovative Architecture celebrate a variety of design work, and winners exemplify the interplay of design disciplines and factors such as social compatibility, accessibility, sustainability and overall concept.

The award is decided by a jury of professionals from the architecture, interior design, design and brand communications fields. This year’s jury included Ben Van Berkel (UNStudio, Amsterdam), Fabian Peters (BAUMEISTER, Munich), Virginia Lung (One Plus Partnership, Hong Kong), Lone Wiggers (C. F. Møller Architects, Aarhus) and Wei Wu (gmp International GmbH).  

“This prestigious international design award recognizes HKS’ creative design solution for an extremely complicated project site,” said Bin Cao, Managing Director of East Asia at HKS.  

“This prestigious international design award recognizes HKS’ creative design solution for an extremely complicated project site.”

Set for completion in 2025, Chongqing Luneng Phase III will be a 410,000-square-meter (4,413,200-square-foot) mixed-use, transit-oriented development over three city blocks in the heart of Chongqing. The project uses a multi-first level elevation system to connect each of the development’s three blocks by a streamlined shopping route, as the site has a 27-meter (89-foot) height difference across 520 meters (1,700 feet). 

The project will be built over two subway lines and a bus terminal and is next to Chongqing’s expansive Central Park, seamlessly establishing itself as a complementary consumer destination to the park and connecting the development to more of the city by transit.  

“The design team not only displayed their amazing skill and knowledge in efficiently integrating the public transit system into a large-scale development program,” Cao said. “But also in creating a vibrant place with trendy retail and lifestyle options, making it one of the most popular commercial centers in the city.” 

Wuxi Golden Bay Industrial Park Southern Starting Zone

Case Study

Wuxi Golden Bay Industrial Park Southern Starting Zone Ancient Cultural Heritage and Future Intelligence Find a Way to Coexist

Wuxi, China

The Challenge

The challenge faced in the design of the Golden Bay Industrial Park in Wuxi is to create a modern and vibrant urban industrial complex that attracts high-tech enterprises while preserving the city’s cultural heritage and emphasizing green and sustainable development. The goal is to integrate the old city with the new development, promote the fusion of industry and urban life, and explore innovative office spaces that foster collaboration and interaction.

The Design Solution

There are three key trends in the modern workplace: smart office, iconic office, and green office. The campus is divided into three main blocks, each with its own pleasant courtyard space, seamlessly linked by bridges and walkways. The centerpiece of the HKS-led design is a 120-meter iconic tower on Block A, facing the Jin Kui Park and serving as a gateway to the city. The park incorporates greenery and waterfront landscapes into the courtyards, creating a harmonious blend of nature and industry.

The concept of “金匮云盒” (Golden Treasury Cloud Box) is inspired by the city’s cultural heritage and envisioned a future with intelligent technology, green ecology, and cultural display. The design aims to provide diverse office spaces catering to different types of businesses and encourage interaction through public open spaces. The rooftop “City Living Room” offered a panoramic view of the Jin Kui Park, becoming a landmark space for the community.

The Design Impact

The design of the project is expected to have significant impacts on the development of the Wuxi Economic Development District. By promoting a mix of smart, iconic, and green workplace, the campus can attract a wide range of enterprises, from large corporations to innovative startups, fostering a dynamic and vibrant business environment. The integration of the old city with the new development and the emphasis on low-carbon principles demonstrate a commitment to sustainable urban growth. The project’ focus on energy-efficient technologies, green materials, and shared resources contributes to reducing carbon emissions and promoting environmental responsibility.

Project Features

HKS Wins Four Awards at CHCC2023 Conference in China

HKS Wins Four Awards at CHCC2023 Conference in China

HKS, a prominent player in the Chinese hospital design construction arena, won four major awards and a certificate recently at the 24th China Hospital Construction Conference and International Exhibition on Hospital Construction, Equipment, and Management (CHCC2023) in Chengdu, Sichuan Province. The Conference is recognized as the largest and most cutting-edge industry event in China’s hospital design and construction industry.

成都,中国 — 2023年6月19日,由筑医台、国药励展、中国医学装备协会医院建筑与装备分会、筑而瑞联合多家权威机构共同举办的“第二十四届全国医院建设大会暨国际医院建设、装备及管理展览会”(简称 CHCC2023)在四川·成都中国西部国际博览城圆满落幕。中国医院建设领域的“荣耀殿堂”——2023年CHCC中国医院建设奖颁奖典礼于6月16日在四川·成都中国西部国际博览城隆重召开。CHCC中国医院建设奖创立于2013年,是我国医院建设行业的媒体平台与学术机构联合授予中国医院建设者的行业荣誉

HKS won for its designs of West China Cancer Center and Heavy Ion and Proton Center and Seventh Affiliated Hospital, Sun Yat-Sen University (Phase II were honored with a “China’s Top Ten Hospital Design.” Additionally, Hefei BOE Hospital won a  “China Medical Architecture User Experience Award,” while Texas Health Hospital Frisco and UT Southwestern Medical Center Frisco won a “International Excellent Design Award for Healthcare Facilities.” West Electric group hospital outpatient clinic and inpatient building received a top interior design citation.


In addition to the awards ceremony, HKS was also heavily involved in presenting during the Conference, showcasing its influence in the field, facilitating fruitful exchanges and leading discussions with numerous industry peers during the event, which was held June 17-19.


Three leaders from HKS made notable contributions during the forums. Alex Wang, HKS Greater China Healthcare Director, Partner, delivered thought-provoking speeches on “Modern Prefabricated and Steel Structure Green Hospital” and “US-China Hospital Design.”

HKS大中华区医疗总监Alex Wang(王翔)发表演讲《国外钢结构装配式医疗建筑设计实践》和《中美医院建筑设计的个性与融合》。Alex通过诸多HKS在国外的最新案例,分享HKS在设计和技术层面的探索与实践,并探讨中国医院与美国医院在未来求同存异、共同发展的诸多可能性。

Hao-Che Hsu, HKS Shanghai Office’s Director of Medical Planning and principle, captivated the audience with his presentations on “High-Quality International Hospital Architecture and Spatial Environment Design,” and “Trends and Case Studies of Cancer Hospital Design in China and the United States.”


And Haizhen Song, HKS Shanghai Office’s Senior Medical Planner and Vice President, shared valuable insights through her speeches on “System Master Planning case studies in the United States” and “Health Care Project Pre-Design System and the Trend.” The engaging discussions shed light on the contrasting approaches and potential areas of collaboration between the health care systems of China and the United States.


OCT Nanjing Yangtze Riverfront Mixed-Use 

Case Study

OCT Nanjing Yangtze Riverfront Mixed-Use  Yangtze River Mixed-Use Development Fuses the New with the Old

Nanjing, China

The Challenge

The project is located in Nanjing, a magnificent and prominent ancient capital with a modern cityscape spanning both sides of the Yangtze River. The entire project covers an area of nearly 500,000 square meters (5.38 million square feet), with a total development volume of over one million square meters (10.76 million square feet) above ground. Along the approximately 1.8-kilometer (1.1-mile) riverbank, the client hopes to create a typical model of integrating commerce and cultural tourism destination to meet the demands of high-end consumption in the region, attract visitors from outside the area, and initiate a new urban commercial experience. 

The client aims to build a waterfront urban life hub that includes various formats such as stand-alone headquarters office buildings, comprehensive commercial spaces, outdoor and indoor gardens, boutique apartments, upscale hotels and cultural and creative spaces. The challenge for the designers is to satisfy a high level of diversity and complexity in functional requirements while also creating a cultural and tourism landmark. In addition, the project called for providing a high-quality living space that aligns with the city’s character. 

The Design Solution

The overall planning of the project aims to create a public space for leisure and cultural tourism. The specific functional spaces are also designed to be open, emphasizing the architectural aesthetics and public accessibility. As a result, the project’s overall appearance resembles an “urban forest.” The design process of the buildings is akin to ancient garden-making, incorporating both the worldly and pure aspects. 

The project is a forward-looking exploration of future community public and attractive spaces, and landscape-oriented areas. Notable planning highlights include a clear single circulation system with multiple entrances, blurred boundaries between buildings and landscapes to emphasize the integration of design and commerce, themed plaza spaces to enhance pedestrian flow, and a landscape-oriented functional layout to maximize the added value of landscape-dependent spaces. This creates a rhythmic urban skyline and highlights the central axis space with the space needle as its core. As one moves from the riverbank toward the inland, the building density gradually increases, and the landscape progressively blends in. 

The tallest and largest space capsule Ferris wheel in China — and the first domestic immersive experience space capsule Ferris wheel with a height of 139 meters (456 feet)— is located on the main axis of the site, serving as the focal landmark of the sprawling project. The shopping center on Block C creates a fascinating spatial experience, dedicated to building an extra-large ecological and artistic shopping center with an immersive experience. Inspired by ancient paper folding fans, the building uses different materials to create multiple diamond facets on the facades and entrance canopies, using light to create a splendid effect and a fashionable showcase. The sculptural form of the entire podium building attracts the attention of passersby from various angles. Its twisting and turning contours along the river create maximized viewing interfaces and multi-level terraces. The connected terraces form rows of shops and restaurants, resulting in a vibrant and dynamic functional space, where various business formats intersect, mimicking the flow of the adjacent waterfront. 

The Design Impact

The project combines diverse urban functions to bring convenience and a high-quality living environment to the local area. The design not only serves as a large-scale urban development but also embodies the cultural vitality of Nanjing, the aesthetic of riverside living and the vision for urban planning. Inspired by the   city’s spirit, the project blends commerce, culture and tourism to create a vibrant space that enriches the city’s fabric and enhances the overall urban experience. It is more than just a real estate venture; it reflects the city’s essence and aspirations. 

Project Features

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.

Getting to a Brain Healthy Workplace

Getting to a Brain Healthy Workplace

Download Full Report

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

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

Dan Noble, HKS President and CEO

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

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

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

1. The brain can be trained.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s Next?

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

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

HKS 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.

What is Brain Health and Why Does it Matter?

What is Brain Health and Why Does it Matter?

As a society, when it comes to our mental health, no matter which way we look at it and regardless of how much we spend on it, WE ARE NOT WELL. 

The World Health Organization (WHO) is clear about the increasing importance mental health plays in achieving global development goals, and one of the United Nation’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals calls it out as a specific target. Depression is one of the leading causes of disability, further highlighting the inseparable link between the mental and physical components of our lives. Suicide is the fourth-leading cause of death among 15-29-year-olds. People with severe mental health conditions die prematurely—as much as two decades early—due to preventable physical conditions.

Well, our brain needs our attention now – not just in terms of mindfulness and stress reduction, but also in terms of playfulness, purposeful engagement and creativity. Design can also help alleviate the problem by giving us agency and control over our environments.

In our society we often invest in physical fitness through a healthy diet and exercise to ward off chronic diseases. Similarly, cognitive fitness and brain healthy practices can block mental health challenges, depression, and dementia. Moreover, new research is emerging that says that there is a close link between our brain health and our cardiovascular health. Our bodies and our brains are connected, but our brain—that physical, pulsating, powerful organ—has been ignored.

We don’t prioritize our mental health and well-being because stigma stands squarely in our way. But that is beginning to change, starting with the phrase, “Brain Health” itself. Numerous campaigns have increasingly started to use the term. For example, in 2021, the Yale School of Medicine started the Brain Health Bootcamp focused on “replacing the term ‘mental health’ with ‘brain health’ to empathize how physical and treatable these conditions are and to destigmatize mental health.”

In some ways, brain health is to mental illness, as physical fitness is to disease. As we struggle to address societal concerns around isolation, loneliness, depression, addiction etc., we have to think hard about keeping our brain healthy, active, and fit. WHO now has an entire section dedicated to brain health described as follows: 

Brain Health is an emerging and growing concept that encompasses neural development, plasticity, functioning, and recovery across the life course. Good brain health is a state in which every individual can realize their own abilities and optimize their cognitive, emotional, psychological, and behavioral functioning to cope with life situations. Numerous interconnected social and biological determinants (incl. genetics) play a role in brain development and brain health from pre-conception through the end of life. These determinants influence the way our brains develop, adapt and respond to stress and adversity, giving way to strategies for both promotion and prevention across the life course.

Our brain needs our attention now in terms of mindfulness and stress reduction, but also in terms of playfulness, purposeful engagement and creativity. How can design help?

Research shows that creativity and play directly help neuroplasticity, as do positive associations. Reframing the stressors in our life to opportunities to problem solve is a simple example of how you can take a mental health challenge and turn it into a brain health enabler.

Can design help with this? Can design give us more agency and control over our environments, so we are not passive receivers of stimuli but active transformers? What is the role of place, process, and technology in exercising brain health? In this new age of computational design and digital/ physical convergence, what if we did not see the digital world as the hotch-potch of distractions that it is, but rather an opportunity to create responsive environments that enrich our lives?

Our work with the Center for Brain Health is teaching us a lot about going back to this ultimate Lego block of the human experience – the human brain. We’re taking this as an opportunity to go through brain health training and exercise brain health strategies in our own practice with the goal to explore how this impacts our experience, creativity, and burnout. Using the talent of our built environment professionals, we’ve also translated these brain health strategies into our own place, process/policy, and technology and started to pilot test some of these spaces and applications with the intention to learn, evolve, and ultimately share with clients. Environments that support brain health have to be enriched environments that meet our physical, sensory, social, and cognitive needs.

Think about why we feel good at a kitchen table, or at a playground, or on a hike. All of these environments have a strong sensory component that give us something to do physically, something to creatively engage with, and something to connect with others socially. One of our living lab offices is creating a haven space, social and collegial hubs, and an intellectual playground and idea theater—some concepts developed from our future of work research—to activate brain health in the workplace. The pilot study will give us greater insight on what design affordances promote and impact brain health.

Building upon the foundation of the human brain, we’re designing eco-systems that help the brain thrive. Because when the brain thrives, so does the body — and so does society.

HKS Expands Experiential Branding Practice Led by Industry Veteran Tony LaPorte

HKS Expands Experiential Branding Practice Led by Industry Veteran Tony LaPorte

Global design leader HKS is expanding the firm’s Experiential Branding practice, led by industry veteran Tony LaPorte.

In a career that has spanned more than 20 years, LaPorte has worked with organizations such as Capital One, Grant Thornton and Kellogg’s to help strengthen their brands.

Experiential Branding uses the built environment to convey a brand’s culture and values.

“Experiential Branding is the intersection of Place and Brand. We’re enabling brands to leverage critical spaces to strategic advantage,” LaPorte said. “This can improve talent recruitment, drive greater sales and elevate employee engagement. It’s all about creating a sense of identity and connection.”  

By layering architectural and interior design elements, organizations can allow the story of their brand to unfold throughout office environments, sales centers, hospitals and universities; this practice can reinforce the brand and improve the experience of workers, guests, patients, students or others who inhabit a space, LaPorte said.

“(Experiential Branding) projects are co-created by architects and interior designers, with the client as a partner throughout the design process,” said Kate Davis, Global Practice Director, Commercial Interiors, HKS. “We’re cultivating a deeper expression of their brand, allowing clients to be more connected to their brand and its value.”

HKS’ Experiential Branding practice can also help place-makers communicate their brands. Real estate developers, restauranteurs and start-up companies are among those who will benefit from brand strategy, brand identity and brand design services.

We’re cultivating a deeper expression of their brand, allowing clients to be more connected to their brand and its value.

HKS’ Experiential Branding service offerings will comprise Environmental Branding, such as experience centers, feature sculptures and wall murals; Branding research and strategy, brand identity, marketing collateral and website design; Signage and Wayfinding interior programs, exterior campus programs and donor walls; and Digital Environments, including interactive experiences and digital content.

Enlarging the HKS Experiential Branding practice augments work initiated by HKS Creative Director of Branding Services, Beau Eaton, for the firm’s Interiors practice. Previous projects include Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Hospital, Baton Rouge; Whole Foods Market South Regional Office, Atlanta; and SoFi Stadium, Inglewood, California.

The move to expand the Experiential Branding practice “complements and completes our services,” said Ana Pinto-Alexander, Global Sector Director, Interiors, HKS.

Why Health Equity in the Built Environment Matters

Why Health Equity in the Built Environment Matters

Inequitable access to health care costs the U.S. $135 billion each year. This is in addition to the nearly unfathomable loss of 3.5 million life years associated with premature deaths. Michael Crawford of Howard University shared that W.K. Kellogg Foundation data during a recent HKS webinar on Health Equity & Access that explored the high price of health inequity.

The webinar was part of the firm’s quarterly Limitless panel series, conversations between HKS leaders and experts in other industries about ideas that influence design, examined through the lens of justice, equity, diversity and inclusion.

For the most recent installment, HKS convened research, nonprofit and health care professionals to discuss equitable access to health care, and the intersection between health equity and the built environment.

Data to Address Health Disparities

Crawford, Associate Dean for Strategy, Outreach & Innovation at Howard’s College of Medicine, opened the webinar with a keynote address on the roles of digital technology and the built environment in addressing health disparities.

He presented information on life expectancy gaps for residents of major U.S. cities. Referencing data for Washington, D.C. zip codes, he said, “Two kids grow up in the same city, five miles apart. One has an expectation to live 27.5 years longer than the other child. How does that instill hope?”

Crawford described efforts by Howard University’s 1867 Health Innovations Project to improve health equity and access through digital health solutions and non-tech solutions for medically underserved communities. A pilot project involving the use of mobile phones to connect with people who have sickle cell disease has shown promising results for medication adherence but has also revealed limiting factors such as insufficient Internet access, he said.

This research, and the experience of dense urban populations during the COVID-19 pandemic, have identified needs for spaces where people can receive care, isolate to reduce disease transmission or access health information on the Internet using mobile technology. Transportation, green space and adequate housing are additional assets for creating health equity.

“These are items we are focusing on…as we think about the architecture community and what role you can play in terms of being able to facilitate greater access to tech solutions, or to build solutions that promote a community health and wellness mindset,” Crawford said.

He emphasized that the most valuable asset is the community itself.

Crawford said that listening to diverse community voices “leads to an equitable health design that can facilitate and promote health and well-being. I think it’s critically important in terms of how we design facilities.”

Understanding Community Needs

HKS Design Researcher and Senior Medical Planner Kate Renner moderated a panel discussion that followed Crawford’s keynote. The panel featured Ginneh P. Baugh, Vice President of Impact & Innovation for Purpose Built Communities, an Atlanta-based nonprofit community development organization; Robert Goodspeed, Associate Professor of Urban and Regional Planning at the Taubman College of Architecture & Planning, University of Michigan; and Kate Sommerfeld, President of the Social Determinants of Health Institute and Vice President of Community Relations and Social Investments for Midwest health system ProMedica.

Like Crawford, the panelists highlighted the importance of community involvement in projects to tackle health equity and access.

Forming a deep history with individuals and listening closely to what they have to say can take time, but provides “incredibly rich data,” said Baugh.

One thing to keep in mind, she said, is, “Who are we designing for?”

Health care spaces, for example, should be sized based on the number of anticipated patients plus the expected support network for people in the community.

“Who’s waiting with you for dialysis, or how many people need to be with that new mom?” Baugh asked.

Other community norms can come into play. Baugh recalled a clinic designed with a small waiting room that had people lined up down the block—but not people from the neighborhood. A community health worker knocking on doors learned local residents did not want to be seen waiting for an appointment outside the clinic.

Sommerfeld said that to design the best community health solutions, public and clinical data should be balanced with “voice and lived experience.”

While cross-sector partnerships with hospitals, universities, government and financial institutions can supplement insights from community members, she said, “make sure that residents are at the forefront.”

Working in partnership with the community can help identify evaluation metrics, strategies and uncertainties for urban planning projects, Goodspeed said.

He described a multi-year collaborative project on mobility that showed the importance of public transit to reaching places like the dialysis clinic or other medical clinics. By interviewing stakeholders and holding public workshops, researchers were able to pinpoint specific locations in the region, which they used to draw new transit maps to serve health care destinations.

Make sure that residents are at the forefront.

Health and the Built Environment

Panelists agreed the built environment provides rich opportunities for innovation in addressing health inequity and access.

“Housing is a health issue,” said Sommerfeld. “We’re seeing more and more payers start to invest in things like affordable housing across the country.”

If a child is in the emergency department many times a month struggling with breathing issues, paying to replace moldy carpet to improve the air quality of the family home is both cost effective and best for the child; evidence is mounting across the country for these types of interventions, Sommerfeld said.

Goodspeed noted the documented relationship between eviction and a host of mental and physical health outcomes. Housing stability is “a fundamental driver to health,” he said.

Families who live at the same address for three years benefit from a ripple of positive health outcomes related to children’s consistent school attendance and family members’ ongoing connections with neighborhood health providers, said Baugh.

Panelists also described how the built environment can improve food access, a key contributor to health equity.

To eliminate a food desert in Toledo, ProMedica’s Social Determinants of Health Institute “took a very bold leap to go ahead and open and operate a grocery store,” said Sommerfeld. The system has now helped five other health care organizations and nonprofits launch grocery stores to provide more equitable access to healthy food.

Baugh mentioned a neighborhood in South Atlanta that has been looking into accessory dwelling units (ADUs), small homes that can be installed in a backyard to provide additional income for residents. Local families can build wealth by owning or renting an ADU; the units also help increase the neighborhood population to the point it can support a grocery store.

Institutional changes, such as zoning codes that allow ADUs, can drive change for neighborhoods and individuals, Goodspeed said.

At the conclusion to the panel, Yiselle Santos Rivera, HKS Director of Justice, Equity, Diversity & Inclusion, remarked that the discussion had underscored the overall importance of innovation, collaboration and trust.

“We have to pay attention and we have to be intentional,” Santos Rivera said. “These, to me, are at the core of how we create a more equitable, just and inclusive world.”

Wuhan Vanke Mall

Case Study

Wuhan Vanke Mall One-stop family shopping center in the Baishazhou Community

Wuhan, China

The Challenge

The Wuhan Vanke Mall is located in the Baishazhou neighborhood, a relatively under-developed area of Wuhan adjacent to Nan Lake University Town and Huangjia Lake University Town. Approximately 300,000 people live within five kilometers (3 miles) of the site including 27 nearby communities and eight universities.

Industrial development in Baishazhou is lacking and supporting facilities are under-developed. Key business districts are far away from the site, and there is only one centralized shopping mall, Bandung Square, within five kilometers. People in the area needed more commercial facilities.

As online shopping outpaces in-person shopping experiences, retailers and designers are trying to offer environments that attract consumers to branded experiences they cannot get online. This gave HKS the opportunity and challenge to craft richly textured, custom environments with diverse and abundant places so the environment can set the stage for fun, relaxing lifestyles that encourage people to unwind and enjoy themselves. In addition, bringing value and business opportunities to a less-developed area like Baishazhou and providing a family-friendly lifestyle destination that attracts younger groups in the Huangjia Lake University Town was paramount to the design.

The Design Solution

Before starting the design, HKS investigated the commercial resources within 5km (3 miles) around the project and sorted out potential customer bases and site traffic. With reasonably arranged entrances, exits and drop-off areas according to the crowd guidance and site conditions, the interaction and connection between business and surrounding communities strengthened. The main entrance in the northeast corner to meet the publicity requirements helped satisfy pedestrian customer bases. The drop-off area is located on the south side of the internal roads shared with the residents, which made it convenient for traffic organization and guidance. A secondary entrance was added on the west side to strengthen the interaction between the mall and the surrounding business streets.

To strengthen the concept of “moving a park into the mall” and enable customers from surrounding communities to experience a natural atmosphere when shopping, HKS arranged two large and three small glass atriums inside to maximize the introduction of natural light into the space. At the same time, HKS also displayed artificial waterfalls and large green plants indoors, as well as developed a natural green shopping experience based on business streamlining, in addition to the sightseeing elevators leading to the roof garden.

As a regional benchmark commercial project, Vanke Mall focused more on how to build a multi-destination life and leisure experience center that can serve all the surrounding communities and meet the needs of different ages.

With parent-child family, sports and health as the theme, the project cleverly balances the distribution of businesses with retail, entertainment, catering and other supporting facilities to enhance the offline shopping experience. In addition to the 24/7 skateboard park, the outdoor basketball court and the terrace theater on the roof, HKS has plans to create a new retail landmark in the locality.

As a model of next-generation ecological energy conservation, a variety of advanced technologies and designs were adopted in the project. Combined with the indoor plane layout, the glass area on the facades was minimized. 80% of the area on the facades is aluminum plate skin, and 20% of the glass is hollow Low-E glass, which may reduce the energy consumption of the facades. The rainwater collection and reclaimed water system reduce the consumption of water resources. To maximize the retention of natural pavement, HKS arranged 1,100 motor vehicle parking spaces underground. In addition, 900 non-motor vehicle parking spaces around the project encourage green travel among residents in the surrounding communities, thus creating a green pioneer model for the surrounding communities.

The Design Impact

As one of the scarce commercial facilities in the region, the Wuhan Vanke Mall is refreshing the image of the area with its outstanding architecture. At the same time, the high-quality space and venues have attracted a large number of consumers as well as enhanced the commercial influence of the region. The Wuhan Vanke Mall is changing the traditional and backward image of Baishazhou in people’s minds, attracting more people to live and work there, driving consumption upgrades and stimulating industrial innovation.

Project Features


Designing for an Ever-Changing Present: Clinic 20XX Refresh Study Amidst (and Beyond) COVID-19

Designing for an Ever-Changing Present: Clinic 20XX Refresh Study Amidst (and Beyond) COVID-19

The Challenge

Health care has been long due for systemic and system-wide reform, bringing an urgency for health care organizations, patient advocates, and policy makers to lead this effort. The U.S., compared to 10 other developed countries, is rated the highest in health care spending, yet lowest in quality of care (Commonwealth report: 2014 and 2021). The lived experiment of the COVID-19 pandemic, including challenges from the rise in health worker burnout, and fundamental issues with public health has once again reinforced the need for change-ready facilities. With plans to refresh the 2015 Clinic 20XX report, the Center for Advanced Design Research and Evaluation (CADRE) and HKS team examined the changes in primary care, in large part due to the pandemic, with a focus on:

What We Found in our Research

The research team commissioned a third-party independent vendor to survey both U.S. patients and physicians to capture their experiences:

Here are some key findings from the survey and report:

New drivers of change reflect what we need to live a quality life.
In addition to the drivers from 2015 (system reform, technology, the new patient, the provider, and the field), Climate Change (respiratory diseases, catastrophic events), Infectious Diseases (global outbreaks), Health Equity (access to care, treatment availability, outcome), and Burnout (staff burnout and retention, mental health) emerged in 2021. New players in the market, wellness, and home health are new trends identified in response to the drivers of change.

Process, patient-provider relationship, and place are the trifecta in creating the ideal in-person primary care clinic experience.
Streamlined process (44%), empathetic and knowledgeable providers (27%), and amenity-rich, safe, and clean environment (21%) were the top three components of the patient’s ideal experience. Physicians identified streamlined patient check-in and registration process (4.58 out of 5) and availability of exam room when needed (4.56 rating out of 5) as top facility features to run a successful practice, with patient relationships (4.57 out of 5) being key.


Experience vs. Service

Physical and digital preferences differ by generation.
Baby boomers (70%) and Gen Xers (55%) preferred in-person visits over virtual visits, whereas Millennials preferred virtual (58%) over in-person.

Primary Care Experience

The smartphone has increasingly become the lifeline for patients to access health care services, with a 17-percentage point shift from 2015. While excited about telehealth, especially in terms of access and convenience, physicians are still skeptical about the regulatory reform needed to make it successful.

Phone vs. Portal

Convenience is still key, but now with a digital layer.
Closely following cleanliness and hygiene in the perception of clinic appeal, convenience had typically been manifested through same day appointments and walk-in appointments (with less than 30-min. wait time) in 2015 and are still at the top for Baby Boomers in 2021; however, online registration and mobile apps to track health entered the top three for Millennials in 2021.

Physicians want workspaces that allow privacy, efficiency, convenience, and flexibility.
Closely following cleanliness and hygiene in the perception of clinic appeal, convenience had typically been manifested through same day appointments and walk-in appointments (with less than 30-min. wait time) in 2015 and are still at the top for Baby Boomers in 2021; however, online registration and mobile apps to track health entered the top three for Millennials in 2021.

What the Findings Mean

Patient and provider perspectives, layered on the key drivers and emerging trends, suggest key principles to design primary care clinics that are change-ready. For example,

Seven Key Principles:

Here are some key takeaways from the report findings:

Humanize the Experience.

The Clinic Is More Than a Building.

Build Relationship and Trust.

What’s Next

With increasing primary care provider shortages and health care worker burnout at peak levels, it is essential to consider how these drivers will collectively impact emerging care models and care team members, preferences and expectations moving forward.

This study concluded what has been a six-year exploration of how to design for change in the face of an ever-changing present. It is our hope that others will take the insights from this report (and others in the series), continue to ask questions, and use it as a starting point for meaningful innovation.

Vanke Meizhou Cultural Village

Case Study

Vanke Meizhou Cultural Village Architectural Colonies of Contemporary Regionalism and Destinations of Cultural Tourism

Sichuan, China

The Challenge

Located on the bank of the Minjiang River in the Meishan Mountain, Chengdu, Meizhou Cultural Village Base shines as an elegant landscape, with its rich and long-standing Western Shu Culture. Meizhou is the hometown of Three Sus, an ancient place propitious for giving birth to great men, including famous ancient Chinese poets, scholars and politicians. Currently, Meizhou is a small livable city on the outskirts of the metropolis of Chengdu with a strong leisure and food culture.

The challenge was figuring out how to maintain the gorgeous scenery of the base and to establish a premier example of a modern Song-style culture town in China through the natural and cultural landscape, based on profound cultural fundamentals in Meishan such as “Song Dynasty Background, Shu Studies Culture and Three Sus Culture.”

The Design Solution

Meizhou Cultural Village vividly displays and exemplifies traditional Chinese business formats in modern times under exquisitely created spaces.

By taking advantage of multiple transportations and water systems between Taoyuan Lake and inner lakes, Meizhou Cultural Village utilizes natural river resources to create multiple landscape experiences, including “One Street,” “One Stage,” “One Banquet” and “One Night.”

With a modern Song-style commercial street designed with pedestrian focus, a mix of uses and connections to nature, the entire city is endowed with new functions for leisure and vacation. The customized double-sided stage connects Taoyuan Lake on the west and Neihu Lake on the east, providing a variety of ways to showcase performances in different scales and themes.

The ballroom with Song-style blends indoor and outdoor, and the B&Bs with oriental aesthetics complement each other with the classic architectural shapes of the modern Song Dynasty with large roofs, oriental rain chains, flags and hazy translucent grilles. The buildings use systematic and modular rules to realize the contemporary expression of a thousand-year-old civilization.

The Design Impact

As the second “cultural village” project of Vanke, one of China’s largest developers, the project has become a high-quality public activity space for local citizens in Meishan. The contemporary Song-style commercial street provides a venue for events at various festivals. The elegant ballroom has become a fashionable place for Meishan citizens to hold wedding banquets. Its completion presents Meishan as a poetic scenery beyond imagination and a brand new and symbolic cultural tourism destination.

Project Features


Hotel Indigo Nanjing Garden Expo

Case Study

Hotel Indigo Nanjing Garden Expo Peaceful Urban Oasis in a World-class Garden Expo

Nanjing, China

The Challenge

The Nanjing municipal government decided to hold the Garden Expo in 2021, requiring an area of more than 380 Ha (939 acres). The government asked HKS to design a world-class resort that would fit the theme of the Garden Expo in time for the opening. The designers faced a tight design period with a limited site condition, an abandoned quarry with an old cement plant around it.

Overcoming the disadvantageous location, the existing conditions and reflecting the locality of the project became the biggest challenge of the project.

The Design Solution

Located in the middle of the Purple East Central Area of Nanjing Tangshan Garden Expo, Hotel Indigo Nanjing Garden Expo is located at an enviable position overlooking the entire Regeneration Garden valley and flower terrace. Relying on the surrounding undulating mountains and excavated ore rock walls, the hotel’s scattered villas are separated by courtyards, connecting the winding footpaths and waterways. Inspired by the neighborhood culture of Indigo, the hotel is a tranquil place with mountains and serene waters.

The master plan for the initial phase celebrates the natural topography of the site. Guest rooms are located around eight courtyards, minimizing their profile and creating the overall appearance of a local village. The north and south sides of the resort are connected by a central water feature, and guest rooms hover above the landscape, leaving the ground plane more open to highlight the natural surroundings.

The roof adopts the image of ore that has been suspended in the air and shines for all to see. The design of the 24-hour restaurant is based on the tent of geologists who set up camp at the base of the nearby ore mine. Meanwhile, early-morning diners can get a perfect view of the sunrise

Inside the resort, public spaces are located on the west, overlooking the cliff of the Time Graben. This lofty site offers guests inside a commanding, 270-degree view of the striking landscape. The lobby and banquet hall form the main internal nodes of the overall design. Additional public areas and guest rooms are connected through a corridor on the first floor to create a meandering, wild and exclusive journey through the site.

The Design Impact

Located near the gate of the Jiangsu Garden Expo Park, this project provides boutique accommodations for short-distance travelers. The concept of the project was “the land of peach blossoms in a metropolis,” intended to provide those that have long-lived in a bustling metropolis with a calm life of peach blossoms, while meeting customers’ needs on holidays.

Project Features


Two Years After COVID, Here’s What We’ve Learned as Designers

Two Years After COVID, Here’s What We’ve Learned as Designers

COVID-19 has officially been in the world for more than two years. During that time it has changed the way all of us live, work, play and think.

Tragically, it has also killed more than 6 million people worldwide. Health experts and scientists agree that many of those deaths could have been avoided. As the life continues in a world in which COVID will likely be a permanent companion, architects, designers and engineers have acquired many lessons in the past two years about what steps our industry can take — now and in the future — to make our lives safer and more comfortable. Here are a few things we learned at HKS:

1- Use What You’ve Got

It’s too costly to build new hospitals for the next pandemic, so converting existing spaces quickly is key for architects and designers. HKS-designed Orlando Regional Medical Center in Florida offers one blueprint how such blueprints can be done successfully. 

2 – Prepare for the Surge

In a pandemic, every available space – from lobbies to hallways – may become emergency treatment areas. That means that certain medically necessary infrastructure components – oxygen, medical gasses, pipes and wiring should be close at all times, even if generally hidden from view. And water, electricity and medical hookups should be available to quickly convert parking lots or nearby structures into field hospitals.

3 – Staff Needs Love, Too

The pandemic has clearly shown us that health care workers are a treasure and must be treated as such. They need ample space to unwind and relieve the stress that comes with their jobs. Designing spaces that give them plenty of room to relax and recharge, away from the hustle and bustle of patient care, is necessary. For example, spaces that allow privacy and allow staffers to control sound and lighting would be helpful, along with rooms with windows that overlook gardens or other serene settings.

4 – There’s No Place Like Home 

The pandemic has forever changed how we work, or more to the point, where we work. COVID forced employees to shift to working from home – or places other than their main offices – and many of them discovered that they not only liked the flexibility of doing so, but they were also more productive. One finding from HKS’ extensive internal research bolsters this point. The findings revealed that work satisfactions jumped 12% for employees who have control over their home conditions, such as the ability to close a door to block out noise. HKS used this internal research to develop a flexible work from home policy for its employees that became a model for the AEC industry. Firms will likely need to maintain this flexibility going forward to retain, obtain and reward its workforce.

5. Office Work isn’t Dead Yet

While it’s true that working from home is more acceptable than ever, many companies will still need employees in the office for a variety of reasons. And when those workers are there, they will need to feel healthy and safe. Again, HKS research helped provide insights into designing for a safe office space. Recommendations include having teams work in their own “neighborhoods,” creating work “shifts,” so that certain amount of people are in the office at a given time, mobile infrastructure and seamless technology so that processes are consistent at home and remotely, holding meetings outside when possible and adequate spacing of desks. But even with working in the office, flexibility will remain the key component.

6. Safe at Home

Because more work will continue to be done at home, residential spaces will have to adapt. Single family homes will obviously have more options and leeway to do this. But multifamily residential spaces will face unique challenges, in large part due to size and affordability limitations. During the height of the COVID pandemic, HKS worked on possible solutions for future apartment construction. Among the many considerations: flexible workspaces adjustable surfaces, adequate access to light and air in all the spaces, finding a way to “hide” workspaces when they aren’t being used so that employees won’t always feel “on the clock.”

7. Air is Not Rare

No matter who you are or where you go, you’ll need air. The pandemic often put that basic need in jeopardy. Designers have figure out ways to funnel breathable air into any space from office buildings to shopping areas to airports to sports arenas. Our HKS office in downtown Chicago uses displacement air distribution ventilation technology to help keep the air clean. At the open-air HKS-designed SoFi Stadium, designers minimized air pollutants there by maximizing natural ventilation through operable panels, using the building skin to increase occupant comfort and creating “grand canyons” – large, landscaped pathways, gardens and patios. Airports can use a scaled approach to ventilation to help remove airplane exhaust fumes that historically contribute to poor air quality.

HKS Partners With Center for BrainHealth to Help Employees Thrive

HKS Partners With Center for BrainHealth to Help Employees Thrive

HKS is partnering with The University of Texas at Dallas’ Center for BrainHealth® on a study to improve the way the firm’s employees work, collaborate and innovate, both individually and as an organization.

The ongoing COVID pandemic has contributed to high levels of worker burnout, even though efficiency and productivity in many industries remain high in this era of hybrid work.

The center’s BrainHealthy Workplace™ program is a three-year, longitudinal study with multiple organizations that will assess participants’ current brain health, share strategies and tools to improve their individual cognitive function over time, and measure change over time.

Nearly 200 employees from HKS are participating in the Center for BrainHealth’s BrainHealthy Workplace program, which offers online trainings, think tanks and daily brain exercises over a six-month span to optimize their brain health. The program is completely confidential; the firm will have no access to individual participants’ data.

“It’s no question that our people have been under enormous amounts of pressure over the last two years of the pandemic, and we do not want work to be an additional stressor,” said Dan Noble, President and CEO of HKS. “Our partnership with the Center for BrainHealth is empowering our people to learn new strategies to improve their resilience while also supporting them in becoming more focused and innovative, to help make the most of their time at work and in their personal lives. This is a critical piece of how we’re investing in our teams’ well-being and mental health as we collectively recover from the last two years.”

This is a critical piece of how we’re investing in our teams’ well-being and mental health as we collectively recover from the last two years.

Cognitive wellness is a big focus of this year’s Mental Health Awareness Month, which takes place in May. This year’s theme, “Back to Basics,” provides foundational knowledge about mental health and addresses the effects on people’s well-being due to stress, isolation and uncertainty from pandemic living, according to Mental Health America.

Dr. Upali Nanda, HKS Global Director of Research, said HKS’ partnership with the Center for BrainHealth could be a critical tool in mapping the firm’s future, with worker wellness at the forefront.

“It is particularly timely right now when we are in this era of experimentation around the workplace, and are battling high levels of burnout,” Nanda said. “Understanding the tenets of brain health allows us to reframe the role of the workplace, leverage the potential of flex work experience and focus on peak performance of our most valuable asset- our people and their ability to think, create and innovate.”

Understanding the tenets of brain health allows us to reframe the role of the workplace.

The Center for BrainHealth is one of the country’s leading centers for pioneering cognitive neuroscience research and translation into scalable tools that enhance brain health and performance. The BrainHealth team of clinicians and coaches has worked with corporations, first responders, every branch of the military, and schools on similar trainings over the past two decades.

“We are proud to partner with HKS to incorporate the science of brain health and performance into the workplace,” said Jennifer Zientz, deputy director of programs at Center for BrainHealth. “Our practical, science-backed strategies have been shown to support improved productivity, engagement and innovation at work – all of which enhance people’s ability to thrive in their lives. Together, we are discovering how to shape the optimal workplace of the future.”

HKS’ latest collaboration with the Dallas-based Center for BrainHealth emerges from a longstanding partnership. The firm designed the center in 2007, including state-of-the-art research space and leading-edge technologies dedicated to studying the brain and strengthening its function. The project won a 2010 Design Award from the Dallas chapter of The American Institute of Architects.

Vanke Chengdu Highline Park

Case Study

Vanke Chengdu Highline Park A Shining Example of the New Era of PARK+TOD+Community Development

Chengdu, China

The Challenge

The project is Vanke’s first Transit Oriented Development (TOD) project in Chengdu, located at the core of the approximately 947-acre Administrative College TOD Area. As a representative project of Vanke’s Southwest regional TOD integrated community, it includes 13 plots, with a total size of 79,595 square meters (856,754 square feet). The large area, multiple and scattered plots, and the complicated functions require that designers integrate and link various functions and rail transit through design, while driving urban economic growth and creating a garden-style living environment for the community, making it the biggest challenge of the project.

The Design Solution

The master planning takes the Administrative College Double-track Subway Station as the core that connects to the northern TOD commercial core area. It connects to the sinking courtyard, open ground-level commercial and sports park, as well as the high-line park, which will be connected to the city’s elevated pedestrian walkway in the later phase, to the south through the subway. This creates a “T-shaped” axis of vitality, with a core traffic cylinder linking the flow line vertically.

The project not only creates efficient connectivity, but also emphasizes green ecology, a pleasant scale, and a pedestrian-friendly park experience. With this model, the project not only brings about value-added effects to the city’s development but also pays more attention to the community’s image, green development and pedestrian convenience, as well as the overall quality of life.

The project is designed to revolve around the “human” lifestyle scenario, integrating different functions such as work, business, community services, transportation, education, social activities, sports and health, green ecological parks, and quality residences together in a composite “slow system.” The project aims to highly integrate work and consumption scenarios, guided by the design principles of openness, composite, efficiency, and ecology, to become an example of the new generation of “Park City + TOD + International Community” practice.

The Design Impact

The project’s demonstration area has already opened and has become a hot spot in the city, attracting a large number of Chengdu citizens who come to visit and take pictures. It has also drawn many people who are interested in living, working, and investing here. In the future, Vanke High Line Park will use “scenario creation” to break through and restructure the project’s format, creating a series of open and shared composite fields made up of different “modules” scattered across the sites.

Project Features

2022 Gold Key: HKS Honored for Luxury Hospitality Design