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Designing Health Facilities for a Resilient Future: A Q+A with HKS’ Angela Lee

Designing Health Facilities for a Resilient Future: A Q+A with HKS’ Angela Lee

New technology, emerging medicine and shifts in public health all impact health care environments. Hospitals and clinic design must change with the times.

HKS has been committed to transformation in the design and health care industries for more than 80 years. Whether we’re building a new world-class hospital in a major city, renovating a small local clinic or anything in between, HKS designers and researchers innovate to provide cutting-edge spaces that support the well-being of patients, caregivers, and health professionals.

We talked with HKS’ Angela Lee, Partner and Managing Director of the Asia Pacific region who has led health care projects in many countries. She shared her thoughts about what she has learned throughout her career and what she sees for the future of health facilities.

After three decades of designing and planning health facilities, what do you consider to be the necessary elements for efficient health care design?

Efficient health care design begins with a thorough understanding of the evolving landscape of the industry. We need to anticipate the ongoing shifts in care delivery, address financial pressures, and prioritize patient needs. Flexibility is always key. We must create places that can adapt to advancements in health care technology and the future needs of health systems, patients, staff and caregivers.

What are some ways the COVID-19 pandemic impacted the health care industry? What trends has it accelerated?

The pandemic has acted as a catalyst, accelerating existing trends within the health care industry and increasing demand for more efficient, patient-centered care. It has heightened financial pressures, squeezed provider margins, and forced a shift to new points of care due to emerging competitors. Additionally, workforce burnout and shortages have brought staff well-being into focus, and shifting demographics have highlighted the increased need for senior care. Moreover, the mental health crisis stemming from the pandemic has become a pressing issue that needs to be addressed.

Recently, we’ve been able to get ahead of some of these pressures and address them in real time. As just one example, HKS is leveraging our design for emergency department pods, first deployed at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago. With these private, secure pods, patients enjoy more comfort than they would in traditional emergency departments and hospital staff can deliver more efficient care even on their busiest days.

What ongoing impacts have you observed health care systems facing that may harder to see — things that are ‘beneath the surface’ but are causing ripple effects in the industry?

Financial pressures continue to squeeze provider margins, requiring health care facilities to find innovative solutions to deliver quality care cost-effectively. There has been a shift in care delivery. New points of care, such as telemedicine and retail clinics are challenging traditional health care settings. Additionally, workforce burnout and shortages persist, necessitating a focus on the well-being of health care professionals and exploring new staffing models.

How do you believe health care design can address the mental health crisis stemming from the pandemic?

Health care design can play a significant role in addressing mental health crises. We need to create spaces that promote healing, calmness and connection. Incorporating biophilic and natural elements, providing privacy, and designing areas for relaxation and reflection are crucial. Integrating mental health services into health care facilities and considering community-based care models can also help support individuals in need.

HKS is doing significant research and design work to understand how we can best support mental and behavioral health within the built environment. We’ve explored ways to improve care in emergency departments, as people in mental health crisis are often taken to emergency settings. We’re also  increasingly adapting and creating health facilities to provide comprehensive mental and behavioral health services, as is the case with Mount Sinai Beth Israel Comprehensive Behavioral Health Center in New York City.

How is health care technology shaping the industry? What new frontiers are you exploring?

Rapid innovation and the adoption of digital health and new technology have become essential in health care. Telemedicine, artificial intelligence, and remote patient monitoring are just a few examples of how technology is transforming care delivery. We are also exploring the potential of virtual reality, wearable devices, and robotics to further enhance patient outcomes and improve efficiency in health care delivery.

Our clients are working right alongside us to advance the intersections of technology and health care in rapidly growing cities and regions. As just one example, HKS designed and delivered the Songdo Severance Hospital in South Korea with advanced operational technology befitting Songdo’s moniker as ‘the smartest city in the world.’

As an architect, how do you balance the need for flexibility in health care design with the importance of pandemic readiness?

Flexibility and pandemic readiness go hand in hand. By designing health care facilities with adaptability in mind, we can ensure that they can respond to unforeseen challenges, such as pandemics, natural disasters, civil defense, without compromising patient care. This includes designing spaces that can be easily reconfigured, incorporating infection control measures, and implementing robust technology infrastructure to support telehealth and remote care.

For several years, HKS has been leveraging our FleXX research efforts with the Center for Advanced Design Research and Evaluation (CADRE). The FleXX framework outlines key attributes of a versatility, modifiability, convertibility and scalability and can be used to design health care projects of various types, including outpatient settings and hospitals experiencing pandemic surges. Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve also conducted extensive research into how to improve hospital resilience in the face of pandemics, applying our findings to health projects globally.

What drives your passion for designing health facilities that can address the challenges of today and anticipate the needs of the future?

The opportunity to make a positive impact on people’s lives is what drives my passion for health care design. By creating facilities that are patient-centric, efficient and responsive to industry trends, we can contribute to better outcomes for patients, health care providers, and communities as a whole. It is fulfilling to design spaces that support healing, promote well-being, and enable the delivery of high-quality care.

At HKS, I am fortunate to have the opportunity to work among people who share these values and work hard to improve the lives of people who encounter the places we design. Through our Health practice and our Citizen HKS initiative, we strive to provide places that enhance the well-being of communities around the world.

Join HKS at the 2023 European Healthcare Design Conference

Join HKS at the 2023 European Healthcare Design Conference

Please join HKS at the European Healthcare Design Conference in London and virtually, June 12–14. The theme of this year’s event is “Fault lines and front lines: Strengthening health system resilience.” The highly anticipated conference seeks to spark conversation in Europe and around the world about how to plan and design health systems and infrastructure to achieve fiscal balance, equality of access, greater efficiency, net-zero, pandemic preparedness, quality improvement and better health outcomes in design.

HKS’ Jess Karsten, Deborah Wingler, Angela Lee, Sarah Holton and Joshi Rutali are all scheduled to speak at the conference, in addition to video and poster galleries from Sammy Shams, Sumandeep Singh and Jennie Evans that delegates can peruse between sessions.

Sessions

Video + Poster Gallery

The cultured surroundings of the Dorchester Library will play host to the Video + Poster Gallery

Attendees

We hope you’ll join our illustrious team for rewarding discussions on health care design resilience.

HKS Global Design Fellowship Cultivates Design Excellence

HKS Global Design Fellowship Cultivates Design Excellence

Fostering conversations about great design is foundational to design excellence at HKS. One way we support these conversations is through our annual Global Design Fellowship. This program brings together HKS employees from throughout our 26 offices worldwide to explore big ideas through design. The fellowship is an opportunity for emerging talent to explore topics that are important to us as a firm and to advance the quality of design at HKS.

“We’re a global firm for a reason – we think that’s an asset,” said Jenn Carlson, an HKS designer who serves on the Global Design Fellowship committee. “We’re better when we’re pulling from all our offices. It’s about bringing the absolute best minds from across the firm together to develop the most creative ideas.”

Hannah Shultz, who is also an HKS designer and committee member, said the fellowship gives up-and-coming HKS employees a chance to spread their wings and take ownership of a design topic that interests them, which “only gives them more courage and agency in how they want to cultivate their career.”

Investing in our people through initiatives like the Global Design Fellowship helps express how highly HKS values both beauty and inspiration in design.

A New Design Language

Eight HKS employees were selected for our 2023 Global Design Fellowship class, which was divided into three teams:

During the fellowship the teams examined how, as science and technology have advanced, buildings have shifted away from designs that respond to their context and towards artificial environments that separate people from nature.

The design fellows sought to discover a new design language that supports both the natural and artificial realm in order to enhance the human experience and reinvigorate ecosystems.

They approached this issue by exploring how the built environment can promote a positive relationship with the Texas Blackland Prairies, an endangered ecosystem heavily impacted by the recent, rapid growth of Dallas and Austin.

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

The week was capped off by the recent 2023 Global Design Fellowship event at HKS Dallas, where the design fellows presented their ideas in person to the firm as well as a panel of regional design and environmental experts.

Poetry and Power

The three teams took distinct approaches to the problem, but they each married the science and poetry of design to deliver beautiful, powerful presentations.

Siyang Zhang, Johnson and Ham (Team X) collaborated on the design of a community composting project featuring contoured underground chambers that artfully reveal the soil structure to help people better understand the underground ecosystem.

The group noted that every year in the U.S., more than 35 tons of food waste are sent to landfills. By encouraging and facilitating composting, the team’s project is designed to help replenish the Texas Blackland Prairie soil. And by collecting compostable material and distributing high quality soil to organic farms or city gardens, the project would also help build a circular economy within the community.

Dandi Zhang and Shastavets (Team Y) partnered on a project to preserve bird species that are vanishing from North America. Describing the project from the perspective of a bird watcher and a scissor-tailed flycatcher, they proposed a kit of parts to transform abandoned buildings in Texas ghost towns that are located along major migratory flyways into protective environments for birds.

Beyond protecting bird species, the project would provide viewing opportunities for bird watchers, who contribute $1.8 billion annually to the Texas economy, according to research cited by the team.

Marais, Martin and Dai (Team Z) devised a strategy for creating a web of prairie corridors to connect Dallas to the Texas Blackland Prairies. The team described the history of the Blackland Prairies, including indigenous practices to encourage prairie growth and the later industrialization that reduced the Blackland Prairie ecosystem to 1 percent of its original land mass.

The team told “The Legend of the Prairie Mother” from the viewpoint of the future, looking back on the year 2023 when, according to the legend, an environmentalist, gardener and chef teamed up to reawaken human relationships with the land, in order to rewild the landscape, build community and feed people.

The team said they chose the story format for their presentation as way to honor indigenous traditions they learned about in their research, many of which were passed down from generation to generation through storytelling.

Bridging the Dichotomy

Following the teams’ presentations, Heath May, Global Practice Director of HKS’ Laboratory for Intensive Exploration (LINE), moderated a panel discussion that included Lisa Casey, Associate with Dallas-based landscape architecture and urban design firm Studio Outside; Dr. Oswald Jenewein, Assistant Professor of Architecture at the University of Texas at Arlington; and Brett Johnson, an Urban Biologist with the Dallas Park & Recreation Department.

The panelists discussed the presentations, shared their personal career paths and talked about how their work is, as May said, “bridging the dichotomy between architecture and landscape.”

Casey explained how her professional interests intersect with the ideas expressed by the design fellows.

“I’m looking at how we tie into the native ecoregion, bringing native plant material into projects so that there’s a sense of rootedness to the work I do,” Casey said.

She praised the design fellows for bringing visibility to topics that are “central to moving things forward” in landscape architecture and urban design.

Dr. Jenewein talked about helping cities develop comprehensive plans for future development that incorporate climate adaptation and environmental topics. “I feel like we’re making significant impact,” he said. He complimented the teams for the compelling storytelling they brought to their presentations.

Johnson described how aspects of the local ecosystem, like grasslands, are aligned with human needs, such as stormwater management or open space where children can play.

He said that because his job entails considering the broader effects of different elements of the environment, he especially appreciated the idea of revealing the soil in order to increase people’s understanding of soil’s importance.

“You’re taking something that’s been subliminal…and you’re bringing it beyond the surface, so we can actually experience it and talk through it,” Johnson said.

May noted that over the next several decades, geographies in Texas are likely to undergo a process of transformation. He said that projects like those presented by the design fellows “are so valuable in showing what the role of the architect could be in all of this, as kind of a mastermind that is allowed to invent and experiment.”

Lasting Impression

As Chief Design Officer here at HKS, one of the most exciting things about the design profession to me is the opportunity we have to make a clear and lasting impression on people’s lives.

The HKS 2023 design fellows demonstrated that design excellence requires a deep understanding of what shapes a community and place. Places don’t exist in one time, one generation, one decade. As designers, we need to consider how we create the future without losing the sense of what makes a place special.

We want our environments and spaces to inspire people. I applaud this year’s design fellows for elevating the work that we do.

Confidential Wellness Center

Case Study

Confidential Wellness Center Designing a Holistic Haven for Healing: A Healthy Environment for Mind, Body, and Spirit

Jeddah, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

The Challenge

The challenge for HKS designers was to convert a low-end retail mall nestled within the heart of Jeddah city into a tranquil, holistic wellness center that integrates itself within the context of the city. The vision is to create a state-of-the-art, patient-centered health care facility that prioritizes overall well-being through a holistic approach to medicine and wellness, catering to the diverse needs of the local population and visitors.

The Design Solution

Healing by Design is an approach that prioritizes the well-being of patients by incorporating elements of nature, culture, and tradition to enhance the healing process. In this wellness center, the building design deeply embeds itself into the cultural fabric of Jeddah, paying homage to the identity, culture, and tradition of Islam. Each space has been carefully crafted to achieve a balance between the traditional and the contemporary, creating an elevated experience for patients. The design is defined by Jeddah’s strong connection to the coast, with a soothing ambience created by a soft, muted material palette that references the coastal hues and vernacular architecture. The center also prioritizes sustainable design, with the strategic use of gardens and openings to naturally ventilate and cool the building, and ample daylighting used to brighten the interior spaces.

The Design Impact

The wellness center is dedicated to promoting a holistic understanding of wellness and encourages individuals to adopt lifestyles that prioritize their overall well-being. This philosophy is reflected in the center’s planning and design, as mental and social wellness are emphasized through the establishment of mental health clinics, while physical wellness is advocated through the inclusion of an indoor gymnasium with direct access to an outdoor sports garden. Additionally, the center nurtures spiritual well-being by integrating mindfulness spaces where patients can engage in meditative practices, promoting a holistic and comprehensive approach to healing.

Project Features


Skyiera Mixed-Use Master Plan

Case Study

Skyiera Mixed-Use Master Plan Creating a Cultural Destination within New Cairo

New Cairo, Egypt

The Challenge

The client noticed a lack of connectivity and community-focused destinations within the sporadically developed New Cairo. HKS was tasked with designing a masterplan that supported the creation of inviting and functional public spaces with the right amenities and cultural attractions. The well-being of residents and the success of a region was dependent on the development of vibrant and livable communities.

The Design Solution

In response, HKS designed a new 1 million square meter (11.7 million sf) masterplan that incorporated a variety of uses such as a business hub, world-class retail center and two hotels with branded residences to attract a diverse range of visitors.

One of the most important elements of the masterplan is Nile Park, with plenty of green space, seating areas, playgrounds and recreational facilities. It serves as a vital community resource, providing a place for people to gather, relax and enjoy the outdoors. Within the park, a 2,000-seat performing arts theatre serves as a cultural destination and hosts a wide variety of performances and events throughout the year, becoming a key anchor for the community.

The Design Impact

Skyiera creates a vibrant and livable community that includes the infrastructure, amenities and attractions necessary to support a diverse range of residents and visitors. Providing spaces for work, play and cultural enrichment, the masterplan would be a major step towards building a sustainable and successful community in New Cairo.

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.

Jessica Limbri

Case Studies

Neha Arora

Case Studies

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.

Confidential Outpatient Clinic

Case Study

Confidential Outpatient Clinic Inspired by a Deep Coastal Heritage, a New Place for Healing

Sharma, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

The Challenge

HKS designers were asked to to elevate the aesthetic look for a new outpatient facility that proudly embodies and highlights the coastal heritage and cultural identity of the land in Saudi Arabia, creating a truly transformative and symbolic addition to the community.

The Design Solution

With a design that seamlessly integrates screens, layers, and traditional architectural elements such as arches, details, and textures, the new building will tell the story of the land and its people. The building’s coastal location is imbued with a sense of healing, as the rhythm of the sea and the charm of the coast come together to create an uplifting atmosphere of rejuvenation and regeneration. The architecture and placemaking are deeply rooted in a strong sense of cultural identity and heritage, offering patients a unique and transformative healing experience, while elevating its healthcare services as well.

The Design Impact

The new outpatient health facility stands as the epitome of advanced medical care in the Sharma region, boasting state-of-the-art technology and services. Its design, which seamlessly blends physical, visual, and abstract connections to its natural surroundings, creates an atmosphere of serenity and tranquility that is palpable throughout the building. The connection to nature has a palpable impact on patients and visitors, reducing feelings of anxiety and stress, and fostering an environment that promotes health and healing in every sense of the word.

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.

HKS’ Gordon Gn Talks to Portfolio Magazine About Computational Design

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.

David William McLeod