Howard University East Towers

Case Study

Howard University East Towers Transformative Project Connects to a Neighborhood’s Storied Past

Washington, DC, USA

The Challenge

Howard University, a historically Black university located in Washington, D.C., has a 155-year legacy rooted in the District’s Shaw neighborhood. As it develops its portfolio of properties in the area, the University is creating a new heart of the neighborhood with vibrant and diverse mixed-use properties, housing, and public gathering spaces that connect to its historic campus and honor the history of its community.

The Design Solution

Located five blocks from the center of the Howard campus, East Towers will be a mixed-use multifamily residential building with 500 housing units and locally curated retail establishments.

HKS, its development partners at LOWE, and local minority-owned real estate firm FGLA created initial proposals for Howard University developments with thoughtful consideration of the neighborhood’s history as one of the centers of Black life in Washington. With goals of inclusion and sensitive place-making, those proposals led the University to directly award the team the East Towers project. The design approach balances sound development strategies that maximize land value with unique programming and placemaking that reinforce Howard University’s mission-oriented values and vision, along with the needs of the community.

The overall vision for the project takes its cues from the fabric of the neighborhood, beginning with a reimagining of W Street Northwest as a new neighborhood social center that promotes urban connectivity to the site. A courtyard created by the “C” shaped plan allows the building to bring the neighborhood’s energy further into the center of the site and the ground floor lobby. The courtyard’s exterior architectural identity incorporates a robust balcony expression and façade that allows for increased natural light within the residential units.

The site’s full block footprint in the heart of Shaw’s U Street Corridor also informs the architecture of the building. The project’s significant perimeter façades to the east, north and west take on an elegant yet restrained and cost-effective approach that responds to the narrow secondary streets surrounding the site. Crafted with brick and glass, the perimeter is contextually responsive and its visually calm expression contrasts with the more vibrant social heart of the courtyard.

Retail spaces on the ground floor will bring new opportunities for economic growth in the neighborhood and residential offerings include studios, one, two and three-bedroom units, many with balconies overlooking the interior courtyard.

One of the building’s signature design elements is suspended 10 stories above the main entry — the rooftop pool features skylights in its floor, allowing pedestrians below opportunities to catch rays of sunshine and a glimpse of swimmers above, while the building’s amenity-rich penthouse level will have indoor and outdoor lounges, grills, and casual seating areas to promote social interaction.

The Design Impact

East Towers is an investment in the future of the neighborhood that Howard University has called home for more than a century and a half. The development team is engaging local and minority-owned business partners throughout the project’s development. Eight percent of the building is dedicated to affordable housing and the design and construction teams will employ at least 50 Howard student interns.

The building will bring quality housing and public space to a rapidly changing neighborhood and foster connections between local residents and University students, staff and visitors. The building will support the overarching theme of “Creating Community” that drove the initial development proposal and align with Howard University’s strategic pillars to serve the community through collaborative partnerships.

The project will be transformative while also reflecting the unique history, heritage and legacies of the Shaw neighborhood through art, programming and branding. It will honor the significant and pioneering economic, cultural, social and institutional contributions of a proud and accomplished community of African Americans, many of which were associated with Howard University.

Project Features


Brad Robichaux

HKS at SXSW 2024: Longevity Cities and Exploring Brain Health in the Workplace

HKS at SXSW 2024: Longevity Cities and Exploring Brain Health in the Workplace

Creative people from around the world will gather March 8-16 in Austin, Texas for the annual South by Southwest (SXSW) conference and festivals. This seminal event is known for unparalleled opportunities for discovery, learning, professional development and networking.

Two sessions at SXSW 2024 will feature HKS design and research professionals. If you are attending SXSW, please join HKS at one of the following sessions:

Kicking Our Workstation Habit to Improve Brain Health

March 12, 10 a.m. – 11 a.m. CT, Austin Marriott Downtown, Waller Ballroom DEF

Speakers: Liz Fallon, HKS Studio Practice Leader, Commercial Interiors; Case Lindberg, University of Colorado, Boulder; Avi Rajagopal, SANDOW Design Group; Tope Sadiku, The Kraft Heinz Company

Our workplaces enable multitasking and it’s taking a toll on our health. Research shows that multitasking impairs brain health, 43% of employees multitask frequently and 60% are dissatisfied with their control of their work environment. Employees on a flexible schedule say they do some types of work best at home vs. the office. What keeps us from applying that thinking within our offices? We’ve got to start asking what we need to do before deciding where best to do it. Join our panel discussion to learn how kicking the workstation habit will lead to better brain health and renewed purpose for the office.

Longevity Cities: Optimal Environments for Healthy Aging

March 12, 10 a.m. – 11 a.m. CT, Austin Marriott Downtown, Waterloo Ballroom 3

Speakers: Upali Nanda, Global Practice Director, Research, and Partner at HKS; Rajiv Ahuja, Milken Institute; Harris Eyre, Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy; Marc Freedman, CoGenerate (formerly Encore.org)

Longevity cities could hold the key to longer, healthier lives. Listen to experts testing the interaction between health, environment and social factors that impact how we age. Their longevity vision prioritizes brain health to achieve economic prosperity and social progress. They also embrace neighborhood designs that promote healthy behaviors and intergenerational connections. From health services to connected communities, this panel will reveal the power of age-inclusive cities to foster healthy, more resilient lives.

Kristina Crawley

HKS’ New Atlanta Office: What the Future Office Could Be

Pacific Northwest’s Thriving Economy Fosters Sustainable Design Innovation

Pacific Northwest’s Thriving Economy Fosters Sustainable Design Innovation

The Pacific Northwest has been a hot location for new construction and development during the past decade due to a growing population and the influence of major tech companies in the region.

Despite some slowdowns during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, that booming trend continues. According to Rider Levell Bucknall’s crane index Seattle had 51 cranes in operation in the first quarter of 2023. During the same period, Portland tied the (much larger) city of Chicago with 14 operating cranes.

HKS recently opened a Seattle office to expand the firm’s services throughout the Pacific Northwest during this exciting time for design and development in the region. Scott Hunter, HKS Regional Director for Americas West, said that architecture and design clients in the Puget Sound area expect excellence and social responsibility in the services provided to them. He said that “aligns beautifully with HKS’ core values and mission.”

“We’ve worked in the region for a long time and have a roster of successful projects in the area, so to now have an actual office sets a very positive trajectory for us in this market,” said Hunter.

HKS Seattle Office Director Doug Demers said that across sectors, local clients are looking at repositioning, retrofitting and new construction in nearly equal measure. Despite recent fluctuations in the commercial sector, opportunities abound with corporate clients as well as those in the health, education, residential and mixed-use development markets.

“Right now, like most cities in the U.S., Seattle is in a cycle where there’s an excess of office space, but there are other sectors that are very active because the population is still growing,” said Demers. “Basically, you’re always catching up on infrastructure.”

Housing, Healing, and Educating a Growing Population

In 2023, several cities in Washington and Oregon made Forbes’ list of 50 fastest growing U.S. cities and The Seattle Times reported that Seattle is the fastest growing “big” city in the country, based on U.S. Census data.

The steadily rising population is driving a need for housing, especially in the large cities of Portland and Seattle where development space is constrained by waterways. Demers said that the residential market is highly active in Seattle and its surrounding smaller cities; an increasing number of high-rise multifamily properties are being built to house people in denser settings.

With more people continuing to move to the area, additional pressure is placed on local health and education systems, according to Demers and HKS Regional Design Director Carl Hampson. As HKS expands its health care and higher education practices in the region to serve residents, Hampson is paying special attention to how designers can respond to the on-going mental health crisis, in particular.

 “In health care, there’s been a huge push in the Northwest on mental health,” Hampson said, noting that Washington and Oregon state governments have recently prioritized access to care and developing modern facilities to provide mental and behavioral health services.

“The behavioral health system is very complex, and I’m really interested in looking at all the different pieces of it holistically. You can’t just solve problems in one area, you have to think about the entire continuum,” Hampson said, adding that in addition to policy and financing, architecture can “certainly play a role” in helping solve mental health challenges.

Colleges and university systems in the Pacific Northwest are also taking mental health seriously. Hampson said schools are seeking to provide student spaces that enhance health and well-being and that he looks forward to bringing HKS’ research and design expertise in higher education and mental and behavioral health to clients throughout the region.

Tech and Commercial are Bouncing Back

Regardless of the slight pause in new commercial sector projects and construction in recent years, the Pacific Northwest’s legacy as a destination for some of the world’s most influential tech companies — including Microsoft, Google, and Amazon — is secure.

“Growth in the tech industry isn’t dead, it’s just slowed to a normal pace,” said Demers. He also noted that the next few years are shaping up to present new real estate and design opportunities as artificial intelligence (AI) becomes a larger business driver for the tech companies rooted in the Pacific Northwest.

HKS Studio Design Leader Christa Jansen said that as the tech sector has evolved in the region, clients have influenced each other when it comes to interior design, adopting best practices for healthy and inclusive workplaces so they can remain competitive as employers.

“Their standards and way of looking at design has definitely evolved over time and become more sophisticated,” Jansen said.

Beyond tech, many leading corporate brands are headquartered in the Seattle area including Nordstrom, REI, Starbucks, and Costco. As companies like these — and the hundreds of others in the region — solidify in-office work policies and employee desires and behaviors change in the coming years, Jansen said she expects an uptick in commercial design opportunities.

“Commercial clients are giving up a lot of space,” Jansen said. “They’re shrinking down. We’ve been conducting studies about how to use space more efficiently and what kinds of spaces are most important.”

Jansen added that HKS’ workplace design research, including the firm’s recent study illuminating affordances for better brain health, is a helpful differentiator for her team.

Experiences in Hospitality and Mixed-Use Destinations

Because of its national parks, dynamic cities and proximity to popular cruise ship destinations, the Pacific Northwest is a hotbed for travel and tourism. Current travel trends indicate that people want to be immersed in nature and take part in socially conscious experiences, and hospitality brands with locations in the region are working with design firms to keep up with these trends, among others.

“So many people are traveling. Owners and operators are trying to differentiate themselves. They’re constantly thinking about reinventing themselves and keeping up on things more rapidly than they used to,” Jansen said.

An emphasis on how to provide exciting experiences to people has also made its way into conversations about new mixed-use developments. Unlike pre-pandemic developments where anchor buildings tended to be commercial offices, a shift toward anchor entertainment venues is occurring, according to Demers.

“They might be sports related, music-related, but they are experience-driven,” said Demers, who is actively working on strengthening client relationships and pursuing large mixed-use strategy and planning projects in the Seattle area.

Creating dynamic centers of activity and economic growth is going to be a key way designers contribute to resilience as the Pacific Northwest.

“I’m looking forward to opportunities around mixed-use development… how we can create better communities through that avenue and tap into what it means to be in the Northwest,” Hampson said.

Emphasizing Sustainability and the Natural World Through Design

To borrow Hampson’s phrase, a big part of “what it means to be in the Northwest” is to experience life surrounded by some of the country’s tallest mountains, most verdant forests and breathtaking water vistas. Local architecture and design tend to reflect these local natural wonders, Hunter, Hampson, Demers and Jansen all said.

Building materials such as wood and mass timber, stonework, and green roofs can be found in contemporary buildings throughout the region — from civic structures and schools to corporate offices and residential properties. Hampson said clients and designers also often focus on incorporating thoughtful outdoor space because when the weather is nice, “everyone wants to be outside.”

“There’s an authenticity in the architecture here that you don’t see in other places,” said Hampson. Architects, designers and their clients, he said, tend to draw inspiration from natural history rather than “importing something from another time and place.”

HKS designers working in the region indicated that this design trend corresponds with a local commitment to sustainability — proximity to robust natural resources means that clients are more conscientious about conservation and environmental impacts of design and construction.

“Vancouver, Seattle, and Portland are all pretty progressive cities around sustainability. They’ve spawned architecture that responds to that,” Demers said.

Jansen said that the interior design clients she works with desire spaces with natural and resource-conscious materials and are always keeping an eye on evolving sustainability and well-being certification guidelines.

“Ever since LEED was introduced, sustainability has been a big thing…designing to those standards is embedded into all projects here,” Jansen said.

What the Future Holds

Jansen noted that HKS’ expansion in the Pacific Northwest brings new opportunities for the firm as well as for the companies and organizations it partners with to create spaces and places where people can thrive.

“I’m excited to bring the HKS ethos to this region and give our clients another option,” she said.

HKS intends to serve the growing region with diverse needs with its robust design and project delivery talents. Hunter said that the Pacific Northwest’s dynamic economy, forward-looking sustainability approaches and engagement with natural beauty will help foster innovative design solutions where architects, designers, and researchers can excel.

“We think HKS presents something new to the PNW market,” Hunter said. “Our ability to tackle complexity and to synthesize integrated solutions regardless of the project type gives us a unique perspective that can help us guide our clients into the unexpected.”

Brain Building Exhibit

Case Study

Brain Building Exhibit Merging Research and Design for an Interactive Experience

Dallas, Texas, USA

The Challenge

Global design firm, HKS, wanted to create a way to increase understanding of — and engagement with — our leading-edge Brain Health research. With this goal in mind, the experiential branding team envisioned a temporary exhibit that would elevate employee awareness about how the human brain interacts with the built environment. The exhibit would also empower our designers to incorporate brain healthy solutions into their current and future work. 

The Design Solution

The Brain Building exhibit, designed for initial placement at the Dallas HKS headquarters, activates an underutilized second-floor arrival area and other key spaces throughout the building. The exhibition has a pop-up format, designed with a sustainable panel system so it can be easily transported and used as a tool to share research findings and brain healthy workplace affordances with other HKS offices, clients and external partners. 

The exhibit provides a unique in-office experience that incorporates best practices for storytelling in corporate workplaces and design solutions inspired directly by the research it showcases. The logo and brand expression include handwritten and bold graphic text styles, and a variety of complementary graphics and illustrations. Informational design and digital animations include edited and prioritized research findings for easy comprehension in a physical exhibition space. The HKS experiential branding team and research team worked in tandem to ensure clarity of information and storytelling elements. 

Balancing content panels with transition spaces, the exhibit layout offers a comfortable, navigable visitor experience. The team created takeaway postcards, QR codes and a survey to extend the experience beyond the physical exhibit so people can learn more about the research and sign up for a Brain Health Experience Workshop led by HKS’ research team. 

The Design Impact

The Brain Building exhibit that is more than a physical design — it tells the story of an important research project and represents all the people who participated in the study with interactive, educational elements. Additionally, the exhibit provides access to vital information about brain health and the built environment for anyone who visits HKS and has been toured by our research collaborators from the Center for BrainHealth® at The University of Texas at Dallas, who were able to learn about the impacts of their scientific work.  

As the HKS experiential branding and research teams collect and share visitor survey results and the exhibit hits the road to other office locations, this project will play a key role in illuminating the importance of designing for brain health worldwide. 

Project Features


Five Design Trends Shaping Communities in 2024

Five Design Trends Shaping Communities in 2024

Advances in artificial intelligence, modular construction and other methodologies will bring renewed energy to the architecture, engineering and construction industry in 2024 despite economic and environmental challenges.  

In response to — and at the forefront of — current real estate and design trends, global design firm HKS is striving to revive and strengthen communities worldwide. In 2024, HKS will continue to create healthy, resilient, dynamic places that support peak performance and bring people joy. 

1 – Spaces for Healthy Living and Learning 

HKS is leveraging the firm’s research and health design expertise to help people navigate ongoing and emerging crises in health care, student health and well-being, and senior living. 

The Sanford Health Virtual Care Center in Sioux Falls, South Dakota is one of several exciting HKS health care projects opening in 2024. The telehealth center will improve access to care for rural patients, a medically underserved population.  

Clinical workforce shortages will be a continuing challenge for health systems in the year ahead, according to McKinsey & Company. HKS is designing facilities to address the health care staffing crisis. To further this work, the firm is partnering with design brand MillerKnoll on a study to identify factors that contribute to nurse burnout and to learn how these factors relate to the built environment. The study findings will be published this year. 

This year HKS will also participate in an impact study to gauge how the design of Uplift Luna Preparatory School, which is scheduled to open in Dallas in January, affects student outcomes. HKS’ design of the school was informed by research into how design can support social and emotional learning.  

At the 2024 Environments for Aging conference, HKS and industry partners will present a case study of Elevate Senior Living’s Clearwater, Florida community. HKS’ design for Elevate Clearwater is intended to help address the senior living affordability crisis. The number of middle-income older adults in need of affordable care and housing options is swiftly rising, as demonstrated by a study into the “forgotten middle” senior cohort, by research group NORC at the University of Chicago

2 – Commercial Office Reinvention 

It’s clear by now that hybrid and remote work are here to stay. Changes to work habits over the last four years caused major fluctuations in corporate real estate portfolios, leading to increased vacancy rates and diminishing valuations worldwide. But according to Deloitte’s 2024 commercial real estate outlook, newer, higher quality assets are outperforming older spaces and new construction projects designed to accommodate hybrid work strategies are on the rise.  

HKS commercial interior designers are creating offices with hybrid-ready technologies and attractive amenities for companies like Textron Systems in Arlington, Virginia and AGI in Naperville, Illinois. HKS’ advisory groups have also teamed with influential companies, including CoreLogic, to develop strategies and design concepts for their robust asset portfolios that help them keep up with the evolving real estate landscape. 

The firm’s industry-leading research on brain healthy workplaces has yielded exciting discoveries about how offices that prioritize employee well-being can be designed, delivered and operated. Piloting strategies in the firm’s own real estate portfolio and advocating for “breaking the workstation,” HKS researchers and designers are setting new standards for inclusive, productive office environments. In 2024, HKS will present these ideas to a global audience at South by Southwest® (SXSW®) and continue to design workplaces for new modes of working. 

3 – New Mixed-Use and Planning Match Ups

Fluctuations in the commercial office sector and retail are providing new opportunities in mixed-use development. PwC and ULI’s Emerging Trends in Real Estate 2024 report indicates that real estate investors are increasingly diversifying or pivoting their portfolios to counteract disuse of downtown offices and regional malls.  

A shift toward developments with a variety of localized services and amenities is occurring — and HKS designers and planners are at the forefront of creating exciting new projects with unique anchors. In Hangzhou, China, the 2023 Asian Games Athlete Village Waterfront Mixed-Use is becoming a prime destination for retail and entertainment, not unlike HKS-designed SoFi Stadium and Hollywood Park in Los Angeles with its newest attraction, Cosm. Beyond these new mixes, HKS designers are creating dynamic properties such as NoMaCNTR in Washington, DC, to join hotel and residential uses — a combination on the rise in many major cities. 

In 2024, HKS is expanding its ability to serve communities with mixed-use planning and design, fostering sustainable growth for cities in the years to come. The Austin Light Rail team — consisting of Austin Transit Partnership, HKS, UNStudio and Gehl — is set to finalize design guidelines for proposed station locations that will provide opportunities for Austin residents to live in more affordable locations and promote urban expansion into less dense areas. As the transit network expands, it will unlock real estate opportunities and give rise to a variety of diverse and exciting mixed-use properties. This work complements the Transit Oriented Developments projects HKS is working on to elevate the health and well-being of our communities nationwide.  

HKS designers are also set to craft a new master plan for the Georgia World Congress Center’s 220-acre campus in downtown Atlanta this year. The cohesive, sustainability-driven master plan will create a legible pedestrian-friendly environment that maximizes economic potential of the convention center campus. This will integrate the campus’ global canvas with surrounding historic neighborhoods using a comprehensive framework. 

4 – Adaptive Reuse Rising 

In their report on 2024 real estate trends, PwC and ULI write that that “the movement to convert existing buildings from office to multifamily (or any other asset class, really), offers a meaningful achievement in saving carbon emissions.”  

As part of HKS’ efforts towards sustainable and resilient design, the firm is igniting adaptive reuse for a variety of building types, such as ParkwayHealth Gleneagles Chengdu Hospital in China, a tertiary care facility created from a former shopping center. HKS’ design for Mount Sinai Beth Israel Comprehensive Behavioral Health Center in New York City reinvigorated a structure built in 1898 to create a new destination for behavioral health. HKS designers in London renovated a 19th-century office building into a 21st-century clinic. And for an expansion of Rusk State Hospital in Texas, HKS reinvented the hospital campus, which opened in 1883 to house a penitentiary, into a therapeutic and dignified behavioral health care setting. 

In a highly poetic adaptive reuse project, HKS reimagined a defunct airport terminal, which dated to the 1940s, as a creative, contemporary workspace for online travel company Expedia Group. 

In 2024, HKS will continue to advance adaptive reuse design across different markets and geographies. 

5 – Creating a Better World through ESG

Balancing holistic sustainability — including decarbonization, climate resilience, and equitable design practices — with business goals is imperative for commercial real estate investors according to 2024 outlooks by both Deloitte and PwC. Leading the architecture and design industries to a brighter future, HKS is committed to Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG). 

HKS leaders recently demonstrated the depth of the firm’s ESG efforts through thought leadership — speaking at the United Nations Climate Change Conference, the United Nations Science Summit on Brain Capital, and at the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA) conference, where HKS was also a Diamond Sponsor. 

Driven by ESG goals, HKS designers strive to enhance human and environmental well-being through the places they create day in and day out. The firm’s growing portfolio of high-performing projects includes the world’s first WELL-certified airport facility, a COTE Top-Ten Award-winning campus in California and a IIDA Global Excellence Award finalist hospital in Saudi Arabia to name a few. In 2024, HKS architects, sustainable design leaders and advisors will continue developing building portfolio sustainability guidelines and high-performance designs for major tech companies and educational institutions.  

HKS will also align with the Science Based Targets Initiative, which recently established building sector guidelines, to ensure the firm’s carbon neutrality goals are science-backed and can be properly benchmarked. The firm will provide voluntary disclosures about its offsets portfolio to meet regulatory requirements, enhance transparency and improve accountability. 

Most excitingly, 2024 marks the 10-year anniversary of Citizen HKS, a firmwide initiative that impacts lives and drives change through design, community service and financial philanthropy. HKS designers around the world will celebrate the pro-bono design work and service projects they have contributed to through Citizen HKS and re-commit to enhancing their communities for years to come. 

Expedia Group

Case Study

Expedia Group A Dynamic Design Driven by Connection and Adaptation

Springfield, Missouri, USA

The Challenge

Global online travel company Expedia Group occupied a decommissioned terminal of the Springfield-Branson National Airport for more than a decade, expanding it over the years into a workplace for nearly 1,000 employees. When the company needed a more cohesive and updated design, it partnered with longtime collaborator, HKS, to transform the building into a contemporary office environment. The design team was charged with creating a workplace that offers a frictionless experience and supports Expedia Group’s brand mission to make travel easier and more enjoyable.

The Design Solution

An integrated design process including company-wide stakeholders yielded a vision for the project that emphasizes connection and authenticity of place. Drawing inspiration from the airport as a physical connector and the company’s function as a digital connector between destinations and experiences, the design team solved navigation challenges present in the existing workplace. The design prioritizes access to natural light, improved environmental comfort, and a variety of spaces to support different work and social functions.

The new workplace honors the terminal’s history, highlighting its original features with elements that draw the eye toward them and outward to views of the surrounding airport and sky. It includes clear signage, biophilic elements, and plentiful visual references to air travel with custom experiential graphics featuring three-letter airport codes and maps.
Sustainability and performance are foundational to the project. The design remediates HVAC and building envelope issues and optimizes new systems for efficient energy use and thermal, acoustic and sensory comfort. To reduce carbon footprint, the project team minimized new construction, reused many workstation desks and chairs, and repurposed or recycled flooring and ceiling materials. New interior materials and products were carefully selective to minimize environmental impact and enhance the health of people and planet.

This project’s client is at the forefront of creating progressive, flexible work experiences to better accommodate its workforce. The design serves current and anticipated future needs with design strategies that focus on equity, accessibility and well-being.

The Design Impact

The project has garnered positive feedback from the client’s leadership and end users, who have praised the space as a dynamic, supportive environment that improves comfort and enhances social and work functions. Success stems from deeply collaborative efforts among the design team, the client’s real estate group, and company employees. The dynamic workplace honors the past, present and future of the airport terminal in which it resides and sets a new design standard for the travel company that calls it home.

Project Features


Balmiki Bhattacharya

News, Announcements and Events

CyrusOne Headquarters

Case Study

CyrusOne Headquarters New World Headquarters Connects Staff and Boosts Efficiency

Dallas, Texas, USA

The Challenge

CyrusOne sought to establish a new world headquarters to promote operational efficiency, increase staff connection, and recruit and retain top talent. The data company tasked global design firm HKS with designing the new office space to enable employees to do their best work, embody the company’s rich culture and be a business catalyst for years to come.

The Design Solution

Initial test fits of various office spaces identified an ideal location for the headquarters on the top floors of the Harwood No. 10 building in Dallas’ Harwood District — a 50,000-square-foot (4,645-square-meter) space featuring a penthouse level with 360-degree views of Downtown and Uptown Dallas. Rather than working within the given framework of inherited office space, CyrusOne identified the company’s unique attributes and key priorities to ensure the new space speaks to the character of the organization and its values. 

Both company leadership and general staff embarked on a workplace strategy process to identify the organizational roles, work processes and organizational culture that would make the build-out of the office space uniquely CyrusOne. Work sessions, an employee survey and focus groups to discuss survey results generated a data-informed approach to workplace design and planning. 

A communicating stair connects the three floors to encourage a higher rate of collaboration and use of the amenity space and conference center located at the penthouse level. With ample seating and easily detachable technology, the breakroom is a café and small event space. All-hands meetings can flow out of the large training room into the café space and even onto the outdoor terrace. Bench seating at the base of the communicating stair and coffee stations at the east and west ends of the building serve as landmarks that support additional opportunities to form organic connections.  

Formal meetings can be held in the office’s large conference spaces or training room. The training room features classroom-like seating and presentation capabilities, while one conference room can be configured into three smaller meeting spaces with operable partition walls. The other large conference space is a boardroom-style space lined with floor-to-ceiling windows.  

One of the office’s hallways is home to custom touches that represent the brand’s culture and identity. CyrusOne’s “Rules of the Road” mottos are highlighted on a wall adjacent to a long wire memo board that showcases postcards and items such as a baseball cap that are important to the company’s identity.  

The Design Impact

CyrusOne’s world headquarters is a meaningful space for the company as it continues to grow its international business in the data center marketplace. The project embodies the CyrusOne brand and work experience as a result of extensive engagement with employees and leadership.  

Project Features


Textron Systems Technology Center 

Case Study

Textron Systems Technology Center  Honoring the Past While Showcasing the Future 

Arlington, Virginia, USA 

The Challenge

After touring an HKS-designed technology center at its sister company, Textron Systems tasked HKS with designing a technology center of its own. The defense, government and aerospace technology company wanted the center to convey its values and mission, immerse its customers in its current technological offerings and inspire collaboration to solve the challenges of the future. 

The Design Solution

At Textron Systems’ technology center, customers are greeted at reception and introduced to the company’s history by a 160-square-foot (14.9-square-meter) LED tile display. Through reception and into the gallery hall, touch panel displays set among metal wall panels guide users along a path through the space.  

Along the path, a technology demonstration theater and reconfigurable, multipurpose boardroom form the core of the center. The theater provides a fully immersive experience with a large LED screen controlled by a touchscreen. As the path curves, visitors are treated to views of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, the Potomac River and Washington D.C. monuments.  

The ceiling of the gallery hall is adorned with curvilinear ceiling baffles meant to symbolize the organic curves of topography, ocean waves and clouds in the sky. They are a physical representation of the innovation that Textron Systems brings to its seven operational domains: land, air, sea, propulsion, weapon systems, electronic systems and test, training and simulation.  

The Design Impact

Textron Systems’ distribution center simultaneously honors the grit and hands-on collaboration of its 50-year history and invites customers to explore the cutting-edge innovations of its future.   

The technology center contributes to sustainability with energy-saving fixtures and recyclable materials. The use of daylight harvesting sensors that measure daylight and adjust controlled lighting accordingly, energy efficient appliances and manual on/auto off lighting resulted in a 28% reduction of energy use. The ceiling baffles are carbon neutral and made of 100% recyclable PET plastic. Other materials are made of recycled content and are Cradle to Cradle-certified.

Project Features

Awards


CoreLogic

Case Study

CoreLogic Navigating CRE Investments in Post-COVID Times

United States (Multiple Sites)

The Challenge

To realign its North American commercial real estate portfolio with its evolving suite of services and the work patterns of its staff employs to deliver them, CoreLogic tapped HKS to assess its employees’ new ways of working to align itself with the post-Covid needs of its customers. The study included more than a dozen office locations totaling nearly 800,000 square feet of leased space for more than 3,500 employees. Insights and recommendations are helping CoreLogic make targeted investments in its offices that elevate the everyday experience and amplify the signature “Moments That Matter” for its Brand.

The Design Solution

A diagnostic look at the work patterns and preferences of its employees included: current-state assessment of space utilization, senior leadership alignment workshops, as well as a deep ‘How You Work’ engagement with every employee. This multipronged approach captured a holistic perspective of actual work patterns in the current context and identified attributes of an ideal future-state. Insights around the uniqueness of CoreLogic’s deep expertise and analytic nature enabled HKS to advise on both portfolio-level and location-specific recommendations for real estate and design interventions.

An overall impact framework identified office design concepts tailored to CoreLogic’s current needs and improvement opportunities. Design concepts range from foundational expressions of Brand, while others pilot innovative work environments borrowed across industries, such as the gaming arenas, brain-break salons, and rapid-ops collaboration. HKS recommendations support unique team workflows, prioritized in-office experiences, and maintaining CoreLogic’s strongly aligned culture of excellence as measured in expertise, responsiveness, and accuracy.

The Design Impact

At the time of publishing, CoreLogic is actively implementing both foundational and pilot interventions at multiple locations. Each location has been analyzed for primary work group needs and office priorities based on unique work team strengths by geography. They are expected to open or re-open these offices in 2023. With the study in hand, CoreLogic can critically evaluate existing offices and proposed real estate acquisitions leveraging facility data to maintain their workspace effectiveness affordably and consistently over time.

In order to balance financial investment with project priorities and existing resources, CoreLogic considers each site location’s space typologies and office design relative to cost and impact.

HKS identified different space types based on CoreLogic’s unique organizational culture and work patterns to optimize the office experience bespoke to each geographic location, departmental representation, and local employee feedback.

Project Features

“CoreLogic came to realize we needed to make our workplaces where our team members wanted to come to, not had to come to. That’s a very important distinction. HKS is key enabler in helping us refine our design language to a place where we could turn that priority into reality. With the tools they have armed us with, we stand a chance at attracting team members to be together, rather than other, more prescriptive approaches. Being the employer of choice is about being where our team wants to be.”

Ryan T. Martin,
Sr Leader, Real Estate & Facilities Management
CoreLogic

Brandi Kmoch

Alejandro Danel 

Case Studies

Part 2: How Do We Break the Workstation, and What Should We Design Instead?

Part 2: How Do We Break the Workstation, and What Should We Design Instead?

In the first installment in this series, we made a provocative, brain-based, and historically-informed argument for the need to break the concept of the open office workstation. This time, we’ll describe a case study of how we can break the workstation, and what we can remake in its place. In doing so, we’re also addressing the rule and tradition of the workstation – behaviors many workers have come to expect and accept without questioning why. 

First, take a look at Office Plan 1 below. Where do you go? Easy, right? You find your default seat amongst the banks of other workstations. Now, take a look at Office Plan 2. Where do you go?

Not as easy? If you’re like many experienced corporate employees, you’re looking at Office Plan 2 and not seeing what you’d expect. Your brain cannot predict where to go right now because you don’t see the traditionally placed bank of open office workstations. In other words, the concept of the default workstation you’re dependent on is no longer there. It has been broken. 

What you see instead are different groupings of desks and tables in varying sizes of space. A couple of the rooms look like they might be conference rooms, but what about the rest of the office?  

To Create Places that are Experiential We Need to Address Experiential Blindness

While trying to figure out what those other spaces are, and when you don’t have any contextual information from your past to try and make sense of the present, some neuroscientists might say that you’re in a state of experiential blindness

This sounds like a bad thing, but it’s not – it’s a huge design and behavioral opportunity to change how you make sense of the intent of a space, and what it offers you when you use it (i.e., what the space affords you). Once your brain has the context it needs to understand that intent, your experiential blindness is resolved, and in its place, you have a new understanding of that space.  

Let’s look at this smaller space taken from Office Plan 2 as an example. Undoubtedly, you have plenty of contextual information from your past about chairs, tables, and monitors, but you don’t yet understand what this space, as a whole, is intended to afford you and your team.  

Imagine that your company (a knowledge work professional service organization) communicates that the intent of this space is to help speed up idea formation in high-pressure situations. This highly flexible environment is in a layout right now that functions best when approaching a deadline, and it provides a media center for projecting and sharing work with team members in other parts of the world. It is reservable for weeks at a time and has dedicated pinup spaces so that teams can take advantage of the benefits of spatial memories of artifacts related to a project for extended periods of time. 

If communicated effectively, you now have contextual information for the intended affordances of this space. In other words, you’re starting to form a new concept of that space. What’s more, if that concept is to become stickier in your brain, this space needs a name – we’ll call it the Rapid Ops room. 

So now, when you enter the office and you see this room, you no longer have experiential blindness – instead, you see the Rapid Ops room, and this concept will become stronger and more focused over time if you use the space with teams in high-pressure situations when deadlines are approaching.

Time as a Building Block

In the previous installment in this series, we argued that the open office workstation was a hangover from the industrial era, and that it has become the default building block of the modern open office. We proposed that an office design should instead focus first on people’s needs before physical solutions are proposed. 

When you viewed Office Plan 2 above, we asked you to consider where you’d go. This was difficult because you didn’t have context for the intent of each space. When you gain more context for what each of the different spaces afford you and your team, the question of where you’d go becomes more intentional because there is not a default workstation. 

But when you’re considering where to go, what you’re really asking yourself is where you need to go in that moment to meet the demands of a specific activity – this is an issue of designing your time

In other words, a key building block for office effectiveness is the time that individuals and teams plan for different activities, whether in advance or ad hoc. This is critical because time is the common denominator among known challenges in open office workstations. It is at the core of multi-tasking (i.e., performing more than one task at a time), and unwanted environmental distractions (i.e., performing an activity at odds with others’ activities in your vicinity at the same time).

By designing our time, we are both focusing on the tasks that need to be completed (the work itself) and deciding when to get that work done collectively. This moves the dimension of time from a problematic common denominator to an ally in the fight for a brain healthy workplace. Work that is best done as a team, for example, needs to be designed together.  

But we first must understand what the work itself is. Who needs to participate, what kinds of technology, resources, and infrastructure are needed? Then, when we match activities with available spaces designed with specific intent, we help utilize those spaces at their highest value toward the organization’s goals. In many ways this may sound obvious, but for most organizations, this method of designing time necessitates a new and more intentional way of thinking about space allocation.

Rethinking the ‘Me’ in Me / We / Us

Throughout the past several decades of workplace design, the Me / We / Us framework has been used more and more prevalently. Used to categorize space allocation and justify programming ratios in floor plans, Me / We / Us essentially describes three high-level, somewhat abstract categories to help users understand an office environment. 

‘Me’ space – historically the foundational building block of workstations and private offices – serves as the primary square footage allocation in most office designs. ‘We’ space typically includes group work settings, including open collaboration, conference rooms, and sometimes shared workstations and offices. ‘Us’ space is typically characterized by social gathering and other shared activities not necessarily dedicated to performing typical work tasks, such as café spaces, lounges, and lobbies. 

In our new paradigm shift, however, the definition of ‘Me’ space needs to be modified. If there is no longer a dedicated, default workstation where you go to drop your bag and park for the day, then what should ‘Me’ space be? Perhaps ‘Me’ space is no longer about allocation of space but the policy and agency to design your time for individual effectiveness within the work ecosystem at large – in Huddle or Focus rooms, shared ‘We’ spaces, public coffee shops, or home workspaces depending on individual effectiveness, preference, and the task at hand.  

One danger here is that employees may equate this loss of traditional ‘Me’ space with a loss of perceived ownership and presence of their office experience. This is why communication of the designed intent of all the different space concepts within the office is critical, as ‘Me’ spaces may imply that other spaces are not mine. 

But when employees can let go of ownership over just one tiny part of the office (their overstressed workstation) and shift their sense of agency toward the entire office complete with all its tailored ‘We’ and ‘Us’ spaces, the value proposition of the office itself becomes more evident. 

If designed well, the value of utilizing the office for those intended activities showcases how a space can help you and your team accomplish different work tasks better than you could anywhere else, including your home workspace, because it was designed with specific intent.

One of those value-driven intents for the office space in many organizations will undoubtedly be social connection (consistently cited as a top reason for why people want to come to the office post-pandemic). We know that the strength of social connections at work has shifted over the past few years, with second and third level connections suffering most. It is time for us to consider how a more intentionally designed office environment can bolster those in-person connections we’ve lost while keeping our newer virtual connections alive and well. 

Up Next

By designing our collective time in accordance with intentionally designed office spaces, we highlight the shortcomings of an oversimplified ratio for programming. There is not some magical ratio of workstations to conference rooms to focus pods that we’re all just oh-so close to nailing down for organizations to be most effective. 

By planning and aligning our time with our intent and our tailored workspaces, we can see that square footage is better considered as a design outcome, and not as a design driver. In this installment, we have shown a case study where overall square footage remained similar. But depending on the available work ecosystem of spaces (both physical and digital) and organizational goals, one organization’s intentionally aligned real estate investment may become much smaller (or even vanish), while another’s may need to grow substantially. 

Now that you’ve seen an example of how we can break the workstation and reinvent the office as an intentional part of the ecosystem of workplaces, next time we’ll show you how we can get to those solutions with you as a client.  

Here’s a hint: It’s not simple, it requires investment in the right people and resources, and it’s all about accountability in relationships. 

5th & John Life Science Building

Case Study

5th & John Life Science Building 5th & John Brings Delight to Seattle Uptown Neighborhood

Seattle, WA

The Challenge

Lincoln Property Company selected HKS and local Seattle firm Compton Design Office to design a core & shell building to house biological lab and office functions that would also provide a future hub of neighborhood activity and reflect the eclectic nature of its surrounding context. The project site is adjacent to the Seattle Center, home of the famed Space Needle and origin point for the city’s monorail, which runs parallel to the property. The building massing and façade design respond to both the kineticism of the train’s movement and are emblematic of the progressive optimism embodied by the Seattle Center.

The Design Solution

Observing the train’s elevated path as an implied boundary extending through the district, the concept of the “Datum of Delight” was developed to describe this virtual line between the space of the ground-level experience and space of the contextual built environment above. The Datum introduces elements of surprise, excitement, and inspiration to the site by differentiating the types of experiences that occur both above and below. Through the medium of the Datum, the project responds to the rich culture of spectacle and arts in Uptown and enhances the pedestrian experience along 5th Avenue and John Street.

From this, the project’s primary design focus is the creation of delight; the development of unique and memorable experiential conditions for both the pedestrian who engages with the site directly and the observer who interacts visually from a distance. At ground level, the design responds to the rich culture and eclectic nature of the Uptown neighborhood, providing active open space with opportunities for neighborhood residents and visitors to connect, enhancing the pedestrian experience along 5th Avenue and John Street and celebrating an exceptional site tree within an expansive public space. Above the datum, the façade responds to the context of the site through a distinct massing and curtain wall design that expresses the vibrancy of the neighborhood and responds to the activity and speed of the adjacent monorail line. The façade further illustrates an active response to the monorail’s presence through a kinetic light installation to create an enduring phenomenon in the district and a natural extension of the progressive spirit of the Seattle Center.

The façade design is also an integral part of the project’s strategy to reduce energy loads while maximizing user comfort and views relative to solar orientation through strategic shading, fenestration depth and density. This aids in minimizing the load on the existing power grid in concert with other choices such as using renewable energy sources, eliminating the use of natural gas fuel and specification of an energy-saving mechanical system.

The Design Impact

The decision to provide a 3,000 sf (278 sm) outdoor amenity space at grade allowed the design team to add an additional 0.5 FAR (13,500 sf, or 1,254 sm) to the building area while also providing the neighborhood with a new community focal point and space for engagement and activity.

The project is being submitted for LEED Gold certification and was designed as an all-electric powered facility to minimize its carbon footprint on day one, providing a solar-ready infrastructure at the roof to transition a portion of its energy supply to solar panels in the future. The inclusion of a Variable Refrigerant Flow (VRF) mechanical system provides additional savings on energy use.

Project Features


Timothy Meyer

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