Dee Dee Bonds

LGBTQIA+ Designers at HKS Bring Pride to Their Work

LGBTQIA+ Designers at HKS Bring Pride to Their Work

HKS’ mission to build a better future isn’t limited to our design practice — that goal drives everything we do. Our Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion initiatives allow us to look inward and effect meaningful change that makes our firm a better place to work. These initiatives include the daily celebration and inclusion of our LGBTQIA+ colleagues through the firm’s Pride Affinity and Inclusion Group and participation in the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Corporate Equality Index.  

HKS constantly strives to create space for, and amplify the voices of, our LGBTQIA+ colleagues, but Pride Month is a chance to honor them further. To celebrate Pride Month, three of our colleagues — Dennis Dine, Gaby Espinosa and Pablo Morales Contreras — share how their identities within the LGBTQIA+ community make them better designers.  

Dennis Dine, he/him 

Architecture Design Professional, Health Care 
HKS Chicago 
Years in the industry: 6 
Years at HKS: 2 

Since joining HKS two years ago as a health care designer, I have worked alongside a diverse, dynamic team comprised of varying intersectional identities. Together, we seek to create environments that heal and uplift by using a people-first design approach. User engagement is central to any responsive design solution and our varying identities and experiences give our team a comprehensive perspective to ask the right questions. My own identity as a member of the LGBTQIA+ community — along with our ongoing research on gender-affirming design — provides me with a lens to think critically about gendered spaces and psychological and physical safety. This lens, when compounded with those of my teammates, results in more empathetic and inclusive solutions.  

At HKS, my identity within the LGBTQIA+ community is viewed as an asset, not a liability. Our clients are demanding a built environment that reflects the communities they serve, and HKS recognizes that responsiveness does not emerge from homogeneity. It is not enough to merely hire and bring diverse voices to the table. Rather, we must ensure diverse voices are amplified to fully leverage the benefits they offer to our work. 

Pride Month provides us all with an opportunity to both celebrate progress and recognize the work we have cut out for us. The opportunities I have today are the result of those before me who fought tooth-and-nail for them. It is now my turn to lead with influence to push the needle further. 

“At HKS, my identity within the LGBTQIA+ community is viewed as an asset, not a liability.”

Gaby Espinosa, she/her

Designer, Senior Living
HKS Dallas
Years in the industry: 8
Years at HKS: 2.5

Being a part of the LGBTQIA+ community encourages me to be a better designer by fostering an understanding of and appreciation for the needs of diverse communities. It has opened my eyes to the importance of inclusivity and the role of design in creating spaces that not only embrace diversity but celebrate it. Whether it’s incorporating accessible features, respecting cultural traditions or accommodating different lifestyles, I want to design environments that make everyone feel like they belong. By designing spaces that take into consideration the uniqueness of people, we can empower individuals to freely be who they are. 

Being a lesbian has cultivated my strong sense of empathy and curiosity about people’s different perspectives. This has allowed me to connect with clients and the people we design for on a deeper level. By creating an open environment with honest dialogue, I can collaborate in an effective way, which results in unique designs that reflect the identity of the communities they belong to. Celebrating diversity and incorporating elements that reflect people’s cultures and identities results in designs that make people feel at home. 

My identity encourages me to think outside the box and challenge the norm, especially when designing for the future of senior living. The LGBTQIA+ community has a history of progress and pushing boundaries that inspires me to approach design challenges with fresh eyes and seek unconventional solutions. By embracing different perspectives, cultures and ideas, I want to create designs that are not only aesthetically pleasing but also challenge what we traditionally think of when we think of senior living design. Design should foster inclusivity and result in spaces that encourage exchanges between different generations, cultures and identities. 

“The LGBTQIA+ community has a history of progress and pushing boundaries that inspires me to approach design challenges with fresh eyes and seek unconventional solutions.”

Pablo Morales Contreras, he/him

Designer, Hospitality 
HKS Mexico City 
Years in the industry: 6.5 
Years at HKS: 1.5 

I believe creativity comes from viewing the world from a different perspective. As members of the LGBTQIA+ community, we tend to see the world differently, moving away from the way things have always been done to what should be done instead. What is innovation if not a twist or an introduction of a new thing to an established arrangement?  

From an early age, every queer person comes to terms with their identity, realizing that we aren’t like most people. This process of self-discovery is what makes us more creative. We get to create our own playbook, and because of that, we see the world as a creative place. We explore how we can make something more beautiful or more inclusive.  

As a designer, my identity has been influential in the way I think about design and how I approach each project. My background, experiences, values and beliefs all play a role in how I interpret a design brief and choose the best solution for it. I believe there’s power in bringing a diverse point of view, a different way of doing things or a different world view. From the vibrant colors of the Pride flag to the powerful messages of self-love and acceptance, I strive to bring these elements into my designs to create something that is both visually stunning and meaningful. 

“I believe there’s power in bringing a diverse point of view, a different way of doing things or a different world view.”

Being part of the LGBTQIA+ community has been a great source of inspiration and motivation for me as a designer. Being exposed to different perspectives, cultures and ways of thinking has helped me develop my creative skills and become more open-minded when it comes to design. 

It also has made me more aware of the importance of representation in design. I strive to create designs that are inclusive and representative of all people regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. This helps me create designs that are not only visually appealing but also meaningful and impactful. 

Siobhan Farvardin: From LEGO and Violin to HKS Senior Living Leader

Siobhan Farvardin: From LEGO and Violin to HKS Senior Living Leader

As a child, Siobhan Farvardin (Shiv-awn Far-vaar-deen) was an excellent violin player and was so good at math that she could have studied music or engineering in college. But when it came time to decide on a major, Farvardin chose architecture. Her decision started her along the path of fulfilling her mother’s own dream of becoming an architect, although it meant giving up the passion of her father, who at one point had wanted to be a professional musician.

As a Principal at HKS, she’s still living out her mother’s dream. In fact Farvardin, now Global Director of the firm’s Senior Living practice, has given her mother an even more tangible role in her career, routinely discussing design concepts and plans with her.

Farvardin said she values her mother’s eye for “what looks good and what’s sophisticated and timeless” and has talked with her about projects since she started her career more than 20 years ago.

“Her opinion counts,” Farvardin added.  “She has good design tastes.”

Mary Farvardin loves being an integral part of her daughter’s career and is excited about all that she has accomplished.

“Few get to have a career that matches their passion for art and engineering,” Mary Farvardin said. “We couldn’t be more proud of her.”

Living Her Childhood Dreams

People often describe the United States as a melting pot because of its cultural diversity. For Farvardin, that metaphor extends to her family, too.

Her mother, a retired teacher, is Northern Irish. Her father, Anoosh Farvardin, is a retired software engineer and is Persian. The couple sacrificed their own creative passions of architecture and music to pursue careers they believed were more practical for raising a family.

Siobhan Farvardin was born in England but only lived there until age 5, when her family moved to the U.S. to determine whether they could have a future in the country.

“We came to the States for one year and then we ended up liking it so much, we stayed,” she said.

Farvardin grew up in South Florida where she never seemed to have enough LEGO bricks. She spent hours building colorful structures that she proudly displayed in her room.

Farvardin’s love of sports and adventure began at a young age.

And while the LEGO building toys were her introduction into the design world, it was the violin that introduced her to the world of senior living.

Farvardin started playing the instrument as a youngster but had immense stage fright. So, her mother encouraged her to perform for seniors at a local retirement community to overcome her fear of performing in front of people.

That’s where she first noticed the wide spectrum of seniors who live in these communities, with different needs, different interests and different backgrounds.

“There were people who were engaged and knew the songs, and then there were the ones that were just not present,” she said.” I had grandparents, but they hadn’t gone through ailments like Alzheimer’s, so this was my first exposure to that world.”

While she was still in high school, her mother encouraged her to consider studying architecture when she went off to college. It was advice that Farvardin followed when she enrolled at the University of Florida in 1995.

A New Focus

By the time Farvardin graduated in 2000, her parents had moved to Texas and settled in the Dallas area. She had always been close with her parents and decided to start her career near them.

But it would take several years and jobs — from designing office buildings to residences to education spaces — before Farvardin realized that her calling was in senior living design. She began that journey in 2006.

Farvardin worked with David Dillard at his Dallas-based firm, D2 Architecture, which specialized in senior living design. She eventually became a principal and part owner of the firm. When D2 merged with HKS in 2020, Dillard was named head of HKS’ Senior Living practice. As the practice quickly grew, Dillard selected Farvardin to co-lead the group with him.

“She pleases people, but she isn’t a people pleaser,” Dillard said. “She is a very good communicator and that becomes evident in the first five minutes you meet her. She doesn’t just gush like someone who’s intent on making an impression. She listens, she thinks, and she’s very articulate.”

Farvardin demonstrated those skills on projects like Legacy Midtown Park in Dallas. The Legacy Midtown Park design team was hyper-focused on ensuring each apartment was unique and felt like a home. They also included shared amenity spaces – such as an active graffiti wall featuring local artists – to make the community more desirable.

After the community opened, a woman living in one of the smallest apartments approached the architects to share how much she loved her new home.

“It was really refreshing to see residents making this their home – seeing them walking throughout the space and seeing them in the dining room and the cafe,” said Farvardin, who led the project.

Looking Ahead

When Dillard retired in December 2022, Farvardin took over as sole Director of the HKS Senior Living practice.

She said she is looking forward to the future of senior living design, especially as more developers begin to embrace features that appeal to multiple generations, such as the bowling alley planned for a current project. An amenity like this “brings grandkids to the community,” she said. “That’s really exciting.”

Farvardin said she also expects to see more developments for aging in place. She described this model as “more expensive upfront, but better in the long run,” given how difficult it can be for seniors to pick up and move. “I think if we can help them age in place, that would be better,” she said.

Farvardin is happy senior living communities are incorporating mixed-use elements, such as retail, on the ground floor.

“I would love to see more intergenerational housing and lot more mixed-use components,” she said.

She enjoys collaborating with partner firms, such as landscape architects, on complex projects that engage an entire community. And she said that enthusiastic spirit of collaboration carries over to her HKS Senior Living practice colleagues.

“I think we’ve got a really robust team here that likes problem solving,” she said. “It’s exciting, leveraging the talent across the globe that HKS has.”

Paying it Forward

Farvardin considers herself fortunate to have had the constant support of family and mentors throughout her career.

But now it’s time for Farvardin to pay all of that backing and encouragement forward.

So, she regularly organizes meetings with less experienced designers to see how they are doing and never fails to ask what she can do to support their growth. Farvardin has been a longtime mentor to Gaby Espinosa, a designer in Senior Living who started her design career at D2 in 2016 and shifted to HKS in 2020 when the firms merged.

“Siobhan looks for how each of us can shine and pushes us towards that. She motivates each one of us to grow and gives credit where credit is due,” Espinosa said. “It just seems like she wants us all to do better and be better and learn more.”

Farvardin’s new role in the Senior Living practice will mean more responsibilities — and even more people to mentor — but Espinosa said she’s thrilled to see her role model expand her wings.

“Seeing how she’s grown, taken on more responsibility, and how she commands a room and handles uncomfortable situations just shows me that I can do it too,” Espinosa said. “That’s who I want to be in 10-15 years.”

Farvardin (far right) and her friends have taken many trips across the U.S. to run marathons together.

Farvardin says her team-oriented mindset actually comes from her love of sports. She grew up playing volleyball and has spent many of her adult years traveling to different U.S. cities to run marathons with her closest girlfriends. Her beloved Dallas Mavericks have also helped her grow as a leader.

“I don’t care for a team that’s just about one individual,” Farvardin said. “The best teams are like the Dallas Mavericks, where so many people are good. They work together, and they play off each other’s strengths. That’s what I hope for our group at HKS.”

Kyle Sellers


News, Announcements and Events

HKS in 2023: Projects To Get Excited About

HKS in 2023: Projects To Get Excited About

Named by Fast Company as one of the Most Innovative Companies in 2022, global design firm HKS is looking to grow our business and bring exciting, positive impact to communities around the world this year.

From improving design through innovation, research and equity-centered approaches, here’s an insightful snapshot of some projects and initiatives that we’re excited to see in 2023:

Pioneering Research and Designs that Transform Communities

1. Brain Health Research – HKS recently launched brand-new findings from the brain health study we conducted in partnership with the University of Texas at Dallas’ Center for BrainHealth® with insights into how people and companies can work smarter, more collaboratively and healthier. The report also includes what we’ve learned about designing workplaces to enhance cognitive functions and well-being.

2. Project Connect – The Austin Transit Partnership (ATP) just announced a major partnership with an international design team led by HKS, UNStudio and Gehl to create system-wide architecture and urban design for the light rail program of Project Connect, a major expansion of Austin’s public transit system.The collaborative team is getting to work on designing a technologically advanced, human-centric transit experience true to Austin’s culture and landscape.

Stunning New Places to Work and Relax

3. HKS New York City Office – Located in the NoMad neighborhood of Manhattan, HKS’ new New York City Office will open this spring. With a design inspired by the city’s complex transportation system and artistic culture, the office will be a center of creativity and innovation that serves as gateway destination for HKS’ global clients. Goals for the design include adaptable collaboration, acoustic comfort, access to nature and daylight — all key elements to support the health and productivity of designers working in one of the world’s biggest and busiest cities.

4. The Ritz-Carlton, Portland – HKS crafted the vision, developed the planning and strategy, sculpted the interior architecture and designed the furniture and finishes of the Ritz-Carlton that debuts this summer in downtown Portland, Oregon. This 35-story mixed-used high rise was created in partnership with Portland-based GBD Architects and BPM Real Estate Group. The interiors of the multifaceted building’s hotel, residential, retail and office spaces celebrate the beauty of the Pacific Northwest, native culture and craft and Portland’s spirit of exploration.

Game-changing Venues for Extraordinary Entertainment Experiences

5. ES CON Field Hokkaido – ES CON Field Hokkaido ballpark is a 35,000-capacity baseball stadium scheduled to open for play this spring in Japan. Home to the Pacific League’s Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters Baseball Club, the complex is the heart of a dynamic, master-planned mixed-used development. The stadium’s retractable roof and sliding glass outfield doors – which help grow natural turf – are among many firsts for a ballpark in the Asian market. Other highlights include a pair of 88-meter-long video boards that create an immersive digital experience, and traditional Japanese onsen natural hot spring baths that fans can enjoy while watching games.

6. Cosm — The first public venue for global experiential media company Cosm is undergoing construction throughout 2023 at Inglewood, CA’s Hollywood Park, home of HKS-designed SoFi Stadium and YouTube Theater. The venue will feature live sports, entertainment events and arts and music experiences in a future-forward immersive digital technology environment. Cosm is sure to bring even more cutting-edge entertainment value to the Los Angeles area when it opens next year.

State-of-the-art Education and Health Care Environments

7. Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center O’Quinn Medical Tower at McNair – The new O’Quinn Medical Tower, opening this spring, will house the Dan L Duncan Comprehensive Cancer Center, outpatient radiology and endoscopy services and an ambulatory surgery center. The medical tower and an adjacent 850-car parking garage addition are part of a multi-year project to consolidate patient care on Baylor St. Luke’s McNair Campus in Houston. This campus is located next to the Texas Medical Center and new TMC Helix Park, an area under development for world-class health care and research innovation.

8. UC San Diego Theatre District Living and Learning Neighborhood – Opening in the fall, UC San Diego’s Theatre District Living and Learning Neighborhood is a mixed-use student residential community that will also serve as a major public gateway to UC San Diego’s campus. Comprised of five buildings with student housing, academic, administration, a conference center and amenities such as dining, retail, and fitness, the Neighborhood is designed to enhance well-being and minimize environmental impact.

9. Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU Patient Tower – This full-service pediatric facility in Richmond, Virginia includes emergency, inpatient and outpatient care all connected to a robust academic medical center and the hospital’s award-winning CHoR Pavilion, also designed by HKS. Because children’s health care often causes significant stress on young patients, families, and care team members, the tower’s research-informed design is intended to create an oasis for children and make people feel calm and at ease. All areas feature easily navigable circulation patterns, natural light and soothing artwork and are intended to promote choice. The building will open this spring.

10. Mount Sinai Beth Israel Comprehensive Behavioral Health Center – Work at the Comprehensive Behavioral Health Center for Mount Sinai Beth Israel, a teaching hospital in New York City, involved the complete renovation of a six-story structure originally built in 1898. The facility, due to open this spring, is designed to support mental health care, physical health care, addiction treatment, social services and integrated outpatient care. It will be the first center for comprehensive behavioral health care in New York state.

Looking Ahead

These HKS projects, along with many others scheduled for 2023, continue to demonstrate how architecture and design can bring joy, comfort and connection anywhere in the world.

“These projects reflect our commitment to service and pursuit of excellence for our clients, partners and colleagues in the new year,” said Dan Noble, HKS President and CEO. “We appreciate the collaboration and partnership that led to these successes and look forward to the future.”

These projects reflect our commitment to service and pursuit of excellence for our clients, partners and colleagues in the new year.

Dan Noble, HKS President and CEO

HKS Launches HKS xBE to Cultivate Inclusion in Architecture & Design Industry

HKS Launches HKS xBE to Cultivate Inclusion in Architecture & Design Industry

HKS announces the launch of a new partner diversity program, HKS xBE, that gives xBE firms (a term inclusive of all disadvantaged businesses) and their members access to opportunities to build relationships, pursue new work and bolster innovation within the architecture and design professions.

The program has two primary components: a 12-week seminar, xBE Rise; and an xBE Network, which aims to increase diversity among the firm’s myriad partnerships for architecture and design projects.

“HKS is committed to building a more diverse workforce and partnership network across the AEC industry,” says HKS CEO Dan Noble. “We value a wide range of different ideas and perspectives which we believe enrich the profession of architecture, foster design innovation, and increase the community value of our work.”

“HKS is committed to building a more diverse workforce and partnership network across the AEC industry.”

HKS Director of Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, Yiselle Santos Rivera, notes: “HKS xBE is a step in opening the profession of architecture to become more diverse, equitable and inclusive. We look forward to the relationships it will inspire.“

HKS invites xBE firms and their employees to participate in two ways:

  1. Firms may enroll in the HKSxBE Network, so that we better understand your culture, expertise, and business goals in hopes of fostering future collaboration. Eligible firms will hold one of the following certifications: Minority or Women-Owned Business Enterprise (M/WBE), Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE), Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Businesses (SDVOB), Historically Underutilized Businesses (HUB), Disability-owned Business Enterprise (DIS), Small Business Enterprise (SBE) or LGBT Business Enterprise (LGBTBE).
  2. Individuals may enroll in our 12-week seminar, xBE Rise. The purpose of xBE Rise is to learn how we might partner most effectively so that we are better positioned to serve clients and deliver industry-leading work together. Topics will mirror the phases of project design and delivery, and will include subjects such as contracts & risk management, marketing, community engagement and sustainable design. In each session, participants will explore barriers to success as well as perspectives on success for diverse teams.
Learn More & sign up

Jessica Limbri

Case Studies

Jeremy Kirk

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.

Awakening: Design for Sensory Well-being Transforms the Senior Living Experience

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Hearing birds chirp outside. 

Smelling fresh flowers from the garden. 

Touching a fabric tied to happy memories. 

Seeing engaging images like old movies. 

Connecting with friends. 

Our senses spark memories and encourage us to engage with the world. When we hear our favorite songs, we dance and sing along. When we see people out walking, we stop and say hello. When we feel fresh air on our skin, we take a moment to breathe and relax.  

Good design can awaken the senses. 

Good design can improve the lives of seniors with dementia, which impacts more than 55 million people worldwide. 

Creating enriching spaces that make people feel safe, comfortable and joyful is at the core of what designers do. At HKS, we extend that purpose to design spaces that actively promote brain health and mental well-being.

“Through Citizen HKS, we apply innovative thinking to solve social inequities. Our work with Samaritas is an opportunity to explore how design can improve the lives of those living with dementia.” – Lisa Adams, HKS’ Director of Citizen HKS & Sustainable Design Leader 

Through Citizen HKS, we apply innovative thinking to solve social inequities. Our work with Samaritas is an opportunity to explore how design can improve the lives of those living with dementia.

Senior living organizations have the immense responsibility to provide care and homes for the population most affected by fading mental capacities and memory loss. HKS recently partnered with Samaritas — a social services organization with independent and assisted senior living residences throughout Michigan — to improve the lives of people living with dementia.  

Several years of research and pro bono projects have shown us that spaces designed for sensory engagement — spaces that activate senses like touching, hearing smelling — can enhance the well-being of neurodivergent individuals. Multi-sensory spaces can also slow the progression of dementia, and in some cases, prolong the life of elders with the disease. Equipped with this understanding, Citizen HKS and the HKS Research team have teamed to assist Samaritas fulfill its mission to “transform entire communities one life at a time.”  

Citizen HKS provided pro bono design services for a respite room at Samaritas’ Grand Rapids location with soft seating and calming sensory objects including a digital nature window, aromatherapy elements and familiar memorabilia. This quiet space uses evidenced-based design strategies to reduce episodes of anxiety and duress for residents with dementia. 

We also raised over $50,000 to design and furnish a dynamic engagement room just down the hall. Formerly an under-used library, the space is being transformed into a stimulating destination where residents can partake in activities that spark social engagement and creativity — design strategies that can slow the progression of dementia.

Research Drives Design Impact 

HKS is committed to researching and designing for sensory well-being and brain health. Led by Citizen HKS and HKS Research teams, we’ve embarked on partnerships, studies and pro bono design projects to improve how the built environment supports brain functions. 

We designed our first Sensory Well-being Hub in 2017 to help neurodiverse high school students recover from sensory stressors and refocus on classroom learning. In addition to designing the Hub pro bono through Citizen HKS, we were able to build it using funds raised by HKS employees and project partners. By studying how students engaged with its interactive art and soundscapes, and calming cocoon structure, we found that many young people — especially those who are neurodivergent or autistic — desired diverse spaces and ways to engage that would make them feel comfortable and safe. Over time, we’ve prototyped new versions of the Hub and made an open-source design guide to share our learnings.

In recent research, we explored how design can aid mental processes and improve social connection among older adults, whose population will double by 2050. With an understanding that adult brains are capable of growing over time and making new neural connections throughout life, we developed a framework for creating Enriched Environments — spaces with design features that encourage motor, somatosensory, social and cognitive processes foster creativity and reduce stress.

“We have learned that enriched sensory environments can improve learning and memory in older adults and promote brain health. We want to leverage design as a powerful ally to care, and an active instrument to stave off cognitive decline.” – Dr. Upali Nanda, HKS’ Global Practice Director, Research

We have learned that enriched sensory environments can improve learning and memory in older adults and promote brain health. We want to leverage design as a powerful ally to care, and an active instrument to stave off cognitive decline.

HKS also partnered with The University of Texas at Dallas’ Center for BrainHealth this year on a workplace study to learn strategies to enhance our well-being and productivity. Nearly 200 HKS employees participated in assessments, online trainings, think tanks and brain exercises to optimize their brain health by improving strategic attention, integrated reasoning and innovation abilities. By using the science of brain health to enhance our capacities, we are becoming better equipped to improve the experiences of people who use the spaces we design — including senior living communities. 

Last spring, when Samaritas learned from HKS’ Global Practice Director of Research Dr. Upali Nanda and Director of Citizen HKS & Sustainable Design Leader Lisa Adams, that these initiatives and ideas could be brought together to improve the lives of elders, a beautiful partnership began. 

Rooms Designed to Awaken the Senses

To provide comfortable living environments for seniors with dementia, Samaritas focuses on individuals, not the disease. By learning about residents’ lives and values, Samaritas staff members create meaningful bonds and offer support they need.  

An integrated team of HKS interior designers, senior living architects, and researchers have worked with Samaritas to design two new rooms at Samaritas in Grand Rapids: one that makes residents feel calm and at ease, and one that stimulates activity and social connection.

“These rooms are meaningful to our community because they offer safety and comfort for residents in times of need, especially in moments of overstimulation and stress. They allow us to better support our residents, their family members, and our staff.” – Dayna Roe, Samaritas’ Director of Memory Care

These rooms are meaningful to our community because they offer safety and comfort for residents in times of need, especially in moments of overstimulation and stress. They allow us to better support our residents, their family members, and our staff.

Individuals with dementia often feel restless, confused, or anxious due to overstimulation. Known as “sundowning,” this symptom can be frustrating for those experiencing it and challenging for caregivers. Phase One of the Samaritas project, The Nook, is a calming space designed to relieve the effects of sundowning and other symptoms of dementia that hinder relaxation and peace.  

Residents enter the softly lit space through a wall of open bookshelves that provide privacy without fully blocking sight to the rest of the community. Once inside, they can rest on comfortable seats and take in sights of nature displayed on a digital window. They are also able to interact with objects such as apparel items, nostalgic décor, aromatherapy elements, and a virtual window that reflects a calming landscape and the time of day — all intended to de-stimulate, spark fond memories and aid personal restoration by calmly engaging the senses.  

The respite room also provides well-being improvements for Samaritas’ hardworking team members. Because senior living workplaces are often challenged by staffing shortages and high levels of stress, relaxing spaces for residents like the respite room mean that caregivers can take a break themselves, resting assured that residents are safe and comfortable. 

The Sensory Engagement Room at Samaritas 

Dementia frequently leads to isolation, loneliness and disassociation. A lack of brain stimulation can also worsen the effects of the disease. Phase Two of the Samaritas project, The Nest, seeks to provide sensory and social engagement opportunities that can offset disease progression and provide positive experiences for residents. 

Designed like a household kitchen and dining area, the room is intended to evoke the feeling of being in “the heart of the home,” and will be furnished with sensory objects that present residents with opportunities to participate in everyday activities. In this space, seniors can see, touch, smell, and hear familiar things that spark positive memories of the past and promote socialization and storytelling.

Located off a main corridor the room has a design that balances the creation of an authentic kitchen environment with the safety and spatial requirements for elder care. Flexible furniture, counter heights and a clear circulation pattern all support accessibility for seniors with mobility concerns and those who use aids such as wheelchairs and walkers.

The multi-sensory and multi-purpose space will include items typically found in family and friends’ homes including plants, cooking accessories and spice jars, photographs, craft items, and a television that will play cooking demonstrations and exercise, storytelling and music videos.

The design team worked to curate a believable environment that feeds sensory cues to the brains of people with a lifetime of experience. A kitchen is an authentically familiar, friendly, relatable environment with positive associations.

Help Make This Vision a Reality  

Our work with Samaritas demonstrates how outcome-driven design and applied research can work hand-in-hand to improve lives. But sensory well-being goes beyond thoughtful design. It’s a vision for healthier, brighter future for seniors living with dementia, for all neurodivergent people, and for everyone.  

The Citizen HKS Donor Advised Fund supports projects that align with our mission to make the world a better place. Your donations help us contribute to creating positive impact through design.

7 Things I Learned about the Future of Housing and Health Care While Teaching a Design-Build Studio

7 Things I Learned about the Future of Housing and Health Care While Teaching a Design-Build Studio

Each school year, HKS works with the College of Architecture, Planning & Public Affairs (CAPPA) at the University of Texas at Arlington (UTA) to teach the Design for Health graduate studio. The goal of the program is to foster stronger connections between architectural practice and education, while advancing new ideas about the future of design for health.

This year, we expanded our relationship to create a coalition that included HKS, CAPPA, UTA’s Multi-Interprofessional Center for Health Informatics (MICHI), and CADRE, the Center for Advanced Design Research and Evaluation, a not-for-profit research group founded and funded by HKS.

I co-taught this year’s studio with Julia Lindgren, and we decided to structure the design brief around a design-build project that would explore the question: can we design agile, independent dwelling units (AgDU’s) that adapt to their community and context as they shelter people through all stages of life? The AgDU’s would serve as homes for people ranging from singles, to families, to seniors. Building on the concept of aging in place, we discussed the idea of “staging in place,” which meant that we sought to design homes that could change over time and enable residents to remain in one place through every stage of life.

Studio Photo (L-R): Bryan Stoller, Constanza Godoy, Mikel Cardiel, Danial Mora, Serge Gasana, Jennifer Jett, Tristan Alanis, Rafael Diaz, Sergio Machado, Kevin Delgado

As teachers, we often have the good fortune of peering into the minds of our students, where preconceived ideas — formed and hardened from years in the field — are challenged and we are forced to break down complex ideas into digestible morsels of direction.  Through this lens, we were able to explore the future of housing. This is what we learned:

1. We long to build together

As our world becomes increasingly virtual and digitally connected, we have also become increasingly disconnected — physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Yet the desire for connectivity remains. We saw this as students emerged from the fog of semesters of virtual learning and wholeheartedly embraced sawdust in their faces and sweating alongside their colleagues as they figured out construction details together in the lab. There was a longing for the tactile and to see their ideas become built realities. The pride expressed in their faces at the end of the semester as they stood by their completed construction sections was incredible.

2. Design is most powerful when its impact is personified

Early in the design process, we asked the students to create avatars for a resident of their ADU, with the goal of envisioning some health design parameters for their “client” and a neighborhood to ground the design. Each took the task to heart, bringing back detailed narratives of this aging person’s former, current, and future life, including their family, hobbies, community, and health profile. Many students tied these personas to someone they knew, which deepened their resolve to consider the impact of their design decisions on this person at every phase.

3. We have the technology to bring the clinic to the home

The recent global pandemic expedited growth in telemedicine that has been embraced by patients and medical personnel alike. Consultation is at our fingertips, while support for managing medication and physical monitoring is a Wi-Fi code away. This multiplies access to health exponentially.

4. Community is more important than technology

Mother Teresa once noted that developing countries were often afflicted by a “poverty of loneliness” in which our elders have been abandoned to suffer alone. Embedded in the design prompt for the AgDU, is the fact that the community could support the upcoming stages of the aging process. Many of the student groups took this to heart, narrating scenarios in which the unit would allow the resident to remain close to family members or that the AgDU would be built in clusters allowing residents to unite with their friends to care for each other and love their neighbor. Without these family and community connections, the AgDU model can’t be successful, because it would result in the same “poverty of loneliness” we currently experience.  

5. Truly flexible design is hard

The Swiss really nailed it with their pocketknife, because creating a design that will work in any imaginable situation is hard to achieve. At a certain point in the design process, the designer must choose between the prioritization of seemingly conflicting design goals, visibility vs privacy for instance. Successful designs push the limits of these conflicting priorities, leaving each user with the feeling that the space was designed uniquely for them and their current and future needs.

6. To create agile dwellings, we need agile building codes

Our research of ADU legislation across the country revealed various levels of acceptance, which often required a great deal of expertise to navigate local zoning. While there are movements in many regions of the country to increase density, lending itself to favorable regulation, the size and nuance of the allowable application varies amongst jurisdictions.

7. Silos are bad; collaboration is good

This isn’t novel, but a reminder. Each of us has something that ignites us, a passion we’ve spent our life cultivating. The more of these passions, experiences, and expertise we can harness into a project – the bigger the possible wildfire for change and innovation. Julia Lindgren, my wonderful co-professor, brought an incredible design-build and building science expertise, coupled with a passion and extensive portfolio of community engagement and participatory design. Working alongside researchers from CADRE encouraged our team to approach the project with a heightened depth and breadth of background knowledge on the subject. Dr. Gabriela Mustata Wilson and her team from the UTA’s Multi-Interprofessional Center for Health Informatics brought detailed knowledge of the existing and emerging technologies, enriching the student projects. We tapped into our HKS Senior Living team’s in-depth knowledge in the field, key conversations for the students as they developed their patient profiles. Each student entered the studio with their own hometown, childhood, family situation, and unique passion that they brought to their group. As the exploration continues to grow and prototyping and research continues, we will continue to look for more sparks to set the industry ablaze.

U.S. Southeast’s Growing Economy Spurs New Design and Development Trends

U.S. Southeast’s Growing Economy Spurs New Design and Development Trends

For the past 50 years, population growth in the Southeastern United States has outpaced the country’s overall growth rate by nearly 40%. The region is now home to more than a quarter of the nation’s residents and a slew of major employers, including dozens of Fortune 500 companies.

Even more people and businesses flocked to the Southeast from Northeast and West Coast cities during the pandemic as Americans looked for temperate, less-dense living environments and were able to work remotely.

“We’re seeing a lot of growth particularly in the Southeast related to peoples’ shifting priorities for what they want out of life and what they want out of work,” said HKS Regional Director Shannon Kraus.

The exploding Southeast population has led to a flourishing regional economy that grew over 10 percent in 2021 alone. HKS is working with clients and communities to understand the impact these shifts are having on the region’s built environment — and expanding our design services for a resilient future.

We’re seeing a lot of growth particularly in the Southeast related to peoples’ shifting priorities for what they want out of life and what they want out of work.

Commercial Real Estate Re-evaluation

In Raleigh and Atlanta, an influx of companies re-locating to or opening regional headquarters has caused a surging need for commercial office space.

Lynn Dunn, Office Director of HKS’s new Raleigh location, said that companies in industries ranging from finance to pharmaceuticals are keen to set up shop in fast-growing North Carolina as employees and corporations “seek the tremendous benefit of quality of life” that can be obtained there.

“It’s fairly inexpensive for corporations to come to this area from an investment standpoint. For years, we’ve had companies consistently moving here from across the country,” Dunn said, noting the top recognition North Carolina recently received in CNBC’s “Top States for Business” survey and Raleigh-Durham area’s repeat inclusion in national “best places to live” reports.

Dunn and HKS Atlanta Office Director Julie Volosin said that building owners, property managers, brokers and developers are collaborating to keep up with evolving desires of employers and employees. Companies moving into their cities are interested in building new high-performance offices as well as repurposing existing spaces.

“Atlanta is a broker-driven market and we’re seeing brokers courting corporations around the country to relocate here. There is also an increased interest among brokers and building owners to reposition buildings with more robust amenities and technology-rich infrastructure,” Volosin said

As organizations determine new policies for employees’ in-office and hybrid working models, they are evaluating real estate changes and how to best utilize the spaces they invest in. HKS is designing corporate workplaces to optimize versatility.

“We really focus on creating the most flexible kind of space that will support their work and business plans. We consider the flexibility within the footprint of the real estate as well as the external ecosystem that surrounds it,” Volosin said, noting that offices located near ancillary spaces for working or conducting meetings, such as parks or coffee shops, are increasingly popular.

Designers and researchers across HKS offices are exploring workplace habits and environmental conditions in “living labs.” Along with improvements in technology and policy shifts, HKS is investing in spaces that will entice employees, clients, and the community to use offices with intention and purpose. 

This year, HKS’ Atlanta office is leading the firm in how workplaces can best accommodate and support a hybrid workforce. The design for the new Atlanta office, located in the Buckhead business district, is the result of a multidisciplinary process that combined research, place performance advisory, and commercial interiors teams. No longer a sea of workstations, the Atlanta office has design havens, idea exchange centers, agile team pods, and a communal hospitality plaza — all of which offer abundant choices for where to work, interact with clients and serve the community.

“We’re in a state of transformational discovery right now. It’s a journey as we continue to learn and leverage a truly hybrid workplace,” Volosin said.

We’re in a state of transformational discovery right now. It’s a journey as we continue to learn and leverage a truly hybrid workplace. 

Changing Job Markets Prompt New Design Needs

Among the Southeast’s most attractive relocation destinations, Florida has a job market in the throes of major transformation due to its growing population.

In Central Florida — which has a historically tourism-driven economy — incoming science, technology and health companies have begun to diversify the job market, according to HKS Orlando Office Director Nathan Butler.

“Our area’s legacy is deeply rooted in the service industry with a transient population that far outweighed the permanent population. Resources have historically supported tourism disproportionately,” Butler said. New emphasis on non-hospitality industries, he added, has created better balance in the local economy and provides exciting opportunities to design new health, commercial and mixed-use developments.

HKS designers in Central Florida are also answering the call to work on public sector projects as local governments invest in building places that support the area’s expanding permanent population. New community venues for sports and the performing arts, transit system facilities and civic buildings are among the types of design projects rising in number, particularly in Orlando, Butler said.

Another of Florida’s major cities, Miami, is also experiencing rapid population growth and a diversifying job market as many people from the Northeast moved there during the pandemic.

“Miami is growing to the point where you can’t build quick enough for the people who are moving here,” HKS Miami Office Director Jonathan Borrell.

Although Miami is a tourist destination like other Florida locales, it has the unique quality of being an international business hub with large financial institutions and deep connections to the global hospitality industry. Borrell said that the inflow of new residents, combined with big business interests, is driving a wave of mixed-use developments.

“There’s a big market here for commercial mixed-use,” Borrell said, adding that the HKS team there is building relationships with local clients who want to provide more connected and vibrant 24/7 destinations throughout Miami.

What “Mixed-Use” Means Moving Forward

HKS leaders from the region said a strong desire for mixed-use properties permeates most cities in the U.S. Southeast. What “mixed use” means, however, is evolving in light of population and economic growth, expanding to include more types of properties than a traditional blend of residential and commercial.

“In middle markets, developers are very interested in multi-modal transportation and mixed-use developments,” Kraus said. “And the mix of uses can be a broad range.”

In Raleigh and the North Carolina Research Triangle, science and technology companies, research organizations and the area’s many higher education institutions are driving demand for life science centers, and innovation-based workplaces and learning environments. Dunn said that design teams there are working with clients to create mixed-use hubs with these — and many other — types of buildings at the heart.

“Creating depth with different uses is what makes a space dynamic and attractive to people. We look at amenities like retail, parks, entertainment and how they connect to the community,” Dunn said.

In middle markets, developers are very interested in multi-modal transportation and mixed-use developments.

As the city grows, Dunn says Raleigh is becoming an attractive destination for conferences and sporting events, which require diverse venues, hotels, dining, and retail located in close proximity.

“We have a great need for hotels that developers and investors are looking into. The city has lost opportunities to host national events due to the lack of hotel rooms to support them,” said Dunn. Building on the success of the firm’s hospitality work in the Southeast on major projects for clients including Four Seasons, Marriott, and the Biltmore, HKS is deepening local relationships to support Raleigh’s goal to accommodate large-scale events.

Integrated Design Approaches for Stronger Outcomes

Regional Director Kraus and all four HKS Office Directors located in the Southeast said the firm is committed to diversifying design service offerings and enhancing the built environment during this period of change — and they’re working together to do so.

“We are one firm and one profit center globally. We work well at leveraging our different sectors and services in all our work, and I think that will continue,” said Volosin. She shared the example that firm-wide strategic advisors, designers and planners are collaborating with non-profit organizations and city agencies for more equitable public environments in the Atlanta metro area.

Borrell and Butler said HKS’ Florida offices are expanding upon the firm’s long legacy of working on health and hospitality projects by sharing the talents of designers from those sectors with local commercial, education and senior living clients.

“The more we find ways to blur lines between practices, the better position we’ll be in to deliver better projects for our clients and have stronger, more collaborative teams across offices,” Butler said.

The more we find ways to blur lines between practices, the better position we’ll be in to deliver better projects for our clients and have stronger, more collaborative teams across offices.

Architects are working with colleges and universities in all parts of the Southeast — including the University of North Carolina, Duke University, and Florida International University — on a wide spectrum of building types including residential, education, sports, life science and health facilities. By distributing talent across practice areas, HKS designers are creating learning, working, and leisure spaces for a rising generation of business, research and medical professionals.

“There are synergies between all these different practice areas. Our individual practice areas are working together to determine the best opportunities and offer a depth of expertise,” Dunn said.

As the Southeast’s economy and population both continue to shift and grow, HKS is seeking to strengthen its partnerships with communities, helping to ensure a bright future through innovation and collaboration.

“We want to be seen as the go-to firm for creative solutions to complex problems, where we can have an impact at the project level, neighborhood level and city level,” Kraus said.


HKS Announces New Mexico City Leadership Team and Office Move

HKS Announces New Mexico City Leadership Team and Office Move

HKS, a global design company recognized as one of Fast Company’s Most Innovative Architecture Firms, today opens the doors to our new location at Insurgentes Sur 1431 PB-2, Insurgentes Mixcoac, in Mexico City. We also want to introduce our new Mexico City leadership team: Juan Carlos Pineda as Office Director, Jorge Bracho Marzal as Studio Practice Leader, and Dan Flower as Senior Designer. Juan Carlos will oversee studio management, with Jorge and Dan leading design.

Left to right, Juan Carlos Pineda, Jorge Bracho Marzal, Dan Flower

Twenty Years in Mexico City 

Since opening our doors in Mexico City in 2002, our local studio has participated in many award-winning projects supported by HKS’ global network of talent. Our new Mexico City office reflects our belief that design excellence should embrace a commitment to ESG, or environmental and sustainable governance and demonstrates our latest thinking in workplace design. 

“Nowadays sustainable design is not an option, but a must,” Jorge Bracho said. “At HKS Mexico, we are committed to designing projects for all our stakeholders – communities, clients, end users and the planet — that excel in form and function, as well as projects that minimize negative environmental impacts and energy consumption.”

At HKS Mexico, we are committed to designing projects for all our stakeholders – communities, clients, end users and the planet.

Expanding our commitment to the city, region, and country 

Entering our twentieth year in Mexico, we will build upon HKS’ reputation for delivering exceptional projects to local, regional, and global clients, with a focus on the hospitality, health, education, commercial and mixed-use markets. “We have a great team here in Mexico,” said Juan Carlos, a Principal at HKS. “We look forward to moving into our new home and working with our current and future clients on exciting new work.”

“Our new leadership team and office in Mexico City reflects our long-standing commitment to Mexico,” said Dan Noble, President and CEO of HKS.  “Juan Carlos, Jorge, and Dan are exceptionally talented and committed to expanding our client and partner relationships. We are already working on many new projects in Mexico and look forward to many more.”

Luis Zapiain and Sergio Saenz, both HKS Principals and Global Directors of the firm’s Hospitality practice, remain closely tied to our Mexico City office and leadership. Our portfolio of resorts in Mexico notably includes Esperanza, an Auberge Resort; Las Ventanas Al Paraiso, a Rosewood Resort; and Waldorf Astoria Los Cabos Pedregal.


Our new leadership team and office in Mexico City reflects our long-standing commitment to Mexico.


HKS, la empresa global de diseño reconocida como una de las firmas de arquitectura más innovadoras por Fast Company, abre hoy las puertas de su nueva ubicación en Insurgentes Sur 1431 PB-2, Insurgentes Mixcoac, en la Ciudad de México. También presenta a nuestro nuevo equipo de liderazgo en la Ciudad de México: Juan Carlos Pineda como Director de Oficina, Jorge Bracho como Líder del Estudio de Diseño, y Dan Flower como Director de Diseño. Juan Carlos supervisará la administración del estudio, con Jorge y Dan a cargo del diseño.

Veinte años en la Ciudad de México

Desde que abrimos nuestras puertas en la Ciudad de México en 2002, nuestro estudio ha participado en muchos proyectos galardonados, apoyados por la red global de talento de HKS. Nuestra nueva oficina en la Ciudad de México refleja nuestra creencia de que la excelencia en el diseño debe incluir un compromiso con la gobernanza ambiental y sostenible (ESG, por sus siglas en inglés), y demuestra nuestro pensamiento más actual en el diseño del centro de trabajo. 

“Hoy en día, el diseño sostenible no es una opción, sino un deber”, comentó Jorge Bracho. “En HKS México, estamos comprometidos con el diseño de proyectos para todos nuestros grupos de interés (comunidades, clientes, usuarios finales y el planeta) que sobresalgan en forma y función, así como proyectos que minimicen los impactos ambientales negativos y el consumo de energía”.

Ampliando nuestro compromiso con la ciudad, la región y el país

Al ingresar a nuestro vigésimo año en México, aprovecharemos la reputación de HKS como base para entregar proyectos excepcionales a clientes locales, regionales y globales, con un enfoque en los mercados de turismo y hotelería, salud, educación, comercial y de uso mixto. “Tenemos un gran equipo aquí en México”, comentó Juan Carlos, director de HKS. “Estamos ansiosos por trasladarnos a nuestro nuevo hogar y trabajar con nuestros clientes actuales y futuros en nuevos y emocionantes proyectos”.

“Nuestro nuevo equipo de liderazgo y oficina en la Ciudad de México refleja nuestro compromiso a largo plazo con México”, anunció Dan Noble, Presidente y Director Ejecutivo de HKS.  “Juan Carlos, Jorge y Dan son excepcionalmente talentosos y están comprometidos a expandir nuestras relaciones con clientes y socios. Ya estamos trabajando en numerosos proyectos nuevos en México y esperamos muchos más”.

Luis Zapiain y Sergio Sáenz, ambos Socios y Directores Globales de HKS del sector de Hotelería de la firma, permanecerán estrechamente vinculados a nuestra oficina y liderazgo en la Ciudad de México. Nuestra cartera de resorts en México incluye proyectos emblemáticos como: Esperanza, de Auberge Resort; Las Ventanas Al Paraíso, Rosewood Resort; y Waldorf Astoria en Pedregal Los Cabos.

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.

Margarita Aguirre


News, Announcements and Events

HKS Expands Its Presence in North Carolina With the Opening of Raleigh Office

HKS Expands Its Presence in North Carolina With the Opening of Raleigh Office

HKS, a global design company recognized as one of Fast Company’s Most Innovative Architecture Firms, is expanding in North Carolina with the opening of an office in Raleigh.

A leader among international architecture and design firms, HKS is known for its innovative ability to create and deliver environments of distinction through award-winning architecture, planning, interior design, research and commitment to ESG (environmental, social and governance). Since 1984, HKS has been a part of designing more than 200 North Carolina-based projects including Cone Health, Wake Forest Baptist Health, Duke Health, JW Charlotte, American Tobacco Master Plan, Smoky Hollow and Biltmore in Asheville. 

“We have been active in the Research Triangle for many years,” said Dan Noble, President and CEO of HKS. “Our new office in Raleigh will allow us to expand our offerings to our existing clients, develop new relationships with clients and partners and deepen our commitment to the community.”

“Our new office in Raleigh will allow us to expand our offerings to our existing clients, develop new relationships with clients and partners and deepen our commitment to the community.”

HKS has long been active in the Raleigh area, offering a local portal to a global network of award-winning designers. The new office – the firm’s 26th — will focus on Commercial/Mixed-Use, Life Sciences, Education and Health projects. The Raleigh office will be led by North Carolina native Lynn Dunn, along with an energetic staff of nine.

Dunn attended North Carolina State University and believes that great design begins locally by achieving clients’ visions through a reflection of their brand, mission and purpose. Dunn empowers designers at all levels, cultivating their passions and strengths and collectively connecting with the community for the greatest impact.

“I am excited for the opportunity to open and lead the Raleigh studio for HKS, bringing national and global design perspectives to the region that I call home,” said Dunn, a Principal at HKS. “Building on the tremendous portfolio of work in the Carolinas over the past three decades, HKS will continue to make an impact on businesses and the local community through the creation of high-performance environments that support physical and mental health. The unprecedented and stimulating growth we are seeing in the region needs leadership, innovation and social and cultural consciousness. HKS is the right firm at the right time in North Carolina and offers me the opportunity to further serve my community through thoughtful design and creating a sense of place for all.”

“HKS is the right firm at the right time in North Carolina and offers me the opportunity to further serve my community through thoughtful design and creating a sense of place for all.”

What Makes a Healthy, Happy Home in 2022?

What Makes a Healthy, Happy Home in 2022?

This spring marked the two-year anniversary of COVID lockdowns worldwide. For many, the idea of “home” has changed significantly since then. More than simply places where we sleep, cook, eat and decompress, our homes have taken on a new life as internet-powered locations for work, social interactions, shopping and entertainment.

As the definition of home continues to evolve in this long-haul global pandemic, residential design is changing, too. Designers and developers are striving to make residential environments with a taller order of necessities in contrast to previous eras.

Architects and interior designers from HKS’ education, commercial/residential, hospitality and senior living practices believe there are three major ideas guiding the design of today’s living environments for all ages: social connection, opportunity and choice, and physical and mental well-being.

Residential design that incorporates these themes can empower individuals to feel comfortable wherever they call home — from their college years to advanced age and the decades in between.

Social Connection

Regardless of age or life stage, social connection is a key component to well-balanced living.

For young adults who may be living independently for the first time as college students, building relationships with new people can be both exciting and challenging.

HKS’ Jeff Larsen, who has spent most of his career working with universities around the country to design residence halls, said that clients are increasingly finding that on-campus living often aids student growth by providing them a socially enriching experience that may not always be found in off-campus housing.

“Learning happens everywhere,” Larsen said. “On campus, you’re bound to have more academic and social experiences via chance meetings, so all of the housing is geared towards facilitating those interactions.”

When designed intentionally, bedrooms, residence halls, and the broader campus can work in harmony to foster socialization. Larsen has found that so-called “transition zones” help students feel comfortable and gain a sense of belonging. UC Davis’ Shasta Hall — which opened for the 2021-2022 academic year — for example, has small communal areas near individual bedrooms that serve as transition spaces and allow students to gain confidence engaging with others in the bigger, more public lounges and study rooms.

“If you have a transition, such as going from your shared bedroom to a small common space, you may grow to be more comfortable going outside your comfort zone into a larger community space and engaging with others,” Larsen said.

Living in buildings with shared amenities is especially helpful in preparing students for life after college, as they move away from the built-in social cohorts they had on or near campus.  

“When people are just moving into their first apartments, they want and need affordability at that point in their lives,” said Jennie Black, a residential and commercial mixed-use architect at HKS. “A sense of community is also important and amenity spaces can really add to that.”

Black is part of the design team for NoMaCNTR, an amenity-rich development in Washington, D.C. that is set to open in late 2022. Located on the site of a former bus terminal in one of the District’s fastest growing neighborhoods, the mixed-use project includes a residential building, a hotel, and ground-level retail and dining. Connected via a six-story glass bridge, the hotel and residences share amenities such as multi-level courtyards, a gym, and a roof deck with a pool and bar for a dynamic social atmosphere close to the comforts of home, Black said.

The trend toward socially geared amenity spaces in residential environments is here to stay, according to HKS Senior Interior Designer, Deanne Teeter, and Global Practice Director for Hospitality Interiors, Mary Alice Palmer.

Their team is increasingly using their expertise from designing hotel interiors to create more permanent residences. Recently, they led the interior design of Astra Tower, an HKS-designed multifamily residential tower that will be Salt Lake City’s tallest skyscraper.

“We’re in the business of connecting people,” Teeter said. “The residential towers we’re designing are incorporating amenities such as demonstration kitchens, private dining rooms, and living rooms with a staff bartender so that residents can build a sense of community.”

In addition to fostering social connection among residents, amenity-rich properties are highly marketable for clients and encourage residents to stay in their homes longer, Teeter and Palmer said.

“Communal spaces provide an extension to your unit and establish connectivity,” Palmer said. “That creates retention with residents, which is important to keeping a property successful.”

Ideas from university housing and residential buildings can help guide design decisions for older adults as well, which allows for a stronger sense of belonging within the senior living communities that many of them call home.

HKS Global Practice Director for Senior Living Siobhan Farvardin, who worked in residential and educational design before taking on senior living projects, said her team is always looking to incorporate connection and belonging into their designs.

HKS’ newest senior living projects are designed more like living communities than health facilities, with important medical functions hidden from plain view. For example, a nurse’s station can be disguised within a small kitchen area — one less reminder that residents are under the care of someone else, Farvardin said.

Opportunity and Choice

Choices we make are often shaped by the environments in which we reside, including our homes, neighborhoods, and cities. Where we opt to relax, socialize, or run errands — those decisions are often made based on opportunities provided by thoughtful design.

Small and large gathering areas, open and private study rooms, and spots to take a phone call or chat with a friend all offer a range of choices for where and how young adults spend their time throughout college. At HKS-led higher education projects like The Ohio State University’s North Residential District, opportunities for growth multiply even more when several residence halls are designed to co-exist and share spaces.

“Well-designed student housing increases the number of opportunities that support growth, which includes getting to know a more diverse group of people outside of your comfort zone in a setting where others are in similar situations,” Larsen said.

Conveniently located shared kitchens with large windows at The Ohio State University North Residential District are integrated with community spaces that make socializing, co-learning and cooking easy.

In her experience designing multi-family residences and public places, Black has noticed that “edge spaces” are desirable. She’s observed that adults — who perhaps know more about where and how they like to spend time than they did at younger ages — enjoy living in environments where they have opportunities to see and hear nearby goings on.

“The edges are everyone’s favorite places to be. People enjoy having a choice to participate or not,” she said, noting that NoMaCNTR’s tiered indoor-outdoor design offers ample places for people to observe activity happening from the comfort of their apartments or participate directly in areas like the roof deck.

Within individual residential units, Black, Teeter, Palmer and Farvardin have all noticed a major trend sweeping both architecture and interiors since the start of COVID: flexibility.

A kitchen island, for example, can serve as a work-from-home desk, a dining table, and a child’s homework station. When possible, Teeter avoids locating appliances such as sinks or stovetops on islands so they can best accommodate different uses.

Designing floor plans for a variety of furniture layouts allows people to make changes as they age, Black said. And according to Teeter and Palmer, providing a simple interior palette allows residents to personalize their homes and make adjustments over time.

 “We strive to create a unique experience, but one that the resident can make their own. We like to provide a blank canvas and timeless color schemes so you can add your art, your fabric and your taste,” Teeter said.

As people grow older, flexibility in senior residences helps ensure they feel comfortable, safe and cared for, Farvardin said.

These places are often described as “facilities,” but Farvardin believes that must change, acknowledging that they are homes that support individual choice where people can lead fulfilling lives.

For the HKS Senior Living team, these projects are instead referred to as “communities” where residents can socialize with each other, catch up with loved ones, spend time in nature, enjoy a good meal, and more, Farvardin said.

“This is a home for people so yes, it may be classified as institutional in case of emergency, but at the end of the day it’s a community — and nomenclature is important,” she said.

Farvardin added that designers and clients are becoming increasingly creative with amenities to ensure properties are desirable to prospective residents, especially Baby Boomers looking for an independent lifestyle filled with choices and fresh experiences. The Stayton in Fort Worth, for example, encourages residents to engage with their surroundings by offering access to the city’s well-known Museum District and a rooftop bistro with views of downtown.

Physical and Mental Well-being

One of the most important lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic is that the air we breathe and our ability to go outside are crucial to our health and well-being. Vitamin D provided by the sun and lower levels of interior CO2 from outdoor air are proven to enhance happiness, productivity and physical health. Throughout our lives, our residences should offer as much access to nature, natural light, and ventilation as possible.

Supporting student well-being is a primary goal of HKS education designers, as evidenced by North Torrey Pines Living and Learning Neighborhood (NTPLLN) at UC San Diego. The eight-building “campus within a campus” features operable windows in every student room and trickle vents in the window system that provide a consistent flow of fresh air when the window is closed and help prevent condensation that can lead to mold. Students residing at NTPLLN receive consistent fresh air, access to daylight and cool coastal temperatures and in turn, the buildings are highly energy efficient. Longitudinal research at NTPLLN has also revealed positive outcomes for environmental satisfaction and student mental health.

Larsen has noticed that in addition to embracing sustainability, some colleges are also embedding mental and emotional support services for students into housing, as opposed to buildings elsewhere on campus. When located close to where students live, such spaces can positively impact overall well-being by removing any stigma of seeking help and are transforming the vision of what a residence hall can be, he said.

“Those more intentional programs are really trying to meet specific anxiety or depression issues so prevalent among today’s students. They go well beyond the traditional TV room, study room and game room programs,” Larsen said.

Later in life, when the day-to-day grind of work and adult responsibilities bears down, our homes are ideally a place of respite. Even as remote work becomes a mainstay, there are still plenty of ways the buildings we reside in can promote health and well-being.

Salt Lake City’s Astra Tower includes a community living space and terraces that bridge indoors and outdoors.

“Access to beautiful outdoor environments in multifamily and hospitality is really growing because it’s a part of wellness, well-being and sustainable thinking,” said Palmer.

To those ends, Astra Tower is designed as “a vertical garden” with indoor-outdoor living rooms, landscaped terraces and lawns, and long views of the Rocky Mountains and Great Salt Lake. It also features a roof pool and luxury spa which contribute to residents’ ability to relax and recharge in the same place they call home.

“A major goal of this project was to design for overall wellness. If you’re feeling well, you’re also productive and then you’re also in the mind to have fun and enjoy life,” Palmer said.

In senior living communities, research-based and outcome-driven design can allow residents to find moments of joy and support supporting their overall wellness

A farm-to-table garden at Legacy Midtown Park in Dallas, for instance, offers a therapeutic and visually appealing environment where senior residents can practice their mobility skills and get fresh air. Local art inspired by Miami’s vibrant Wynwood neighborhood, facilitates residents’ enjoyment and restoration.

“Being isolated is not in the best interest of their mental and physical well-being,” Farvardin said. “So, getting to an active adult community brings more vibrancy, more social connection, more purpose rather than being alone in a home that they may have been in for 50 years or so.”

What’s ahead?

Designers are increasingly finding that multi-family, intergenerational and mixed-use living environments can meet most of the needs people have across the full spectrum of adulthood.

Black has observed a trend of middle-age and older adults leaving their single-family homes to seek the ease and convenience of more communal living situations they experienced earlier in life.

“As they get older, people actually want the same things. That is a shift that has been happening,” she said.

Palmer believes changing demographics and psychographics are also driving people of all ages to multifamily housing.

“Whether it’s young people starting out, people with second homes who might be traveling for business or empty nesters who are downsizing — they want to have less maintenance and upkeep and have an efficient life where a lot of things are taken care of for them,” Palmer said. This trend, she added, is leading to new multigenerational approaches in design and community development.

HKS designers across many of the firm’s practice areas are now having discussions about how they can realistically create enriching intergenerational residential environments for individuals at various stages of life. Younger adults learning from older adults’ past experiences and older adults learning new skills from those who are younger than them could allow for a vibrant and vital exchange of knowledge across generations, Larsen and Farvardin said.

And regardless of residents’ age, holistic wellness will continue to be a guiding light for residential design after the collective COVID experience. When designed for social connection across generations, freedom of choice and access to nature, our homes will be able to give us our best chance at a happy, healthy life.

Palmer sees the shift toward wellness as a priority for residents happening quickly and thinks it will become standard

“Moving forward, people will think of their well-being as an integral part of who they are and what they want from their living environments.”

“Moving forward, people will think of their well-being as an integral part of who they are and what they want from their living environments.”

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

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

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

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

1- Use What You’ve Got

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

2 – Prepare for the Surge

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

3 – Staff Needs Love, Too

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

4 – There’s No Place Like Home 

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

5. Office Work isn’t Dead Yet

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

6. Safe at Home

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

7. Air is Not Rare

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