#HKSToday: What Our New Office Designs Say About Who We Are & Where We’re Going

Today, from Chicago to London, Richmond to Dallas, HKS is redesigning several of our offices and leveraging them to communicate who we are and where we are going together as a fully-integrated global design firm. Here’s how that process is unfolding.

Living Laboratories

We began by engaging our employees, leadership, consultants, clients and communities in conversations to see how our offices could be a living lab for new ideas reflective of our talent, culture and community. We introduced the idea of greater transparency into our spaces so we could connect with our neighbors, our cities and each other. And, we considered the impact our offices would have on the environment and on the health and well-being of all they touch.

Making ideas tangible, problem solving — that’s what we do. We care about how things look as well as how they work, because we believe great design is at the intersection of aesthetics and function. Nurturing a creative workforce means allowing individuals the freedom to experiment and discover. Sometimes it’s messy. Often it seems chaotic. But, that is where great ideas are born.

Asking More of the Places Where We Work

We’ve done a lot of research into the neuroscience of how people experience their environment and what factors boost wellness, learning, creativity and productivity. Today, before we identify the elements of our program, we seek to understand the place in which our offices are located — the building, the neighborhood and the city. We consider the personalities and work processes of the people who will live in the space. And, we explore the fundamental goals, brand characteristics and purpose of the client.

In conversations about our new offices, we agreed that we wanted the offices to reflect what we do in a more tangible way. We didn’t want to just look out over a sea of workstations. We wanted our work to be tactile and we wanted to display our work process as well as our final work product. Our workplace will showcase the architectural models, drawings, mock-ups and maker spaces that are part of our design process. We believe that sharing ideas today will spark new ideas tomorrow.

Like most of our clients, we face business conditions that are constantly changing. Building in flexibility to adapt, grow and reorganize in a cost-effective way was another key consideration in the design of our new offices. We are building a nimble workforce that works across geographies and disciplines. So, a scalable technology infrastructure is imperative as well as supporting employee mobility. In addition, we made sure all spaces are multi-function and adopted a universal desktop configuration.

HKS Denver

Fostering Creativity

So, we organized staff into studios/neighborhoods that encouraged collaboration. We also introduced a high degree of transparency between studios to eliminate silos between work functions. Because people think and work differently, we provided a variety of work modes which allow them to choose how they want to work.

Design today relies heavily on technology. While we embrace and explore the very latest computer modeling technologies, we also wanted to encourage a more tactile approach to design that explores intricacies of scale and detail that can sometimes be lost in the virtual world.

HKS Chicago

Working Well

HKS has been a leader in design for health for many years. Our work in the field has embraced a move from treating illness to promoting wellness, and incorporating lessons learned from our hospitality, education and entertainment practices into creating environments that make people healthier, more productive, safer and happier. We are committed to the principles of biophilia, material transparency and ergonomics.

Our firm recently joined an alliance with the Well Living Lab, and we’ve committed to advancing the many ways that design can foster better well-being. As a sign of this commitment, our next office undergoing renovation, Chicago, has received LEED Platinum certification and is pursuing WELL Gold certification. It is on track to become the first workplace in Chicago to achieve such a high WELL rating. We will continually monitor the impact of our offices on the health and productivity of our people over time.

Looking Forward

In September, our first office celebrating a milestone as well as debuting a renovated space will be Detroit, celebrating its 10th anniversary in the Detroit Metro area. We’re also opening a new studio in downtown Detroit, a sign of our ongoing commitment to that city’s renaissance.

Chicago’s new office — a move to a new location, in an historic Daniel Burnham-designed building, The National, will follow. Design directors Kate Davis and Tony Montalto offer their perspectives on how the office reflects who we are and how we design at HKS Chicago.

In Richmond, Virginia, we’re renovating in place, and taking note of many lessons learned for clients making a similar decision. Our design team there will share insights into why we opted to stay in place while renovating, and assess the value we gained as well as the challenges faced. Would we do it again? We’ll know after we measure the impact of our work.

At the end of 2017, our London Office moved into a prominent, shop-front location in Fitzrovia, north of their current home in Soho, debuting a new STUDIO that celebrates transparency and urban connectivity. Our offices in Denver and Dallas will follow with changes of their own in 2018; in Denver with a new location, and in Dallas we plan to update our HKS Lab and also the landscaped urban spaces adjacent to our headquarters.

The HKS brand has always been synonymous with excellent customer service and project delivery. Today, we are solidifying our position as a design-centric firm committed to discovering what’s next while testing what works. We are sharing that conversation on social media through the #HKSToday campaign and we invite everyone who experiences our offices to join the dialogue.