How the Design for Freedom Movement Compels Designers to Advocate for Human Rights in the Supply Chain

How the Design for Freedom Movement Compels Designers to Advocate for Human Rights in the Supply Chain

Today, 28 million people worldwide live in conditions of forced labor, according to the International Labour Organization. The construction, mining and manufacturing industries — all of which are connected to architecture and design supply chains — have historically accounted for more than a third of the global forced labor population.

These staggering rates of human rights abuses are what compelled Grace Farms Foundation, in 2020, to launch Design for Freedom, a movement dedicated to eliminating forced labor in the building materials supply chain.

For the last two years, HKS has engaged with Design for Freedom, including inviting Grace Farms Foundation CEO and Founder Sharon Prince speak to firm’s global employee base about how designers can create more equitable futures for people who contribute to manufacturing building materials and those who use the spaces they design. HKS Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) leaders are also members of the Design for Freedom working group and recently attended the third annual Design for Freedom Summit, which brings academic and non-profit experts together with professionals from architecture, construction and materials manufacturing.

HKS’ Yiselle Santos Rivera, Lisa Adams and Rand Ekman share more below about this important initiative, an exciting pilot project being designed by a Citizen HKS team, and what hopes they have for the future of the Design for Freedom movement:

Why is it important for people who work in the architecture and construction industries to advocate for and uphold practices that are free of forced labor?

Yiselle Santos Rivera, Global Director of Justice, Equity, Diversity & Inclusion: In the United States and many other countries, we have laws that align with eradicating modern slavery and platforms that look at banning forced labor practices. But that is not the case everywhere and it’s important to note because we work in a global industry. The materials we source and use in architecture and design often do not originate in places that have fair labor standards. We must continually strive to be holistically sustainable in our practices — and that includes ensuring the welfare of people who contribute to producing building materials.

Lisa Adams, Director of Citizen HKS & Sustainable Design Leader: The fact that millions of people live in conditions of forced labor to make materials that we use to build buildings is currently an out-of-sight, out-of-mind proposition. But that doesn’t make it right. We can be influencers of change, and this is something we need to make a priority.

“We can be influencers of change, and this is something we need to make a priority.”

– Lisa Adams

Can you talk about how the industry is starting to tackle this issue?

Rand Ekman, Chief Sustainability Officer: Historically, I think the AEC industry has been relatively “hands off” in terms of understanding supply chain issues. Over the last 15 years or so, we have significantly advanced our work around materials and their impact on health. We’re now able to understand how the materials we select and specify impact people who occupy buildings we design, as well as people all along the supply chain including those involved with extraction and manufacturing. Because we’ve grown in our understanding of those things, labor rights and modern slavery are impacts of design thatwe can now, in fact, address.

Adams: At HKS, we want to be part of a conversation of change and step forward to clear a path for others to follow and show them what is possible. We want to start to tackle the hard questions and figure out best practices. With any luck, in five years’ time, this is going to be part of the common vernacular of what defines good, responsible design and that’s when meaningful change will begin.

How does our collaboration with Design for Freedom relate to HKS’ Environmental, Social, Governance and business goals?

Ekman: Human rights, labor rights, environment and anti-corruption are the categories HKS has committed to addressing in signing on to the UN Global Compact, and they are all squarely in the realm of Design for Freedom’s mission. As architects and designers, our ability to manage and influence the supply chain is real. In addition to being the right thing to do and reinforcing our ESG commitments at HKS, addressing this issue is also smart from a business perspective. Clients and organizations we partner with are increasingly asking us to meet ethical and social standards. When we make deliberate decisions to select materials that don’t perpetuate abuse or disputes in the supply chain, it is good for both our clients’ business and our own.

Adams: Design for Freedom directly relates to many of our ESG goals and sits at the intersection of all three pillars of ESG — environmental, social, and governance. Taking up this mission ties into HKS’ ability to influence positive trajectory in the building industries. Oftentimes, the market moves to where the demand is. The more we prioritize making fair labor materials specifications and championing that, the more we create that market for change. We saw that when HKS founded and led transformation with mindfulMaterials — now materials health is part of industry best practices. It just proves we can have the same influence in the space of social welfare as well.

Santos Rivera: We’ve focused quite a bit on how we can address inequities to positively impact our firm and industry. Working to address forced labor in the supply chain goes beyond that — it’s about how we impact the world. Developing partnerships is a key component of HKS’ ESG framework and strategic plan. This is a legacy we must build with others that want to create a better world. It is the long haul toward freedom, climate justice and restorative justice. This is a conversation that has been building up for generations and we need to be part of the change. If we’re not part of the change, we’re part of the problem.

You recently attended the third annual Design for Freedom Summit at Grace Farms in New Canaan, Connecticut. Can you share some takeaways from the event?

Adams: Hearing from people who have seen the impact of forced labor on the human condition was really powerful and hit home the fact that we are a global community. Children and people who are put into forced labor conditions have dreams and aspirations, and the more we connect ourselves to their stories, the more we can be their advocates. Another big takeaway is that we’re not alone. There’s a very large consortium of people in our industry we can partner with. This initiative has strength in numbers and will continue to gain traction, which is inspiring.

Ekman: I was also very taken by the partnerships that are in place and are growing — partnerships across professional service providers, manufacturers, academics and more. The players that can make change happen are in place. I also went away feeling like we have a lot of work to do in terms of getting the information we need within the industry. We need better data about how and where products are produced that we can use to develop tools and make informed decisions. And we need the people who are making those decisions — those who have the role of selecting materials — to share their experiences. Simply put, we need information to be actionable.

“The players that can make change happen are in place.”

– Rand Ekman

Santos Rivera: Seeing images of people in forced labor conditions and learning some of their stories hurt — it was guttural and bleak, and it really helped me better understand the extent of the problem and the urgent need for change. At one point during the summit, I turned to take a photo of the attendees and saw multiple generations of people in the audience, including many students. To know that future architects and designers will already have Design for Freedom’s ideals embedded in how they view architecture and can be agents of change…it filled me with unbelievable hope. I can’t wait for these graduates to join HKS and challenge us with what they know. The fact that it all began with a conversation and idea to look at ethical sourcing of building materials — that’s amazing.

The Citizen HKS Hunger Busters project was selected for Design for Freedom’s Pilot Program. Can you talk about that process and how it might inform more of HKS’ design work?

Adams: The Design for Freedom toolkit outlines 12 “top offending” materials, meaning those most likely to be produced by people experiencing forced labor conditions. For the Hunger Busters project — a sustainable food preparation facility that will supply meals to public school children in need — our Citizen HKS project team selected eight materials we felt confident we would be using in the project to investigate. Those materials are exterior glass and stone, quarry tile, carpet tile, ceiling tiles, upholstery, mass timber and solar panels. We are researching their supply chain and production methods and consulting with pilot program advisors so we can make informed decisions for specifications. It’s a learning process that will help us become better designers.

I want to be sure to point out that designers don’t need to be selected for a Design for Freedom pilot project to take this initiative on. Each and every one of us can step up and ask manufacturers to be transparent about their supply chain. We need to be serious about getting those answers. There are manufacturers out there who are equally serious about wanting to create ethical alignments in their supply chain; it is happening and that’s wonderful to see.

Santos Rivera: I’m excited to learn from this pilot project about how we can better guide our firm as leaders. We are starting with a Citizen HKS project because that is where we can empower our messaging about how to create more equitable communities from end-to-end, and that has a beautiful connection to Design for Freedom. Our current conversation is about how we can create a framework, resources, and policies that support HKS designers to work with ethical materials sourcing as a key component of all our projects.

What challenges and opportunities do you see ahead in our industry’s progress toward ending forced labor and creating a more just, sustainable built environment?

Ekman: We need to talk more about the issue of forced labor in the supply chain within our firm and our industry and socialize the Design for Freedom movement and toolkit. I think people kind of understand these concerns, but it’s taken a long time to understand the influence architects have on supply chains in general, much less this particular topic. The next deeper dive is that we need to reevaluate what we’re putting into our buildings. We need to lead integrated conversations about supply chain, materials, and architectural practice — and how we can improve all those things together.

Santos Rivera: There is one big challenge I see, which connects to global conversations about how companies, organizations and governments can really be effective with ESG initiatives. We could simply say that we’re going to stop sourcing materials from regions where forced labor occurs. But for many people working in inhumane conditions, that is the only way they know to make a living and survive. So, we must seek to break these cycles, and create policies and standards as a collective. We need to build better economies and democracies and not take away peoples’ chance at survival. This is not just about ethical sourcing; this is about building better, more equitable social constructs and providing safer livelihoods for all people.

“This is not just about ethical sourcing; this is about building better, more equitable social constructs and providing safer livelihoods for all people.”

– Yiselle Santos Rivera

Adams: Whatever industry you’re in, challenges that prevent you from making progress are always going to be there. But what I find really aspirational about being in the architecture and design industry is this: what other industry can you think of that plays such a role in being the authors of cultural change? We have the agency and ability to basically author what the next generation of buildings and good design yields. Beyond beauty and performance, there’s a whole conversation about creating significant culture change that we get to contribute to. It’s an incredible opportunity.

HKS’ Upali Nanda Charts a Collective Course for Research and Innovation

HKS’ Upali Nanda Charts a Collective Course for Research and Innovation

Upali Nanda had an important realization when she was a first-year student at the School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi. She was confident she had found the proper course of study — she felt architecture was the perfect blend of art and science — but something was amiss.  

The floor plans and renderings Nanda completed didn’t do enough to convey what it would be like for a person to exist in the spaces she conceived. She preferred drawing sections to illustrate the human scale of her projects, and she often presented her designs with physical materials to communicate how they would appeal to the senses. 

It was then Nanda discovered that, for her, architecture was about much more than visual representation and individual buildings. It was about human experiences. 

Recently named Global Director of HKS’ Innovation Sector — a unique collection of practice areas spanning research, consulting, urban planning and Environmental, Social, and Governance programs — Nanda believes in teams that innovate within, through and beyond the built environment. 

Nanda, who serves on HKS’ Board of Directors, is a globally recognized thought leader and undoubtedly an accomplished polymath. Her practice-based research career has given her a unique ability to contribute to an evolving industry. But her capacity to affect change doesn’t come from her professional experience alone.  

Throughout her life, Nanda has been shaped by many intersecting identities and roles as a daughter, artist, dancer, student, researcher, teacher, immigrant, wife and mother of two. She has traveled the world and lived in India, New Zealand, Singapore and the United States. Her family, her colleagues — and the twists and turns of her life— have helped her become a highly curious, adaptive and empathetic person capable of tackling big challenges. 

Nanda said that through it all, her guiding star is still the same as it was during her days in architecture school. 

“The root of almost everything I’ve done has been the art and science of the human experience and linking design to outcomes,” she said.  

Nanda grew up studying classical Indian dance. She learned to value experiences and their temporal nature performing on stages across Delhi. 

Rooted in Experience

As a child, Nanda studied and performed classical Indian dance. Though she didn’t realize it then, she learned to value experiences during those years dancing on stages across Delhi. 

“As a performer, you create an experience and then you see the experience go away. You see places transforming and then becoming ordinary again,” Nanda said. “You see that the transformation was a part of what you created, and that transformation can be transient.” 

When choosing what to study in college, Nanda looked to her parents. Her father was an “absent-minded but brilliant” engineering professor and her mother, an artist and homemaker Nanda affectionately refers to as the “home CEO.” Architecture appealed to the scientific and creative sensibilities she acquired from each of them. She decided to take the entrance exam because she was excited by its diverse components including sketching, creative writing, and math and science questions. 

Nanda qualified for the program at the School of Planning and Architecture and immediately knew it was a good fit. 

“It was the most beautiful discovery,” she said. “It was a discovery not just of the profession, but also of the kind of people I collided with. Everybody had such a strange medley of talents. I had found my people.” 

After graduating in 1999, she followed research and scholarship opportunities and earned two advanced degrees in architecture. She completed a Master of Arts at the National University of Singapore and then moved to the United States where she met her husband, Veerabhadran Baladandayuthapani while pursuing her PhD. Her doctoral research was on “sensthetics” — working at the intersection of neuroscience and architecture to go beyond the aesthetics of appearance. 

Throughout her studies, Nanda assumed she would follow in her father’s footsteps to a career as an academic. But unique prospects kept coming her way and opening new doors. 

While she was living in Houston, American Art Resources hired Nanda to develop a research program focused on art and healing in health care environments. She published in medical journals about outcomes including reduced medication needs for psychiatric patients who viewed biophilic art. She then started her own consultancy and worked with the non-profit Center for Health Design, collaborating with employees and volunteers on a portfolio of published research. She said these experiences led her to understand the “power of partnerships” between non-profits, businesses and academia. 

Nanda has three degrees in architecture, a field she said appeals to the creative and scientific sensibilities she acquired from her mother Alka and her late father Jarnathan. 

An Unexpected Path

Nanda’s expertise led to an unexpected offer in 2013 to join HKS as Director of Research after architect and retired Principal Tom Harvey saw her give a talk. She was drawn to become a researcher in architectural practice, fascinated with the ways that “knowledge can unlock new ways of thinking” in the industry. 

“When I started, I think there were three positions across the country that were research-based practitioners,” said Nanda. “I was constantly getting surprised with what I was finding, and I was surprising people (and myself) in very interesting ways.” 

In 2018 Nanda, Baladandayuthapani and their young sons, Aarith and Aayush, moved from Houston to Ann Arbor, Michigan. Both parents began positions at the University of Michigan (UM) — Baladandayuthapani as a Professor and Associate Director of the Center for Cancer Biostatistics and Nanda as a part-time Associate Professor of Practice at Taubman College of Architecture and Planning. Nanda’s desire to teach in a university setting had stuck with her over the years. 

Working full time at HKS and teaching a health design seminar at UM, Nanda calls herself a “pracademic” — one who straddles the two worlds of practice and academia. She said keeping a foot in both realms reflects her devotion to linking research and design and a duality that has always been a part of her. 

“We can neither assume to know too much, nor afford to share too little, in a time when the world is moving so quickly,” said Nanda, noting that translating, applying, and sharing research and ideas is necessary to make progress in design fields. “Our times demand both intellectual humility and intellectual sustainability.” 

Nanda has taken her translational mindset to serve leadership roles with several organizations that connect research and practice including the Center for Health Design, the Environmental Design Research Association, the Academy of Neuroscience for Architecture, and the Center for Advanced Design Research and Evaluation, where she served as Executive Director for 10 years. 

She is also a frequent public speaker and has earned research awards and professional honors including a place on Healthcare Design Magazine’s 2015 list of Top 10 Most Influential People in Healthcare Design, an Architectural Record 2018 Women in Architecture Innovator Award, and a featured profile in the 2022 book The Women Who Changed Architecture

Nanda frequently leads symposia and workshops to facilitate connections between research and design practice.  

Elevating Research in Practice

Despite these broad platforms and accolades, Nanda is perhaps best known at HKS for being a positive, insightful collaborator. 

“Every time you get the opportunity to sit down and talk with Upali or to work through a problem with her, she provides a new way of thinking,” said HKS Principal and Health Studio Practice Leader Kate Renner. “She takes some of the most difficult challenges and provides a framework to solve them.” 

Renner and Nanda first worked together nearly a decade ago when Renner was creating guidelines for HKS’ Functional Performance Evaluations in clinical environments. Renner sought guidance from Nanda, who “transformed” Renner’s approach and helped set the firm’s health practice on a trajectory to develop new industry-leading research methods. 

Renner said that Nanda holds a belief that every designer can incorporate thoughtful, rigorous research into their work. 

“Upali is very good at both inspiring and providing a judgement free basis for us to start doing research,” Renner said. “She makes research approachable and achievable for everyone.” 

“She makes research approachable and achievable for everyone.”

Nanda went on to advise Renner and others as they launched the HKS Ideas Fellowship, a program intended to give staff, especially younger designers, opportunities to learn about the research process and develop original projects. 

Eventually, the Ideas Fellowship became the firm’s Research Incubator/Accelerator program under Nanda’s leadership and has funded more than two dozen grants within the firm. In 2022, the program was cited as a primary reason HKS was named to Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies list

During her tenure as Global Practice Director of Research, Nanda led the expansion of HKS’ research enterprise — growing the firm’s capabilities and talent pool, starting the HKS Lab and Living Lab programs, and embedding research into design practices other than health including, education, commercial office and senior living, among others. 

“The way we have been able to leverage research, take it beyond the health practice, and move it into many sectors has been remarkable,” Renner said. “Upali has used the research platform to help us build our mission at HKS, which is to be limitless thinkers.” 

Nanda spearheaded HKS’ industry-leading Brain Health research program in partnership with the HKS research team and the Center for BrainHealth® at the University of Texas at Dallas. 

Many Ways to Make Impact

When offered the role of Global Sector Director of Innovation last year, Nanda admits she faced a difficult choice between maintaining the position she loved with the HKS research team or entering new territory to work with the entire Innovation Sector. She sought counsel from friends, colleagues and family members. 

The best advice came from her teenage son Aarith, who said to her, “Mama, the decision you have to make is whether you want to make a smaller direct impact or a larger indirect impact in the next five years.” 

Nanda contemplated her son’s words and encouraging ones from her teammates, and pursued the path she felt would lead to larger impact. And impact, as it turns out, is a key ingredient in her definition of innovation, the title of the sector she now leads. 

“My personal definition of innovation is simple. It is ‘the shortest — and most beautiful — distance to impact,’” she said. “You want to make a difference, you want to make it while it counts, and you want to do it in the best and most beautiful way.” 

“My personal definition of innovation is simple. It is ‘the shortest — and most beautiful — distance to impact.'”

Nanda is actively channeling personal experiences to make a difference in her new role. As an Indian woman and immigrant serving in an executive leadership position, she brings a unique perspective and ability to support Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (J.E.D.I.) initiatives within Innovation Sector and across the design industry.  

A member of a large, intergenerational and multi-continental family, Nanda manages cultural and professional expectations daily and is open about the challenges she faces navigating her personal and professional roles. She said she finds that the burden of care is often not equal for women and men, and that there are many responsibilities people with diverse cultural backgrounds must balance.  

“We need to find balance through the uniqueness of who we are,” she said. “And perhaps our lives are actually less of a balance and more of a fascinating dance, hopefully with the right dance partners.” 

Nanda said she feels lucky to have a supportive husband and empathetic colleagues. She believes people are the “true instruments of change” and that pathways to equity in the workplace must include increased advocacy for modifying social contracts. She said she is grateful to work with team members who look out for one another, especially when personal challenges arise. 

“In the hectic life we lead today, the most beautiful three words are “we got you,’” she said. She added that she feels especially thankful for the talented and diverse women leaders who have supported her throughout her time at HKS. 

“I get to work with some incredibly funny, smart, strong and vulnerable women at HKS that make me feel a bone-deep strength and sense of community,” she said.  

It is the passion she has for HKS’ global community that makes Nanda a role model and champion among her colleagues. 

“Upali is many things, but most importantly, she is conscious of our people,” said HKS President & CFO, Sam Mudro

Mudro highlighted HKS’ pioneering brain health research as an example of how Nanda’s contributions have benefitted the firm’s staff directly. When she spearheaded HKS’ partnership with the Center for BrainHealth® at the University of Texas at Dallas, she did so with a vision to improve employee experience and expand the firm’s scholarship about well-being and design. HKS published findings from employee and workplace studies and is using them to enhance policies and design projects. 

Mudro said that Nanda’s brain health research efforts, including her involvement in United Nations Science Summit on Brain Capital last fall, are among the ways HKS is shaping design innovation. 

“We are on a global stage, helping define what brain health means to the world, and that wouldn’t be possible without Upali,” Mudro said. “The impact and influence that she has created for us through her voice and the work that her and her team have done is immeasurable.” 

Collective Transformation 

Looking back on her early days at HKS, Nanda fondly remembers being inspired by Chairman & CEO Dan Noble who told her that “research is the lifeblood of innovation.” She said she has carried that mindset into her work ever since and now takes it with her into the role of Global Sector Director of Innovation. As she embarks upon this new journey, she is similarly galvanized by the people around her. 

“I am humbled by the level of support I have received to be able to hold this position today,” Nanda said. “It is not something I take lightly, especially in a firm of brilliant and accomplished minds.” 

With its diverse professionals including designers, researchers, scientists, strategists, economists, engineers, and technologists — the Innovation Sector is infusing HKS with agency to make a bigger amount of difference in a society facing climate change, social and environmental injustices, and rapid changes in technology. 

“Innovation is not the mandate of any one entity but rather the ability to leverage diverse perspectives to solve wicked problems together,” Nanda said. “The power is in the collective.” 

Noble said the Innovation Sector, and Nanda, are contributing to a brighter future for design.  

“As the design industries face rapid changes, HKS is transforming our industry and the way we work to better serve our clients and communities. The Innovation Sector is a vital part of that transformation, Noble said. “Upali is an inspirational leader who will help us take on the challenges of today and tomorrow.” 

As the firm looks toward a future with her at the helm of the sector, Noble and Mudro are confident Nanda is the right person for the job. 

“The Innovation Sector is a collective group of thought leaders about what’s going to happen, the predictors,” Mudro said. “With Upali’s background in research, she has the foundation to help us be informed on where the puck’s going to go. If we lean into those insights, we can transform the way we work.” 

Transformation is exactly what Nanda wants to inspire — at HKS, in the industry, and in communities around the world. To do so, she encourages others to see design and buildings as part of a system of change, as opposed to outcomes unto themselves. 

“Design matters and what we design may be anchored in the built environment but is by no means limited to it,” she said. “Our environments make meaningful impact on our lives and on our fiscal, planetary, and human future. It is only by committing to designing a better future that we get to the future of design.” 

Nanda, her husband Veera, and their teenage sons Aayush and Aarith live in Ann Arbor, Michigan. They enjoy traveling as a family when they’re not juggling work, school and many high school activities. 

Seven Considerations for Health Care Design in the Middle East 

Seven Considerations for Health Care Design in the Middle East 

The Middle East is steeped in rich heritage and cultural subtleties, so designing the region’s next generation of health care facilities requires a nuanced approach. Each year, the Global Health Exhibition in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, brings health care professionals together to connect and drive health care innovation in the region. Please visit global design firm HKS at our booth at Riyadh Front Exhibition and Conference Center from Oct. 29 to Oct. 31, 2023, as we reflect on the various ways HKS addresses key Middle Eastern cultural and environmental characteristics through our award-winning health care designs. 

Responding to the Climate with Vernacular Architecture 

With temperatures hovering at 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) in the shade for more than half the year, a building’s orientation is one of our first considerations when planning new structures. The site location of Kuwait Children’s Hospital required the HKS team to design patient windows to face east and west. Solar studies were performed to create sophisticated shading systems on both sides of the building to not only reduce solar gain but also reduce glare and enhance comfort within patient rooms. Catwalks on every other floor allow easy cleaning of the windows and shading systems after humid dust storms characteristic of the region. Canopies over outdoor respite areas are necessary for a large portion of the year, and HVAC systems need to be powerful, durable and efficient to minimize energy consumption. 

Water is a Precious Commodity in the Desert 

Because much of the region relies on desalination plants to provide water, irrigation is strictly regulated. Through the use of regional plant life such as Ghaf trees, we provide xeriscaping to minimize water usage. On-site water recycling plants efficiently irrigate green spaces. 

During transportation, water is warmed by intense heat and must be cooled before use. Brutal sunlight means that roof storage isn’t an option for cooling. Some jurisdictions, such as Kuwait, require water be stored in subterranean tanks or cooling towers before it is distributed. Pumps are then required to move water to its destination. Further, the use of large water features is discouraged due to the high evaporation ratio year-round. 

Designing for Cultural Subtleties and Privacy 

The Middle East can appear to be one large desert to some, but each country has specific cultural interests. Some countries are more conservative than others, and thus, understanding how varying cultural and religious customs can affect traffic patterns throughout a hospital is important. For example, some hospitals may include separate waiting rooms for men and women or an emergency room with an entrance split in different directions for men and women. Prayer rooms for men and women, and sometimes even mosques, are incorporated into convenient locations of our designs. 

Some clients prefer traditional architecture to help patients feel comfortable, especially as health care can be a sensitive topic in the Middle East — many patients prefer not to share details about their health. Health care facilities such as Prince Sattam University Hospital in Al Kharj, Saudi Arabia, are in conservative agricultural areas outside of urban centers. Sensitivity to the local community is important, so the team focused on developing a design that utilizes local stone for the exterior facades. To reduce the sense of anxiety while providing familiarity to the agriculture community, the project was organized around a wadi, or valley, including natural elements that blend into the lobby. The National Rehabilitation Clinic (NRC) in Abu Dhabi also employs vernacular architecture to ease anxiety.

Planning for Large Families

Families tend to be larger in the Middle East than in western countries, and rather than one or two visitors, a patient might receive six or eight at a time. Patient rooms are designed with patient, caregiver and family zones, and public areas are designed to accommodate multiple families. 

Incorporating amenities in public spaces is a priority. Kuwait Children’s Hospital’s five-story atrium stretches nearly 1,500 feet and includes a hollow whale where movies are played, cafes, and other elements that blend health care, hospitality, and retail. We developed outdoor courtyards for Prince Sattam University and the NRC to allow families, or even patients, to walk away and take a break from the hospital. 


Rising energy costs and a harsh climate mean that sustainability is being pushed to the forefront of the region’s unique challenges. Dubai, for example, requires a sustainability checklist when submitting building permits, and other countries require a minimum of LEED-Silver equivalent design for government hospital projects. Our exterior design for Prince Sattam resulted in a 30% reduction of energy. Designers must continue to encourage clients and peers to support energy efficient initiatives. 

Rapid Growth 

The Middle East has a large middle-income class with growing expectations, and HKS is creating the next generation of health care facilities to meet the region’s needs. Dubai and some other cities have almost quadrupled in size over the last 20 years, and health care investment is struggling to keep pace. 

Private providers are beginning to invest in new facilities. Hospitals such as Danat Al Emarat, a private maternity hospital, are successful examples of an efficient and financially responsible project meeting the needs of Abu Dhabi. HKS has been involved with several teaching hospital campuses, including CapitalMED Medical City in Egypt and Prince Sattam University Hospital, in the ongoing challenge to meet the region’s demand for experienced physicians.  

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.”

Energized: Can a University Campus Reach Net Zero by 2025?

Energized: Can a University Campus Reach Net Zero by 2025?

Can a university campus reach net zero by 2025? The task may seem too tall, the timetable too tight. But the situation is urgent. That’s why the University of California, San Diego is committed to a sustainable future through the development and adherence of a Climate Action Plan (CAP) that includes specific goals and timelines informed by operational baseline data.

UC San Diego is a longtime leader in climate change research and education, dating from Dr. Charles Keeling’s groundbreaking work linking rising levels of atmospheric carbon to fossil fuel emissions. The university has made significant progress in areas such as academics and research, energy and climate, sustainable operations, environmentally preferable procurement, waste diversion, clean transportation and water conservation and is on track to meet its ambitious sustainability goals. Chief among them, that its buildings and vehicle fleet become climate neutral by 2025.

UC San Diego’s all-inclusive transformational plan also supports many state and regional objectives and directives to tackle carbon emissions. At the building scale, the CAP is integrated within the university’s new project developments, including the HKS-designed North Torrey Pines Living and Learning Neighborhood (NTPLLN), to achieve carbon neutrality.

NTPLLN opened in fall 2020, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. The design intent led to significant positive measured outcomes for student well-being and the neighborhood is now certified LEED v3 Platinum – the largest higher education project in California to achieve that distinction.

A New Living and Learning Home for Sixth College

NTPLLN is a dynamic mixed-use neighborhood that combines academic, residential, commercial and cultural programming. It is designed to reduce the environmental impact for current and future generations. Prominently positioned on UC San Diego’s 1,200-acre campus, NTPLLN is the new home for Sixth College and the university’s social sciences and arts and humanities departments. The vibrant 1.5-million square-foot neighborhood fulfills UC San Diego’s vision of a fully integrated university community by blending residential housing for more than 2,000 students, academic buildings, classrooms and community space to create a truly immersive community-centered learning experience.

Each building houses a combination of living, learning, community and administrative facilities and provide expansive terraces with sweeping ocean views and myriad outdoor spaces, including pedestrian and bike-friendly pathways. Every design move was strategic: to create a place of health, wellness and environmental responsibility that supports student and faculty well-being and academic excellence. Additionally, NTPLLN promotes healthy human and environmental interactions and improves air, water, and soil quality for enhanced biodiversity.

Supported by several performance frameworks including LEED, Parksmart, CALGreen and the AIA 2030 Commitment, the integrated sustainability features target carbon-neutral operations by embracing initiatives that will measurably reduce energy consumption, water use and waste, ensuring the sustainable community will meet the future needs of UC San Diego’s administration, faculty and students.

Meeting and Exceeding Energy and Environmental Goals

The design takes full advantage of the local micro-climate to deliver improved environmental quality and enhanced occupant comfort within indoor and outdoor spaces at multiple levels. Future climate weather files were utilized to stress test the resiliency of the project design based on carbon emission escalation rates and mitigation scenarios, ensuring that the resources utilized for the design and construction of NTPPLN today meets the needs of the campus tomorrow.

The siting and massing of residential buildings are intentional design measures to balance access to daylighting, reduce solar gains and promote natural ventilation. The fixed exterior shading provides reductions in solar heat gains during peak cooling months, improving thermal comfort and reducing energy demand.

Given the favorable and unique climate conditions in San Diego, over 70% of the housing building area is naturally ventilated which is an alternative passive measure to using energy intensive mechanical ventilation and cooling. All residential units include operable windows to naturally cool and ventilate each unit. Studies demonstrate that passively ventilated spaces improve cognitive functions from increased volumes of outside air. And little did we know that naturally ventilated spaces and the open-air campus design would become a critically important safety feature to help protect student and faculty health during the pandemic.

A photovoltaic system powers the 1,200-space parking structure, which was designed with deep light penetrating wells for potential conversion into other uses in a car-free future. The parking structure includes various energy efficiency measures including sensors capable of detecting unsafe levels of emissions that control exhaust fans, daylighting wells to reduce electrical load from lighting and that provide an opportunity to naturally ventilate the space.

To advance campus efforts toward carbon neutrality, the NTPLLN Design Build Team integrated an on-site modular micro-anaerobic digester thereby creating a local environmental impact asset and catalyst. The anaerobic digester provides on-site generation of electrical energy from organic food waste and materials while producing valuable enrichened liquid fertilizer for community gardens. This diverts waste from the landfill and eliminates the emissions generated from offsite trucking. The anaerobic digester acts as a closed loop system where the conversion of organic waste into fuel and nutrients promotes the concept of community based, farm-to table- and back to farm, life cycle.

Since NTPLLN opened, on-site building performance metrics have been consistently tracked. The measured performance of NTPLLN resulted in an 81% reduction in measured energy use intensity (EUI) inclusive of renewables – exceeding initial targets and helping UC San Diego get even closer to reaching ambitious climate action goals.

NTPLLN also achieves a 30% energy improvement over CEC 2016 Title 24 and a 70% predicted energy reduction through the AIA 2030 Commitment. On-site renewable energy amounts to 4% of total energy while 60.5% of the electricity consumption at NTPLLN is offset through renewable energy credit purchases, procured through the University of California Wholesale Power Program. Continuous benchmarking with Energy Star Portfolio Manager, and on-going measurement and verification, aid in further decarbonizing energy and water operations at UC San Diego.

Because energy efficiency measures exceed California’s Title 24 requirements, the school was able to participate in San Diego Gas & Electric’s Savings By Design program, which awarded more than $200,000 in funding that can be applied to other needs.

Setting Goals for LEED – and Leading through Teaching

Referencing the Chancellor’s vision for the university and goals identified in the CAP, in collaboration with UC San Diego staff, Clark Construction and HKS facilitated a multidisciplinary immersion course that utilized NTPLLN as a living example of how LEED’s comprehensive approach to the built environment can substantially improve environmental outcomes at various scales.

Modeled after one of USGBC’s educational resources, the pilot course adopted the framework of LEED® Lab™, designed specifically for LEED for Building Operations and Maintenance (LEED O+M), but in the context of LEED Building Design and Construction (LEED BD+C) both in theory and application. Students gained a unique opportunity to connect and engage with professionals who designed and delivered NTPLLN by reviewing prerequisites and credits related to site considerations, energy use, water consumption, waste management and occupant comfort. They also learned how to evaluate a project’s impact on the surrounding land and ecosystem.

The LEED Living Lab pilot course is now offered for-credit — a first of its kind at UC San Diego. The desired outcome of the course is to use the built environment to broaden the students’ view so that they can mature into sustainability-focused citizens and become leaders in their fields of studies. While the focus of the CAP is foremost campus operations, it embraces the vision of a student-centric university using experiential learning techniques to provide opportunities for students to gain real-world experience. The LEED Living Lab pilot course became a cornerstone of both supporting the CAP process and delivery of NTPLLN.

Enforcing climate action plans are particularly important for the state of California where aggressive greenhouse gas reductions are demanded and are setting the pace for the nation. The desired outcome is to improve public health and air quality, conserve water, efficiently use existing resources, and increase clean energy production, thereby improving the quality of life for UC San Diego and the broader community. The NTPLLN project has been a transformational opportunity to nurture a collaborative and interdisciplinary living and learning community that provides an educational experience focused on collaboration, leadership, and innovation in a diverse and interconnected world, supporting the UC San Diego Strategic Plan.

The University of California has more than 40 LEED buildings, with most new construction targeting Gold certification or higher, including another HKS-designed project at UC San Diego — the Theatre District Living and Learning Neighborhood. With more than 4 million square feet of green building projects in its pipeline, the University of California is a leader in enhancing human and environmental health and well-being at the neighborhood, campus and community scales.

NTPLLN demonstrates — with its significant measured outcomes for environmental and human health — how climate action plans, design-build collaborations, and outcome-driven designs can positively impact the future of architecture and education.

Turning Design Excellence into Effective Leadership: A Conversation with HKS CEO Dan Noble

Turning Design Excellence into Effective Leadership: A Conversation with HKS CEO Dan Noble

At HKS, we believe design can change people’s lives for the better. We strive to create beautiful buildings and communities that bring people together and solve real problems.

In his 39-year career at the firm, HKS President & CEO Dan Noble has observed the parallels between extraordinary design and impactful leadership. He’s noticed that the same character, purpose and relationships that contribute to excellent design lead to successful governance.

Reflecting on HKS’ legacy – and looking towards the future – Noble recently shared his thoughts on the firm’s rich history, his personal journey as a designer and leader and how lessons he’s learned from the design process translate into effective leadership.

What key aspects of HKS’ heritage are important to you as a leader?

HKS was founded in 1939 by Harwood K. Smith and his wife, Kate Robertson Smith. Harwood was an amazing entrepreneur, architect and artist. Born in Evanston, Illinois, he studied at the Art Institute of Chicago before moving to Dallas to pursue his passion for, and hone his skills in, architecture.

Harwood set the tone for informality and mentorship at HKS. He was known for walking through the office and engaging even the newest architects in discussions about what they were working on. That informality and humility, and the spirit that we are all in this together, set HKS apart today and contribute to our familial culture.  We are a large firm with a small firm culture.

For an 83-year-old enterprise, our line of succession is not very long. I am only the fifth President & CEO, building on Harwood’s legacy.

How has your journey at HKS progressed from design leader to President & CEO?

My tenure at HKS began in the fall of 1983 after I graduated from North Dakota State University and worked briefly with smaller firms in Houston. Today, HKS employs over 1,500 people across 26 offices worldwide. When I started at the firm, we were about 200 people strong, with one office in Dallas.

I was fortunate to work under the direction of past HKS presidents, Joe Buskuhl and Ralph Hawkins. With Joe’s leadership, the firm became known for our management and technical expertise. Ralph was equally interested in design excellence and geographic expansion.

I became Global Design Director of HKS in 2002. I had always worked collaboratively on projects but now I had a more active role in elevating our design firmwide and helping project teams find creative design solutions. The design problem, for me, shifted from developing solutions for individual buildings to creating more successful and creative design teams. I was still hands-on with design, participating in pinups and charrettes, but I had to transition from doing to directing.

What does Design Excellence mean to you?

Design Excellence of course encompasses aesthetic considerations, such as scale, rhythm, proportion, repetition, proper editing, delight, beauty and harmony. But it also entails building performance, enhancing the human experience and understanding the behavioral science of improving the environment.

The process of creating and executing an excellent design is more alchemic than paint-by-number.

What lessons have you learned from design that translated to your role as President & CEO of HKS?

Over the course of my career, I’ve learned that Design Excellence correlates closely with leadership excellence. Qualities that are essential to the design process – collaboration, incubation, iteration, failure, empathy, connection, innovation and humor – are just as important to effective leadership.

Collaboration – Bringing diverse teams together to discover the most creative solutions is something HKS believes in highly. Best practices in Health design may inspire solutions in Education, Hospitality ideas may make Workplaces more user-friendly and understanding crowd movement for Urban Planning can inform design solutions for our Sports group. And of course, Research can be a huge differentiator for all our practices. HKS works across practices and geographies to bring our clients the best talent available worldwide.

Incubation – Part of finding great solutions is listening to multiple stakeholders – including clients, consultants, users and community leaders – and letting ideas settle in. Let the game come to you a bit. Slow down to go fast. Taking time to engage with diverse partners can help you arrive at effective design solutions quicker. Being open to new ideas is essential.

Iteration – Once you collect that feedback, you can begin exploring ways to create solutions. Here is where you must exhibit some humility. Ego needs to take a back seat. It doesn’t matter where the best ideas come from, we build off each other’s ideas. I like it when a project team leaves the room and nobody knows exactly where an idea originated, but everyone feels like it was kind of their own.

Failure – As HKS’ Design Director, I tried to create a safe space for people to experiment. Being vulnerable and open to others is essential to innovation. As a leader, you have to avoid jumping in and trying to solve other people’s challenges. Sometimes design ideas fail, but failure is an important teaching moment. I routinely engage in 360-degree reviews to receive feedback on my own performance and try to continually learn how to be a more effective leader.

Empathy – I love being an architect. I love being hands-on and in the thick of things. But as HKS’ Design Director and later as the firm’s President & CEO, I had to learn to step back and let others find solutions. Sometimes people don’t do things the way you would. But having the patience and empathy to let people find their own paths is important to developing the next generation of leaders.

Connection – Finding that synergy between place, purpose and design is what great architecture is all about. Finding essential connections between people is important to designing a successful project and to running a successful business. After all, people create the synergy that results in great design solutions.

Innovation – True innovation is hard to come by. At HKS, we strive to hire people who are constantly challenging the status quo. And then we let them experiment, fail and learn. We’ve developed an entire Innovation sector to bring focus to this type of thinking and working. Developing this sector may have been HKS’ most transformational move. Do you want to be a commoditized vendor or a trusted advisor and partner? In the end, our brains and our thoughts are the most valuable assets we can offer the world. What can be automated and commoditized will be. Let’s not compete in a race to the bottom.

Humor – As a leader, you can’t take yourself too seriously. We spend most of our waking hours working with others – we can make it fun and fulfilling or a chore and a drag. The gift of humor shouldn’t be minimized.

How can leaders design and build better teams?

Part of being an effective leader is being in touch with your people, developing friendships and learning people’s strengths and weaknesses, passions and personalities. With understanding and empathy comes trust. Our people are our differentiators. Hire the best people you can find who share your values and give them the tools, training and mentorship they need to grow and evolve. And then get out of their way. Let them figure things out.

High-performing teams are built through inspiration, transparency, a certain degree of ambiguity, and diversity and inclusion.

Inspiration – Our job as leaders is to emulate the transparent culture that we aspire to, to establish the strategic direction we want to go and to inspire others to come along. In the book, The Way of the Shepherd: Seven Secrets to Managing Productive People, Kevin Leman wrote, “If you want your people to go above and beyond, they must see your passion, your heart. If it’s greatness that you want, it’s greatness that you must give.” You can’t be afraid to show that you care and that you’re passionate and committed to your purpose.

Transparency – Two things I continue to strive for as a leader are more transparency throughout the firm and the support of an effective feedback loop that includes all our people, regardless of their rank or experience. People walk into my office all the time – I encourage it. We have an “Ask Dan” feature on the HKS intranet that goes directly to me and enables people to ask me anything they want, anonymously or not. We’ve also instituted checks and balances to make sure every member of HKS’ Executive Board, including me, is holding true to our Strategic Plan. We are all held accountable to the firm’s established values and vision.

Ambiguity – I’ve learned to accept holding opposing ideas in my head at the same time. Decisions aren’t always black and white. Embracing the messy gray is crucial – it’s where the most profound solutions come from. I like to say that I’m comfortable with ambiguity as long as we’re clear about what we want to achieve.

Diversity & Inclusion – It’s no surprise to hear that our profession has lacked diversity, especially in the leadership ranks. This is partly because people tend to hire and promote those who are most like themselves. To help break this pattern, at HKS we have created a robust Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion program with a dedicated JEDI Director who is leading community outreach, education and enrichment programs that are helping us build a more diverse team and leadership. These efforts include our recently launched partner diversity program, HKS xBE, which is designed to help disadvantaged businesses build relationships and pursue new opportunities in the architecture and design professions. Diverse teams give rise to innovative thinking and increase the value of our work in the communities we serve.

How do you view the future of leadership at HKS?

We are fortunate to have a cadre of qualified people who can step into leadership roles. What I am looking for in our future leaders is innovation, creativity, empathy, grit, honesty, humility, optimism and heart.

HKS’ Candace Goodman is Driven by the Healing Power of Design

HKS’ Candace Goodman is Driven by the Healing Power of Design

As she prepared to graduate in 2002 from architecture school at Texas A&M University, Candace Goodman knew where she wanted to work. She had participated as a student in the final design charrette for a major hospital project, a charrette attended by Ralph Hawkins, then Chairman, President and CEO of HKS.

“This is a great firm,” she thought.

But then, the graduating senior made a freshman mistake.

“I did the thing that people tell you you’re not supposed to do,” Goodman said. “I took my very first offer for an architecture job. I did end up getting a call from HKS, but I had already taken the other offer.”

Three years later, though, Goodman finally got the opportunity to follow her dream. She applied to HKS and was hired into the Education sector, where she spent a year before transferring into the Health practice, where she is now a Senior Project Architect.

But there’s more. Her strong work ethic and passion led to Goodman being named a Principal at HKS in January, one of four African Americans at the firm to hold that rank. Her promotion was announced four days before the start of Black History Month.

Goodman said that the news she’d been named a Principal, which saw her jumping up and down in celebration with her teammates, brought another colleague to tears of joy.

“That means a lot, to have the meaning appreciated beyond your immediate self,” Goodman said.

Other leaders at HKS definitely appreciate Goodman and hold her in high esteem.

“When she first came here, she was fairly quiet,” said Jeffrey Stouffer, Principal and Global Sector Director of HKS’ Community sector. “She’s totally found her voice.”

Stouffer also praised Goodman’s communication, research and business development acumen.

“She’s excellent at crafting a building and creating the documents to build the building,” he said. “And she just brings joy to her team and the firm. She has a true servant heart and very strong leadership skills.”

“She just brings joy to her team and the firm. She has a true servant heart and very strong leadership skills.”

Jeffrey Stouffer, Principal and Global Sector Director, Community

Early Influencers

Goodman grew up in San Antonio, alongside her twin sister and older brother.  She also has an older sister and large extended family.

Her father, who embarked on a career in real estate after retiring from the Air Force, often brought his twin daughters to open houses, showings and construction sites. The twins also accompanied their mother at times to her job as an educator and Head Start administrator.

Goodman said that being involved in her parents’ work lives and witnessing their strong work ethic fueled her drive to succeed, and her early exposure to the architecture world helped plant the seeds for her future career.

Goodman attended a small Baptist elementary school, followed by an all-girls Catholic high school where a high school math teacher provided “one of the first touchpoints I had with building structures,” Goodman said. As a class project, she and a friend built a model bridge that beat out the other students’ bridges by holding the most weight.

Goodman said that while she had enjoyed taking art classes, learning that she also liked the technical aspects of design was eye-opening and furthered her interest in architecture.

When it came time for college, she debated between Texas Tech and Texas A&M universities, ultimately choosing to follow her older brother to Texas A&M. “Once I toured the campus, I really fell in love with it and the architecture program,” she said.

In her third year at Texas A&M, Goodman had the opportunity to participate in the studio of renowned architecture professor George Mann, founder of the university’s groundbreaking Architecture for Health Program. Students in the studio were tasked with designing a hospital bed tower for the Scott and White Health system (now known as Baylor Scott & White).

“That was my first touchpoint for learning about health care and starting to develop a passion for what it meant to use architecture for good – realizing buildings are healing,” Goodman said. “I love the built environment anyway but knowing it could help facilitate healing was just a huge plus.”

A Force for Good

Goodman was happy to have a chance to apply herself to health design, working on projects like John Dempsey Hospital at University of Connecticut Health Center in Farmington, Connecticut, Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Hospital, Baton Rouge, and most recently Children’s Medical Center, Plano & Dallas locations, with HKS leaders and teammates who helped her develop as an architect.

HKS Principal Emeritus Anita Linney-Isaacson remembers Goodman’s desire to learn and gain well-rounded experience. “I put her in spots that would make her grow…and she always handled it really beautifully,” said Linney-Isaacson .

About 10 years into her tenure at HKS, Goodman had the opportunity to work with retired HKS architects Noel Barrick and Doug Compton on an expansion to Reba’s Ranch House, a home-away-from-home for families of patients being treated in hospitals located in Southeastern Oklahoma and Northeast Texas. Goodman said she appreciated the pro bono design project for allowing her to take on new responsibilities and listen to and learn from two veteran architects.

According to Goodman, HKS’ dedication to public interest design was one of the qualities that attracted her to the firm.

“It is so important that we give back to the community in areas that may not be able to pay for the high-profile architect or big firm,” she said. “I think our profession is for everyone, not just for those who can afford it.”

Linney-Isaacson is a member of the Citizen HKS Steering Committee, which oversees the firm’s public interest design work. She recommended Goodman for a seat on the committee – a role Goodman has now assumed.

“Candace is a truly genuine person who is humble, loaded with compassion and really has the talent to make the world a better place,” Linney-Isaacson said.

In her personal life, Goodman is involved in efforts to care for victims of human trafficking in the Philippines, to build homes and water filtration systems in Honduras and to mentor students in her home church in Dallas.

“I did not plan to mentor a bunch of students,” Goodman said with a laugh. She explained that a friend at church who was teaching Sunday School to the third through fifth graders said he needed somebody to fill in just for one week.

“So, I filled in for one week with this group of third-grade girls,” Goodman said, “and I stayed with them until they graduated” from high school. Goodman has maintained contact with several of those young women, who are now in their senior year of college.

“I think a lot of the skills that I have from church have actually helped me in architecture,” Goodman said. “A lot of times people just want you to listen to them and empathize and sympathize with where they’re coming from.”

Blazing a Trail

Goodman recognizes that her recent promotion to Principal holds significance beyond her individual professional development, given that Black and African American professionals are underrepresented in architecture. According to data reported by the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, people who identify as Black or African American make up 13.6 percent of the U.S. population and comprise 7.5 percent of the nation’s architecture and engineering occupations.

She noted that she has had to learn to be unafraid to speak up when she’s the only woman or person of color in meetings with clients and contractors. It’s a position that she’s been in many times throughout her life.

“We didn’t learn, ever, about Black architects, even in college,” Goodman said. “And I definitely didn’t have contacts or anything like that for going to school – any professors or many classmates who looked like me.”

She said it is a heavy responsibility as well as a great joy to help forge a path for other Black architects.

It is a heavy responsibility as well as a great joy to help forge a path for other Black architects.

She’s also happy to serve as a role model for her nieces and nephews. Goodman said her twin sister’s 8- and 9-year-old children, who live nearby in Flower Mound, Texas, are especially interested in what she does for a living.

“They like where I work and what I do. They know I’m working on a new children’s hospital, and they’re excited to go in it,” she said.

As she reflected back on ideals that helped shape her career, Goodman recounted some thoughts that Ghanaian-British architect Sir David Adjaye has shared about the transformative power of design.

Adjaye said that at the beginning of a project the design is, “this small and you’re this big, in terms of what it is” and the design concept is just a “series of electrons going off in your head. So, it’s not even measurable, but it’s an idea.”  But once a project is built, “it becomes this big, and you’re this small, in it. And so there’s this kind of magical shifting…and the electricity and the power of that is addictive.”

“I just love that description,” Goodman said. “It gives me chills. “What we draw on paper…will eventually become so big that we can walk into it and experience. To me, that’s the core of architecture.”

HKS Employees Discuss the Importance of Black Professionals in the AEC Industry

HKS Employees Discuss the Importance of Black Professionals in the AEC Industry

From the days of courageous architecture pioneers Paul Revere Williams and Norma Merrick Sklarek until today, Black professionals have long made significant contributions to the Architecture and Design industry. But for many of them, being a Black person in the field — whether as an architect, designer, engineer, or other professional — brings about unique challenges.

As part of HKS’ Black History Month celebration, two of our Black colleagues — Michael Pruitt, and Shantee Blain — discuss their thoughts on what it means to them to be a Black professional in the AEC industry, and why they believe that’s important.

Michael Pruitt

Design Professional in Technical Resources Group/Quality Management
Number of years in the industry: 25
Number of years at HKS: 17

It is extremely important to me to be a Black man with a career in architecture because it gives me the opportunity to show young Black boys and girls who look like me that there are many more careers that they can choose in life other than sports and entertainment. I grew up in the small Northeast Texas town of Clarksville. One disadvantage of growing up in a small town that is two hours away from the nearest major city is that I was never exposed or introduced to a lot of different career choices, and especially not architecture. Without proper resources and guidance, it has made my career journey a little harder than many of my colleagues. I sincerely feel that my purpose is to be a good example and inspiration for Black children who may have no idea what architecture is, and also let them know of the various possibilities and career opportunities that are available in our field.

A good friend of mine was a schoolteacher in a predominantly Black elementary school in Lancaster, TX, and each year she would invite me to present during the school’s career day. I participated in several of the events and they were something that I looked forward to each year. Our HKS marketing department would provide me with a projector along with a cd containing slideshows and videos of the many different projects the firm has designed over the years. It was always amazing to see the children’s faces light up as they watched those videos. The questions that they asked, and the newfound curiosity that they displayed, were priceless. Those interactions that I had with them are the exact reasons why I love what I do, and they are also the reasons why, again, it is so important to me to be a Black man with a career in architecture.

Shantee Blain, AIA

Washington, DC Office Director/Vice President
Number of years in the industry: 18+
Number of years at HKS: 18+

Being a Black Architect…

…means fulfilling a promise to my dad that I would be a great architect, one he would have wanted to collaborate with on the construction sites he managed. He told me, “I’ve worked with some bad architects, Shantee. Couldn’t answer questions. Wouldn’t collaborate. Hell, some couldn’t read their own drawings. If you’re going to be an architect, Shantee, be a great architect.”

My uncle was an architect. He taught me that a construction drawing is a work of art.

My grandfather was a master builder. He taught me to take pride in my work.

Being a Black architect means continuing a family tradition, setting an example for the next generation and taking a vested interest in another’s story and supporting them.

Being a Black architect means never thinking about being a Black architect until asked to. Or until you’re identified specifically for being Black. I wasn’t taught to be a Black architect, but to be an architect. The education I received at my HBCU, Florida A&M University, wasn’t for a future Black architect, but for a future architect.

Being a Black architect means sometimes being seen for the color of your skin before your ability or the position you hold.

Being a Black Architect means instead of measure twice, cut once, one must think twice before speaking once. Think about your tone. Think about your words. Speak calmly. Think about your audience. Think about perception. Speak safely. [Repeat]

Being a Black architect means finding your mantra; “Don’t apologize for your passion, lest you seem apologetic. Don’t apologize for correcting someone, lest you seem compliant. Don’t apologize for wanting more, lest someone forget your worth.”

Being Shantee, architect means being passionate about each project, feeling excited about the art of the drawings, and empowering the next generation of future architects.

HKS’ Sarah Nelson-Woynicz Brings Inclusivity and Activism as AIA Atlanta’s Exceptional Young Architect

HKS’ Sarah Nelson-Woynicz Brings Inclusivity and Activism as AIA Atlanta’s Exceptional Young Architect

Sarah Nelson-Woynicz didn’t grow up knowing she would be an architect. Instead, architecture found her. Starting in middle school, Nelson-Woynicz played brass instruments, thinking that would lead her into a career in music education or composer. 

But in high school, Nelson-Woynicz toured the College of Architecture at Virginia Tech University and thought to herself, “maybe this is where I’m supposed to be.” 

“I never knew that I wanted to be an architect, but now that I am, I couldn’t imagine doing something different,” said Nelson-Woynicz, an architect in the Commercial Mixed-Use studio of the HKS Atlanta office.  

The 28-year-old Raleigh, North Carolina native has always taken an active role in her community. In her youth, she was deeply involved in her community where she developed a devotion for volunteering, working with Habitat for Humanity, food banks and community gardens. 

She still brings that same passion and community-oriented mindset to her architecture role today. Her favorite part of the job comes from being a team player and learning from her peers throughout the design process of projects like the Neuhoff Mixed Use Development which brought together multiple team members from at least three time zones across the world. 

 “It was about the idea of creating the opportunity of bringing people together with one collective vision and one common goal,” she said.  

Taking on the Activist Role 

Nelson-Woynicz began her career at HKS in 2015 as an architectural intern in Richmond, Virginia. But she wanted to live in a larger city with public transit so, she moved to Atlanta after graduating. She wasted little time getting involved in her new city, becoming HKS Atlanta’s Better Together champion initially and then, a founding member of HKS Pride.  

Identifying with the LGBTQ community, Nelson-Woynicz wanted to contribute to an inclusivity program while helping to push the J.E.D.I. initiative further. 

“I knew that it was something where I wanted to bring together a community, a culture and a workplace that really emphasized equity, diversity, inclusion and belonging into Atlanta,” Nelson-Woynicz said. “I think my real passion is with HKS Pride, creating the space for voices that are not often heard for a variety of reasons.”  

She is the treasurer of HKS Pride and focuses on recruitment and engagement by reviewing HKS external opportunities and working to create and share information across the internal HKS Pride network.  

“Sarah’s passion and dedication for creating inclusive spaces is infectious,” said Yiselle Santos Rivera, HKS Director of J.E.D.I. “She not only will build you up with her enthusiasm but her commitment to J.E.D.I. work is inspirational. It’s a real joy to discuss how to develop platforms to celebrate authenticity and see her quickly transform a conversation into action.” 

“Sarah’s passion and dedication for creating inclusive spaces is infectious.”

Yiselle Santos Rivera, HKS Director of J.E.D.I.

Making a Difference in Atlanta

In 2021, Nelson-Woynicz was included as speaker for a panel discussion at the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) about equity and inclusion in the workplace. All the panelists were queer-identifying practicing architects and Nelson-Woynicz shared her experiences in the profession, including a pivotal moment in her career when she first met an “out architect.” 

After the panel, she received a message from a student at SCAD who said that Nelson-Woynicz was the first openly LGBTQ person they had met. Nelson-Woynicz said that the exchange “ultimately pushed me to really want to get even more involved.”  

As a result, she launched a digital blog named “Pride by Design,” that focused on interviewing and elevating organizations, architects and designers who are specifically LGBTQIA identifying, creating a space to share their stories. She says she has not only seen and felt the impact this space gives but serves as a constant reminder to show up, and that there is more work to be done.

“There are students that are graduating who aren’t seeing themselves in the profession still and we can’t lose this amazing robust group of talent just because they don’t see themselves in the profession,” she said. 

Nelson-Woynicz is also involved in Atlanta neighborhood communities, including zoning and planning, as well as American Institute Architects (AIA). Previously, she served locally on the AIA Atlanta Board of Directors as the Emerging Professional Director. Currently, she has a two-year term for the Young Architects Forum Advisory Committee as the Community Director.  

In 2022, Nelson-Woynicz was awarded the first Carmen Stan Memorial Women Lead Scholarship by AIA Georgia and Equity in Architecture. That same year, she was also named the John Busby Jr. Award (Exceptional Young Architect), the highest recognition for young architecture professionals in the metro Atlanta area. 

Nelson-Woynicz said that being recognized by her peers and colleagues for her efforts was a humbling experience.  

“The award is not just about me being in this space, but it’s about the amazing group who set the path and the group who’s coming and carving new paths,” Nelson-Woynicz said. “It was really special in that moment to sit and see this broader group of people in that room who are making an impact and difference not just in architecture, but in every sense and definition of community and in our in our neighborhoods.” 

Due to her drive for continual learning and mentoring, she co-led the development of HKS Atlanta’s office-wide mentorship program in 2019. The effort, in which the entire staff was engaged in learning from each other at all levels and across practice and discipline, became a model that she and her team shared with other HKS offices. 

Julie Volosin, Office Director of HKS Atlanta, called Nelson-Woynicz a true servant leader who continually thinks about what is best for the greater good — whether it’s for HKS and its clients or young emerging professionals. 

“She naturally motivates other teammates through modeling the way of learning new things about our profession and then sharing it forward, constantly challenging herself and others around her,” said Volosin.  

Being a young professional in the growing Atlanta office, Nelson-Woynicz looks to her younger colleagues for inspiration.

“I am in total admiration and respect for our group of younger professionals because they are absolutely changing the way that we think and do things across the board, from mentorship all the way to our practice and process within projects,” Nelson-Woynicz said. 

Nelson-Woynicz wants to bring other young professionals to HKS to help them find opportunities and flourish in their careers. 

“HKS is a firm and place that I think every new graduate should be considering and want to be a part of because we are striving to authentically listen, engage, and impact our communities.”  

HKS’ Billy Hinton Brings Heritage, Empathy, Friendship to Role as Firm’s Chief Talent Officer

HKS’ Billy Hinton Brings Heritage, Empathy, Friendship to Role as Firm’s Chief Talent Officer

Growing up in the 1960s and 70s in remote Tahlequah, Oklahoma, Billy Hinton loved to draw.

“I always had a piece of paper in my hand,” Hinton said. “I grew up drawing forever.”

His senior year of high school, Hinton considered enrolling in a drafting class because he thought he might want to become an architect. But he said his guidance counselor told him, “’Billy, that’d be a mistake.’”  

“I grew up in the sticks,” Hinton said. “There were no architects there, locally.”

Instead of the drafting class, his guidance counselor urged him towards advanced math, a college entrance class she called “far more important than drawing.”

Years later, when he finally took drafting, Hinton almost immediately realized, “This is what I’m supposed to do,” he said. And it is what he’s done for almost 33 years at HKS, as a Draftsman, Project Architect, Project Manager and his current position of Chief Talent Officer, Principal and Executive Vice President.

His career has taken him to job sites at Disney World, Times Square, in Chicago, New Delhi, London, the Bahamas and more – and, in what he calls some of his most gratifying work experience, back home to Oklahoma.

Hinton’s hometown of Tahlequah is located about an hour east of Tulsa in northeastern Oklahoma and is the capital of the Cherokee Nation. As part of HKS’ commemoration of National Native American Heritage Month, Hinton, who is a registered member of the Cherokee Nation, reflected on his career, his family heritage and how his cultural background informs his work.

Proud Heritage

Through his father, Hinton is a descendant of John Ross, Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation from 1823-1866 – a period that encompasses the Indian Removal Act and the Trail of Tears, the forced relocation of Native American people from their ancestral homelands in the southeastern U.S. to designated Indian Territory west of the Mississippi River.

“My dad’s family walked to Oklahoma, which was a horrendous experience for everyone involved,” said Hinton. “We grew up knowing what our family history was, because my dad’s family is really proud of that. They’re proud to be Cherokee.”

Hinton’s father, Billie John, worked at Northeastern State University (NSU) in Tahlequah, an institution with deep Cherokee roots. Founded in 1846 as the Cherokee National Female Seminary, the school predates Oklahoma statehood by more than 60 years. Hinton’s mother, Carol, an Oklahoma native of English-Scottish ancestry, stayed home to care for him and his younger brother, John. Both boys played basketball, tennis and baseball and performed in the school band, with the enthusiastic support of their parents.

“It didn’t matter what we were doing, both mom and dad were there,” Hinton said.

Billy Hinton’s Family. From left to right, his grandfather, Bill Hinton (great great grandson of Cherokee Nation Principal Chief John Ross); his father, Billie John Hinton; his grandmother, Bonesy Hinton; and his aunt, Buena Crockett.

Hinton’s high school band practiced late into the evening Thursday nights during football season to prepare for Friday night games. Band members would go home after school and change into shorts and T-shirts before returning for practice.

“I would always find the brightest T-shirt I could at home, because I’m just not a fan of white shirts,” Hinton said. His girlfriend at the time sought out the loudest fabric in Tahlequah and sewed him a Hawaiian shirt, which Hinton wore every Thursday night to those late band practices for about two years. That was the start of a collection of what he calls “the weirdest, wildest shirts I can find.”

That school days tradition of wearing eccentric shirts continues to this day, although Hinton said he now designs the fabric himself and has his shirts custom tailored in Austin.

Billy’s dad with his Grandpa and Grandmother in the early 1960s.

Finding a Path

For their family summer vacations, the Hinton brothers would study the Major League Baseball schedule and choose a city with an upcoming doubleheader and nearby amusement park. Over the years, the family traveled to Dallas to visit Six Flags over Texas in Arlington and see the Rangers play, to St. Louis to see the Cardinals and visit Six Flags Over Mid-America (now known as Six Flags St. Louis), and to Kansas City to visit Worlds of Fun and catch a Royals game. These vacation trips would play a pivotal role in Hinton’s eventual career plans.

Following his high school guidance counselor’s advice to continue his math studies, Hinton enrolled as a computer science major at NSU in Tahlequah.

“That was an interesting major for 1982,” he said.

His father, who worked with early computing systems as bursar and comptroller at NSU, recommended computer science for the field’s career prospects. Hinton said that while he enjoyed the problem-solving aspects of computer programming, he wanted more human interaction in his work. His sophomore year he switched to pre-med but determined he wasn’t well-suited for a career as a physician. By his junior year, he’d settled in as a business major.

That spring semester, Hinton wanted a three-hour class to round out the 12 hours required to be a full-time student, which he needed to maintain his scholarships. A drafting class fit perfectly into the open three-hour block on his schedule. He jumped at the chance to register for the class.

“I just loved it from the very first class,” Hinton said. “I knew then that I really did want to be an architect.”

Since NSU didn’t have an architecture program, Hinton transferred to Oklahoma State University (OSU) in Stillwater to finish his degree.

Seminary Hall at Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, was built in 1889 as the first building of the Cherokee Nation Female Seminary. Hinton’s father worked at NSU for 63 years.

That same year, he lost his mother to cancer. Hinton was 21. Learning to live without her was a hard adjustment for him, his father and then 19-year-old brother. Together, “we got to a place where it’s good,” Hinton said. The tragedy taught him a lot about empathy, he added. “I’ve seen a lot of my colleagues lose family members, and I can relate to that,” he said. “I’m always the first to say, ‘Go take care of your family. We’ll take care of work until you’re ready to come back.’”

Hinton graduated from OSU the following spring. Thinking back on his family’s summer vacations, he recalled how much he liked Dallas. He applied to two architecture firms in the city – one large, one small – and received job offers from both.

“I pondered on it and prayed about it and really thought about what I wanted to do. And the answer I kept coming back to is…I want to go to this big firm because I feel like I want to learn how to do big stuff,” Hinton said. January 2, 1990, he started work at HKS.

Early Career

His first week at the firm, two colleagues, Brian Eason and Kenneth Apel, invited Hinton to join them for lunch. “It’ll be 33 years this coming January 2nd, and I still eat lunch with Brian and Kenneth three or four or five times a week,” Hinton said.

When he became engaged to his now-wife of 27 years, Kathy, he told her he had two vices. “The first one is, I’m never going to mow our yard. And the second one is that I’m never going to take my lunch to work,” he said.

Although Apel is no longer with HKS, the three friends have maintained a tight bond and Eason said connections like the one he and Apel share with Hinton are essential.

“You’ve got to find five or six people that you trust, and you can say anything to and they can say anything to you,” Eason said.

Thinking back on the many HKS colleagues who have participated over the years in what’s become known around the firm as the “lunch bunch,” Hinton noted that many of the same people who watched him get married back in 1995 would be attending his son’s wedding this fall.

“Those are just amazing relationships,” Hinton said. “I’ve had amazing luck, finding the best mentors I could ever want. And I’ve been here long enough that my mentors became my friends.”

From left to right, Brent Sparks, Billy Hinton, Brad Schrader, Norman Morgan, Brian Eason and Dan Noble – taken in Fort Worth for Brad’s retirement lunch.

One such friend and mentor, HKS Principal Emeritus Lorenzo Castillo, said that when Hinton arrived at HKS he “was like a big sponge,” soaking up knowledge. “He was always willing to take the lead in all efforts, and on occasion, he would tell us a story or two to keep us going. Time with him and his fellow teammates was never dull,” Castillo said.

Early in his career Hinton had the opportunity to work on Disney’s Boardwalk Inn, a 45-acre resort at the Walt Disney World theme park in Florida. “We would work all day long and then we would go out at night and watch the fireworks over the Magic Kingdom,” he said.

Hinton remembers the thrill of arriving on site and first walking into the more than 500,000-square-foot project that was under construction. “I’d never seen the structure in my life, except on a piece of paper, but I could walk into that building and I knew where every single thing was supposed to be, because I drew it,” he said. “It was the most incredible experience.”

That experience was eclipsed years later when he brought his wife and two young children to stay at the hotel.

“I got pictures of my kids standing in front of the Boardwalk with their Disney hats on,” he said. “It makes me think about the purpose of what we do. We don’t design projects that are monuments to our egos. The reason we build hospitals is because people need a place to go to be diagnosed and treated and healed. The reason we do schools is because kids need a place to sit down and learn how to read. The reason we do hotels is because it’s a place where you can take your family and gain a memory you’ll have forever.”

Home Ties

In the 2010’s, Hinton’s father let him know that Cherokee Nation Health Services planned to build a new facility in Tahlequah. Hinton encouraged the HKS Health practice to pursue the project; he wanted to make sure the tribal health system had a chance to engage a global architecture firm with the skill and experience to design a highly complex health center.

Cherokee Nation Health Services awarded the project to HKS in partnership with Childers Architect, a 100 percent American Indian-owned and certified firm with an office in Tahlequah. The Cherokee Nation Outpatient Health Center, a 470,000-square-foot LEED Silver-certified facility, opened in 2019. Hinton’s father is among the patients who have been treated there.

Hinton said he was proud to help bring the project to the attention of leading health care architects such as HKS’ Norman Morgan and Brent Sparks.

“It gave the Cherokees a facility that was done by people like Norman and Brent, who’ve done world-class health care architecture all over the world,” Hinton said. Plus, he added, it was fun to play local-boy-makes-good. “I get to come home, and this is my firm’s building,” he said with a laugh. “It’s awesome.”

Cherokee culture played an important role in the design of Cherokee Nation Outpatient Health Center, Tahlequah, Oklahoma.

The outpatient center project helped forge a strong connection between HKS and the Cherokee Nation. In the past two years, HKS has completed a simulation laboratory for the OSU College of Osteopathic Medicine at the Cherokee Nation, located in Tahlequah, and partnered with Childers Architect on a medical school building at the college. The two firms are currently collaborating on a replacement facility for Cherokee Nation Health Services W.W. Hastings Hospital, also in Tahlequah.

In addition, HKS and Childers Architect are partnering on the Rapid City Health Center in South Dakota and the Navajo Nation Dilkon Health Center in Arizona, both for the federal Indian Health Services agency. Hinton said he’s happy these projects give Native American people “facilities that they otherwise would not have access to.”

Looking Ahead

Hinton’s family heritage and Oklahoma childhood inform his work as Chief Talent Officer at HKS, directing the firm’s hiring practices. “You just realize that people come from all different places, and they have different skill sets and different talents,” he said. “The right mix of people…makes this a far better firm. One of the things I’ve worked really hard to do is diversify our recruiting.”

As part of this effort, HKS attends nearly 50 campus recruiting fairs each year, he said. Hinton oversees the firm’s summer internship program and happily noted that the most recent intern class at HKS’ Dallas headquarters comprised 25 students representing 17 colleges and universities. “When you get those 25 kids all in a room here in Dallas, the interchange is amazing to watch,” he said.

2022 Dallas Intern Welcome Dinner

Hinton moved into the firm’s lead hiring role after a little more than 10 years at HKS, when Joe Buskuhl, CEO at the time, offered him the position then known as Director of Production. Hinton said Buskuhl told him, “If you’re a Project Manager you get to run one or two, maybe three projects a year to influence the company. I’m going to give you a chance to be the Director of Production, and you can influence every single job in the company.”

Hinton noted that his office walls used to be covered with images of buildings he’d worked on; now his office décor features the people of HKS.

“Today, my projects are the people who work here,” he said. “I take great joy in saying they’re my projects today because they’re going to have influence long after I personally am not here anymore.”

Current HKS CEO and President Dan Noble knows just how much of an influence Hinton is on the people in both the firm’s past and future.

“Billy and I have worked together at HKS for more than 30 years, and he represents so much of what makes our firm great,” Noble said. “Billy has succeeded in various roles, but his primary strength has always been people. He has become the heart and soul of much of our firm, and the connecting force between our people and our projects. His influence as Chief Talent Officer can be felt throughout the firm and helps define the culture of HKS. We’re lucky to have him.”

“Billy and I have worked together at HKS for more than 30 years, and he represents so much of what makes our firm great.”

Dan Noble, HKS CEO and President

HKS founder Harwood K. Smith was CEO of the firm when Hinton began his career and Hinton still teaches new HKS hires about Smith and his legacy as part of their orientation.

“I always admired the fact that Harwood understood that this would be a much stronger organization if he went and found smart people to help him run it, and ultimately give it over to,” Hinton said.

As Hinton’s son, Blake, embarks on marriage and medical school residency and his daughter, Kyndal, starts student teaching, Hinton is giving more thought about passing the baton to the next generation. While he says retirement is still some years away, he does look forward to having time to explore new artistic pursuits.

“I would love to illustrate kids’ books. I think some of the most amazing artists in the world illustrate kids’ books,” Hinton said, expressing admiration for the work of illustrators David Wiesner and William Joyce.

“Like I told you, I always have a paper and pencil in my hand.”

Advancing Mental Health Care Through Design: Common Ground from Uncommon Conversations

Advancing Mental Health Care Through Design: Common Ground from Uncommon Conversations

Lauren Kennedy West remembers. She remembers being brought in handcuffs from her psychiatrist’s office and restrained to a metal gurney alone, stripped naked and visible to other patients. The trauma happened to her when she was hospitalized during a mental health crisis.

West relayed this story in a keynote address to a two-day Mental and Behavioral Health Think Tank hosted by the HKS Health practice earlier this year. HKS invited West, a Canadian social worker and creator of the popular YouTube channel Living Well with Schizophrenia, to share her insights on the mental health system with our team of researchers, medical planners and designers and a diverse array of mental health stakeholders. We gathered the group of more than 20 experts in education, health care, the judicial system, and nonprofits that serve people experiencing homelessness to learn about the state of the mental health system and brainstorm strategies for improvement.

As West and other Think Tank participants made clear, the mental and behavioral health system in its current form is broken. We heard a common theme in her story and that of others that there is a lack of community understanding about mental health and a lack of connection that contributes to stigmas in various forms. This is in addition to a system that is difficult to navigate and rife with obstacles to accessing care, funding and reimbursement.

West said her terrifying hospital ordeal intensified one of her symptoms – a distrust of the medical system – but a compassionate nurse regained her trust and helped put her on a path to improved health and well-being. Her story illustrates how environments for care deeply impact how people feel about themselves and the competence and consideration of their care team moving forward.

Promising Practices

Three major themes arose from our Think Tank conversations:

Design can play a key role in all three themes. By creating welcoming spaces throughout the community to provide a full spectrum of mental and behavioral health care services, designers can help build connections between people, empower patients to choose care paths that meet their needs and advance innovative care.

Commonplace Resiliency 

Como Community Center is a bright, cheerful, light-filled building where residents of Fort Worth’s Como neighborhood gather to talk, play, nurture friendships and uphold neighborhood traditions. Establishing touchpoints for mental and behavioral health in buildings like this – including schools, libraries, community centers and clinics – could substantially support public health and strengthen social connections. Making environments for mental and behavioral health care more commonplace could help reduce the associated stigma, generating instead a more universal sense of belonging. It would also help distribute resources to a wider array of individuals, families and concerned community members, so that they can advocate more successfully for themselves and people they care about.

Regardless of where people are on their personal journey to mental health and well-being, a warm, familiar environment can help put them at ease and encourage them to be more receptive to care. Acoustical surfaces and softer materials create a calming effect, and the strategic use of textural features can provide a soothing sensory experience for some individuals. Culturally relevant details are meaningful to achieving a friendly, empathetic atmosphere conducive to advancing mental and behavioral health care.

Culturally relevant details and pops of bright color create a positive, welcome atmosphere at Como Community Center in Fort Worth.

Biophilic design leverages the innate human connection to the natural world to promote health and well-being. Biophilic design principles include soft natural forms, greenery, daylight, views and access to courtyards, natural materials such as wood and stone, and color palettes, patterns and artwork inspired by nature. INTEGRIS Arcadia Trails Center for Addiction Recovery in Edmond, Oklahoma, for example, features warm natural wood and stone to provide a homelike atmosphere. Daylight and nature imagery bring a sense of peace to Zev Yaroslavsky Family Support Center, a Los Angeles center for counseling, child support, mental health and public health services.

Color theory demonstrates that certain colors evoke certain emotions. Pops of bright color, generally without deep gray or black undertones, enliven a space and appear happy. Neutral backgrounds can allow individuals to personalize a space through artwork, different lighting hues and similar colorful design elements. Spaces that allow for personalization, choice and control over one’s environment help uphold individual dignity and promote autonomy.

Natural wood and stone lend a homelike feel to INTEGRIS Arcadia Trails Center for Addiction Recovery in Edmond, Oklahoma.

Empowering Self-Advocacy

The right to refuse treatment can be a barrier to healing. Empowering self-advocacy and ownership of care leads to greater success in the realization of personal health goals. West and other experts at the Think Tank noted that patients often feel powerless in directing their care; however, gaining a sense of control is essential to healing. Based on her experience, West advocates for correcting the power imbalance between patients and caregivers to enable people to “take the helm” of their own care journey.

By offering seating options, variable lighting, places to decompress, opportunities to engage in a variety of activities or differing degrees of social interaction, designs can help foster a sense of empowerment. This is demonstrated in the design of Smithfield Elementary School in North Richland Hills, Texas, where zones for activity, play and respite empower students to discover, play and take breaks according to their individual comfort levels. The Sensory Well-Being Hub at Lane Tech College Prep High School in Chicago provides a range of soothing and lively activities to allow students to calm down and refocus on their own terms.

Designing flexible spaces for mental and behavioral health care into education facilities could aid in early intervention and help prevent mental health issues from escalating. School design should consider how to enable strategies to increase mental health equity and connect students and families to support, such as incorporating mandatory counselling as part of the grade school experience and integrating mental health first aid into the regular curriculum.

Integrating the health care campus into the broader community would help create an extended support network to ease challenges to navigating the care continuum. Environments of care within this extended network might include, for example, resource centers to assist parents and other caregivers in understanding their loved one’s condition and determining when to seek help.

The design of hospitals, pediatric health centers and primary care clinics can support patients, families and caregivers by incorporating flex space that can be used for individual or group care, professional development or family health education, such as instruction on how to care for a child with mental health needs. Nurse stations designed to promote interactions between caregivers and patients can lay the groundwork for trusting relationships. Comfortable places for grief or respite provide health care staff and family members spaces to retreat and recharge, so that they may continue to nurture others.

Seeing the Whole Person

West said her care journey has included a misdiagnosis, hurried triage, lack of follow-up care, side effects of medication and agonizing relapses. A disjointed care plan that responded primarily to crises let her down repeatedly. Treatment that fails to see the whole person is ineffective. Environments of care must consider the complete physical, mental and socioeconomic needs of vulnerable people.

In the geriatric community, for instance, the physical decline that accompanies aging can compound mental health issues. Supportive environments designed to promote social engagement and purpose can transform elder care.

For unsheltered individuals, access to basic needs like food, water and shelter is empowering. Spaces designed to promote relationships and supportive community can also help meet higher-level psychological needs, such as belonging and esteem. At True Worth Place, a Fort Worth day center for people experiencing homelessness, a courtyard, roof deck dining, comfortable seating options and other thoughtful design details help create a sense of community.

HKS Think Tank participant Dr. Emily Spence is Associate Dean for Community Engagement and Health Equity at the University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth. She notes that people who have been traumatized or who are experiencing other mental and behavioral health issues “are struggling with something that feels outside their control.” Environments designed to increase people’s sense of control can help build autonomy, which can have a therapeutic effect, Spence said.

Informal seating areas at True Worth Place in Fort Worth encourage people to socialize and are useful design tools for building community and self-worth.

According to Spence, stressful or triggering environments produce physiological reactions that can cause the logical and reasoning part of the brain to shut down. “When people are in that place, they don’t have logical reasoning abilities. If you’re offering care, their brain isn’t operating in a way that can even hear or receive it,” she said.

Environments designed to provide peace, tranquility and relief from stress “bring people to a place where they are more ready to engage in reflective dialogue,” she added. “Think about the environment as being something that is part of a person’s healing journey, because it’s giving them a sense of control.”

Design Excellence at HKS: A Conversation with Chief Design Officer Anthony Montalto

Design Excellence at HKS: A Conversation with Chief Design Officer Anthony Montalto

At HKS, we strive to deliver designs that inspire, connect and perform. Our mission to positively impact communities through the built environment is driven by a commitment to integrate beauty and performance in all our projects. HKS Chief Design Officer, Anthony Montalto, shares his thoughts on why HKS believes in the value of design excellence, how it inspires our people and how it helps us improve project outcomes.

What does your role as Chief Design Officer entail?

Anthony Montalto: As the Chief Design Officer (CDO), I am responsible for cultivating a culture of design excellence at HKS so all our projects integrate beauty and performance. I work alongside the CEO and Executive Committee to support a rigorous data-driven process that elevates the quality of our work. I believe that we, as designers, have a huge responsibility to impact every life that our work touches in a positive way.

How do you inspire designers across a global firm with 26 offices and 1,500 employees?

AM: We have the rare opportunity to change the built environment and enhance lives through our work and services. When we are inspired — when we find that inner calling or force that pulls us forward — that’s when we do our best work and give our best effort. My goal is to help designers across the firm find that force and remind them of the huge impact we leave on the communities and the people we serve.

We have the rare opportunity to change the built environment and enhance lives through our work and services.

How do you give designers and creatives the space they need to find new answers or make new discoveries?

AM: Creating space for conversation is important. We foster an environment of exploration, where we don’t consider missteps to be mistakes. By testing hypotheses, ideating, prototyping ideas, and honestly evaluating results, we get closer to finding appropriate solutions to the variety of design problems we take on every day.

ProMedica Headquarters in Toledo, OH

HKS has aligned our vision of design excellence with the American Institute of Architect’s Framework for Design Excellence. How does this alignment help us better serve clients and communities?

AM: We strive for results that only an integrated team with diverse lenses and perspectives can develop. The AIA framework provides 10 measures that help us evaluate the subjective and objective characteristics of the places and communities where we work so we can create meaningful designs that are inclusive, resilient, and sustainable. Each measure stimulates a conversation that can lead to an idea — one that we may not have thought of without asking questions and thinking about outcomes. The measures help us advance our design excellence goals and elevate user experience and quality of life in our projects. 

How does design excellence and our approach to it lead to more meaningful careers for designers?

AM: I believe we have created a culture at HKS that fosters inspiration and that celebrates innovation. We hope to — and continuously work to — attract, retain, and support the growth of designers that thrive in their careers and are driven by the important responsibilities and opportunities we are presented with in our work.

Piedmont Hospital Marcus Tower in Atlanta

HKS has a focus on ESG in Design, which encompasses our commitment to Environmental, Social and Governance values. How does that commitment intersect with design excellence at our firm?

AM: I believe that we have a responsibility to care for people, the built environment and the resources that we use. ESG allows us to look at our work with a broader perspective and focus on those that we impact every day with our work. For us, successful and great design means we are being good partners for our communities, clients and teams and helping them fulfill their visions for the future.

What’s next for design excellence at HKS?

AM: My goal is to always improve and innovate how we work so that we can better serve our clients and communities. HKS leadership is committed to investing resources to grow our service offerings and expanding our teams’ abilities. Currently, we are focused on integrating our design process to be more efficient and intentional, with specific attention on improving how we incorporate the firm’s wide variety of talent and resources in all of our project work. We are also continuously improving and benefitting from our Top Projects program, a yearly evaluation and celebration of exemplary projects that helps us set our targets and goals for the coming year.

HKS’ Meena Krenek Brings Storytelling and Emotion to Interior Spaces

HKS’ Meena Krenek Brings Storytelling and Emotion to Interior Spaces

Meena Krenek’s path to her current role as a Principal and Global Practice Director for Venues Interiors at HKS, began as a child growing up in Reading, Pennsylvania.

It started with simple things: building objects and large structures from LEGOS blocks to sit under or act as a shelter. But it wasn’t until her first architectural class during her freshman year at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville that her passion for the built environment fully flourished when she discovered a class-required book entitled, “Architectural Graphics,” by Frank Ching.

“It’s when I fell in love with design and how impactful graphically representing an idea or space through visual art can be,” Krenek said.

It’s when I fell in love with design and how impactful graphically representing an idea or space through visual art can be.

Learning about one-point perspectives, line weights, hatches and architectural lettering, she immediately went to the bookstore to purchase different pen weights. Sitting in the studio, Krenek practiced and mimicked everything in Ching’s book, feeling as if these forms of visual communications were coming to life.

“I used to get every Dr. Seuss book and draw all these kinds of characters, and I felt the same way when I saw this architecture book because I was like, ‘I have to draw everything in this book and feel the spaces and characters,” she said.

Krenek has long been eager to understand the human experience in the built environment and is drawn to the way people react, identify with, and understand space and place. Her innate curiosity for the world around her stemmed from her upbringing as a child raised by immigrant parents. They taught her to have compassion for others who might be different from her, and her ability to put herself in the shoes of others to see the world through their eyes helps her to this day in developing stronger client relationships, cherish a lens of empathy, and improved user experiences.

 “One thing about my childhood that my parents gave me was a drive for success, the mental fortitude to thrive regardless of barriers and to be open-minded,” Krenek said.

And she offers similar advice to those coming along behind her: “It doesn’t matter what people look like or where they come from but be very cognizant of bringing people into your life that are different than you because everyone has a unique story you can learn from.”

Building Her Personal Brand

Using her childhood love for books with strong graphics and illustration, art is a major component of her design process, melding art and science into one. As an award-winning design director known for transforming clients’ companies, she uses experiential design to implement emotional connections with space. She has a keen ability to infuse her clients’ business and culture into branding and design that focuses on the human experience, bringing a unique and unforgettable dynamic energy to all her projects.

Krenek understands the importance of interior environments that are human-centric. She focuses on integrating architectural and interior spaces to tell a story and encourage guests to embark on a unique brand journey with every visit. By immersing herself in the client’s needs, she creates solutions that positively influence their business drivers and financial value.

As an architect and designer, she is constantly thinking of the next steps in digital and physical technology and seeking out what are innovative ways to connect the two. Truly understanding what consumers and patrons are seeking today and tomorrow allows for innovative environments that unleash participation within audiences. Her experience and insight have helped make her an industry leader and she has authored many articles for major publications such as the New York Times, Psychology Today and Monocle on Design.

According to Krenek, everyone must stand for something. She says that a point of view may align with another person or company, but it is a person’s individual brand that they bring to the table.

“If you understand your personal brand, you understand what you stand for, what you want to be known for and how you’re going to do that,” she said. “Then you can really do some significant things.”

She also strongly believes that individuals should be constantly moving towards their directive on how they want to be seen, whether that is through words, clothes, posting on social media, how one invests their time, or the work they are designing and creating.

“All our work represents ourselves, and we have to put out the point of view that we stand for something and every day, every encounter, we have to remember to make sure people see that aspect of us,” Krenek said.

Her strong sense of personal branding led her to focus her expertise on brand integration and experiential design. And she is so confident about the importance of a brand that she teaches a class on personal branding that recognizes how everyone is “uniquely different.”

The Move to HKS

A lover of large design firms, Krenek saw HKS as a place where she could continue to make a mark in the industry and flourish within the company.

“You can call anyone at any time here at HKS and someone will have the answer to something that you’re looking for, and that’s pretty fantastic to see how much intellect in deep research and reach that we have as a company,” said Krenek, who joined the firm in June.

When she began building relationships with the HKS team and learned about the Global Interiors Director of Venues opportunity, she connected how her expertise could influence the global brand of interiors to provide experiential design with a lens of understanding macro and micro trends in the industry and designing iconic spaces that build memories. She is enthusiastic about the importance of using her experience in environmental psychology, trend forecasting and providing clients, fans, visitors or eventgoers with a sensory and brand experience when they walk through venues.

Mark Williams, Global Sector Director, Venues, and Krenek see the world of interior spaces within these environments as widely untapped, allowing them to redefine what they are doing- creating a greater point of view and developing a brand with a strong narrative for the future.

“Our HKS Venues Team is excited to bring Meena into our HKS Family,” said Williams. “Her energy, influence and inventive style couldn’t align better with the impact we are currently having on sports and entertainment globally.”

Krenek understands that Venues today is more than a place for like-minded communities to come together, and HKS is designing experiences for today’s consumers. She pushes to design projects where occupants feel a connection to a relatable human centric story and values.

“Our spaces, venues in general, are going to be the types of spaces that are going to encourage a community to feel connected and like they belong to something greater than themselves,” Krenek said. “There’s a lot about the experience and the subculture behind the experiences we design for that have a much deeper meaning than just designing a kit of parts for a stadium or an airport. We are designing for an experience that has meaning, inspires, educates, brings value and has a personality.”

She sees her position as not just fulfilling a role, but an opportunity to expand the industry. In a world where people get much of their content through handheld devices, she believes interiors must design for the new ways people are seeking to participate in the interior architecture, feel an intention or purpose, and provide a future forward experience in every aspect.

“I’m looking forward to driving our design work to new and profound places with our exceptional clients that are seeking to influence their business with trailblazing design work,” Krenek said. “HKS is poised for the future for being highly relevant with an empathic lens, for empowering our clients with business success and on the frontier with design creativity. I am thrilled about positioning interiors with a strong experiential entity that will elevate our practice in unfathomable ways.”

HKS’ Gordon Gn Talks to Portfolio Magazine About Computational Design

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.


Athletes to Architects: How Playing Competitive Sports Helps HKS Designers Excel

Athletes to Architects: How Playing Competitive Sports Helps HKS Designers Excel

Image above: HKS Project Architect Meggie Meidlinger prepares to throw a pitch for the USA Women’s National Baseball Team.

College students are beginning to matriculate back to their respective campuses, and that means the start of the fall athletic season is right around the corner, too.

For years, athletes in college and beyond have parlayed the skills, strategy, and emotions they once used or executed on the field of play into successful professional careers in a variety of non-athletic fields, including architecture and design. That is true at HKS where several current employees now use their athletic backgrounds to help them win at a different – but no less competitive or intense – type of contest.

“The idea of teamwork, preparation, focus, perseverance, poise, leadership, character, come into play,” said Fred Ortiz, Principal and Global Practice Director Sports and Entertainment, who received a football scholarship to the University of Texas at Arlington before that school eventually dropped the sport. “When you translate that into architecture . . . someone has to call the play. Someone has to execute the play. And in the end, you hope to score.”

Principal and Senior Project Architect Michelle Stevenson, who played soccer at Rice University and still participates on tournament soccer teams around Los Angeles where she is based, agreed. She said that the camaraderie and esprit de corps she picked up by participating in sports easily translates into her job.

Stevenson said that “sports is a fantastic way to learn how to grow as a person and a leader and how to work with others.”

She said playing soccer taught her two things in particular that she says are essential to success in her career: time management and the ability to listen to and value others.

Principal and Senior Project Architect, Michelle Stevenson (#21), with her Rice Owl soccer teammates.

She said playing soccer taught her two things in particular that she says are essential to success in her career: time management and the ability to listen to and value others.

“People might not think that time management is important but playing soccer and then fulfilling my academic duties; time management is very important to my balance,” she said. And she honed her listening skills from her time as a soccer fullback, where she had to heed the directions of teammates behind her.

“When you’re on the field, I am listening to my goalkeeper behind me who is telling me, ‘Shift, left, shift right,’ there’s an open person. On projects . . . you’re listening and you’re reacting. And when you’re in interviews and something may resonate differently when you’re with a client, there’s two ways to proceed; you can either dig in your heels and say, ‘we’re doing it this way no matter what you say,’ which usually doesn’t go well. Or you can go back and take another look at it and see if you can find a different way to make it work. Whether at work or in my own private life, I want to be able to hear people and react to people.”

Ortiz and Stevenson said quickly adapting to unexpected changes is crucial to overcoming obstacles to victory whether those changes or shifts happen on the soccer or football field, or during a high-pressure client interview to secure an important project for HKS.

“The other day, I was in the middle of an interview, and my screen went blank,” Ortiz said. “So, what do you do? You pivot. You go back to what you do on the (football) field. If you call a play and you get up to the line and realize the defense is in a different formation, you have to respond quickly, rely on your training, and make an intuitive move. And that’s what I did, and we were able to continue with the presentation and finished strong.”

HKS Principal and Global Practice Director Sports and Entertainment, Fred Ortiz, as a University of Texas at Arlington football player.

Meggie Meidlinger, a Project Architect in the Atlanta office, certainly knows a few things about closing strong. She is a longtime closer on the Gold Medal USA Women’s National Baseball team — that’s right, baseball not softball. She features a blazing fastball that approaches 80 miles per hour, and a devastating curveball that has her “breaking people’s knees” that she uses as her primary “out” pitch.

Meidlinger said that many aspects of working at HKS mirror what happens when she is playing baseball. In both cases, she said, everyone must work as a team to achieve success.

“So, in the situation like a (project) pitch, everybody has their part to play,” Meidlinger said. “We’re on the team, and like baseball, you know when you need to pick a teammate up. We’re all in this together, I’m not going to leave anyone hanging. That can be with other HKS people, working with our consultants. Our contractors. Our end goal is to make our client’s dream become reality.

“Within HKS, everybody is so supportive and a team player,” she added. “On any project, everyone has each other’s back, and we work together to get it done.”

That support was on full display most recently when Meidlinger spent two weeks in Canada playing with the National team. Even though she had her work laptop with her, the trip still meant that HKS teammates back in the States pinch hit for her at times to help fulfil some of her obligations for the firm.

It’s a balancing act and teamwork,” said Meidlinger, who regularly travels to Uganda to promote women’s baseball among young people there. “I have incredible teammates who back me up and support me. Especially with our HKS community, everyone is so supportive of both our work and personal life.”

Meidlinger, who always wanted to pursue careers in both architecture and baseball, said that as a high school player in her native Virginia, she became the first female in that state to win a varsity game and to pitch a perfect game — both as a member of the boys team.

And how can she reach that plateau in her professional life?

Meggie Meidlinger and her USA Women’s National Baseball Team teammates share a post-game moment.

“If we can take the thoughts and dreams of a client and put them into reality and they’re happy with it, to me, that’s a perfect game in architecture,” she said.

Meidlinger, Stevenson and Ortiz said that their sports backgrounds provided them with another essential element that they use in their professional lives, one that many people might not immediately think about – how to deal with defeat.

All three acknowledged that it is inevitable that that they will not win every bid and when they don’t, the three said the key is how they and their colleagues respond. That is where they said their sports backgrounds come into play.

“Sometimes we don’t win,” said Ortiz, whose two sons followed his lead and played college football. “And that can be really degrading. But as long as I know we left everything on the field, or in the conference room, I’m good. If I know we were as prepared as we could be, we’re good.”

Meidlinger said that in her baseball role as a closer, she understands she can’t dwell on a bad outing because it’s likely she’ll have to come right back the next day and try again for success. It is the same attitude she uses to deal with losing a project bid.

“To me, it’s all in how you recover and react after that,” she said. “Baseball is a game of failure. If you bat even .300, that’s considered a great batting average. But that means that you fail seven out of 10 times. Sometimes in baseball, you can execute your pitch perfectly, but the hitter just gets a good hit. It’s learning how to bounce back from failure that’s key.”

Stevenson said that losing soccer matches, in some ways, taught life lessons that were every bit as beneficial as winning, if not more so.

“We’re taught in most sports that you can do your best; you can do everything right, and still not win,” Stevenson said. “And when you don’t win, you can either go back and sulk in the locker room, or you can go back out and come out to practice and work on the next game. And that’s how it is with what we do. We may not win a specific sports project, but then you go back to the drawing board, and you modify, and you resubmit. And if there is (still) a loss, you learn to pick up your britches, and move on.”

Women’s History Month; Two HKS Women Leaders Discuss Their Careers

Women’s History Month; Two HKS Women Leaders Discuss Their Careers

Women’s History Month is celebrated in the United States to recognize the contributions women have made to America and their unique achievements throughout history. I have been with HKS for 39 years, and I have seen both the architecture industry and our firm become more diverse and inclusive over time. I am proud of our progress; our firm is now 48% people who identify as women, and 56% of our 2022 promotions recipients firmwide were women. Our Executive Committee is now 20% women, as well.

But that progress was not without its challenges. My wife, Ann, is a registered architect, as well, and we worked together for the better part of 25 years. I saw firsthand how she was dismissed in meetings or assumed that she was not a project lead as the only woman in the room, from what I can assume was only because of her gender.

Ann was firing on all cylinders; managing schedules and responsibilities for our two children, working before the kids went to school and after they went to bed at night, and leading HKS initiatives like Better Together and The One Percent Solution (which are now J.E.D.I. and Citizen HKS) that promoted gender and racial equity within our firm and beyond.

“It was very difficult at times,” Ann says, “but would I change my path? I can confidently say, absolutely not.

“I think most women see our hardships and struggles as worthwhile,” Ann says. “We persevere so that the next generation of women- our daughters, mentees, colleagues- won’t even have to think about speaking up in a client meeting. Having a female leading a multi-million-dollar design project won’t be out of the ordinary.”

HKS has been in business for nearly a century. We can see the progress we’ve made thanks to our inspiring and resilient team of women who break barriers every day, and we continue to commit to bringing diverse voices to our table to ensure a more equitable environment within our firm and more innovative work for our clients.

To honor this national recognition, we spoke with two of our female leaders, Ana Pinto-Alexander and Bernita Beikmann, about their experiences as women leaders in our firm and the future for our industry.

Left, Ana Pinto-Alexander; Right, Bernita Beikmann

Tell us about your career trajectory and what led you to your role as a leader at HKS.

Bernita Beikmann — Chief Process Officer; Dallas

I graduated college with a Bachelor of Architecture degree in 1996 and started at HKS soon after that. It was after a recession where we had not been hiring, and that left some gaps that allowed those who were motivated the opportunity to take on as much responsibility as we could handle. I spent some time in the commercial practice, and ultimately ended up in the health practice. When you are young, I do not think it always matters what projects you work on. What matters most is who you work with and I was fortunate to work with people that allowed me to learn, ask questions, make mistakes and make more mistakes. They encouraged me not just to do my job, but to do more than my job. I spent many hours of my personal time on standards committees, on the summer intern committee, volunteering in the Forum and other leadership committees as much as I could. I never turned down an opportunity, even if it terrified me. If I did not think I could do something, I just tried to figure out how to do it. The internal committees and leadership experience led to me serving in external local and national leadership positions. 

Ana Pinto-Alexander — Director of Health Interiors; Dallas

My relationship with HKS started in 2003. At that time, I was the majority owner of an interior design firm, Maregatti Interiors, and over the next seven years, we delivered four greenfield hospitals and a tower addition in Indianapolis working in collaboration with HKS. In 2011, HKS acquired my business and I joined the firm as a Principal, serving in the role of Director of Health Interiors. During the past 11 years, I have worked with my interiors partners to elevate the role of interiors in our work. I have also worked to increase diversity of thought within HKS by elevating women into leadership positions. Having diversity within our leadership is a good business decision.

What specific challenges, did you face or are continuing to face as a woman in the architecture/engineering/design industry?

Beikmann: In the beginning, my challenge was proving that I belonged in certain situations such as on a construction site, leading a meeting, or being the person to go to with questions. The biggest help for overcoming that challenge was the people that I worked for at HKS not tolerating exclusionary behavior from others. Over time, with more women in the industry, that issue has softened. The biggest hurdle now is getting a seat at the table in the higher leadership positions. More companies are realizing the benefits of diversity at a leadership level and HKS is, too.

Pinto-Alexander: Women have made a great deal of progress at HKS since I came on 11 years ago. One of the challenges I face is having the courage to speak up and ask uncomfortable questions during meetings where most of the voices are male. I say to myself, “If it is not you, then who? If it is not now, then when?” In conversations and meetings with other women, we are tactical in supporting each other.

What steps is HKS taking to create more equity in our profession and what role are you playing in those efforts?

Beikmann: Architecture was not a profession known to me as a child because of where I grew up, nor as a choice for women. HKS has invested in mentoring and building awareness of the design profession among young people in elementary and high schools. That is where it has to start. We also sponsor programs including ACE Mentoring and an on-going partnership with Cristo Rey Dallas Prep. We have employees who go out in their own communities and show leadership, too. I have done presentations at my daughter’s schools, been a girl scout leader, and had a Cristo Rey student as a summer intern. Within HKS, I have been a part of multiple efforts to raise awareness of diversity and equity and the benefits of women in leadership. We have made some progress and we will continue to make more progress until this does not have to be a conversation anymore.

Pinto-Alexander: One of the key decisions was to elevate Yiselle Santos Rivera to be our Director of Justice, Equity, Diversity & Inclusion (J.E.D.I.). Her voice and vision are highly respected in our industry and within HKS. She has brought the data forward to make everyone aware of the steps which we need to take in order for HKS to be relevant in the years to come. I am personally sponsoring and mentoring women within HKS as well. We have remarkable, talented and knowledgeable women who deserve to have their voices heard.

The theme of Women’s History Month 2022 is “Providing Healing, Promoting Hope.”  How would you encourage others to provide healing and promote hope in the face of challenges?

Beikmann: “Providing Healing, Promoting Hope” is a tribute to the ceaseless work of caregivers and frontline workers during the pandemic. We are surrounded by women who are clients of HKS that are frontline workers and colleagues that struggled to keep projects going at the same time as being full time at-home teachers or caregivers when schools and daycares closed. We can provide support and hope by showing empathy and care for everyone’s struggles and understanding that we get the best work from people when they feel valued, supported and can take care of themselves and their families. We can reflect on what we learned during the pandemic to design spaces that support frontline workers in every field and create better work environments for all. This is a great opportunity to use our research to help ourselves and others.

Pinto-Alexander: Most women are by nature, nurturers. We offer a safety net for those whom we love and care for. We now see women rising to the top in all areas of society: business, arts and political arenas. These changes give women —young and old alike —hope and inspiration. Our voices are being heard and what we say matters. I encourage my colleagues to have perseverance and I encourage them to speak their truth. I find myself in a position to sponsor other women to reach their highest potential in their career and in their personal lives, and I am so grateful for this opportunity.

Our voices are being heard and what we say matters.

Can Design Help Curb College Drop-out Rates?

Can Design Help Curb College Drop-out Rates?

According to College Atlas, 70 percent of Americans pursue studies at four-year colleges, but less than two-thirds earn a degree. Nearly one-third of college students drop out of college after their freshman year. Among the chief reasons students drop out or underperform academically is because of anxiety, depression and loneliness, which often stems from stressful or unengaging environments.

So, can a campus environment help combat isolation through design? How might a live-learn community on a large university campus make a difference?

From the moment our team — comprised of HKS, Clark Construction, Safdie Rabines Architects and OJB Landscape Architects — was awarded the North Torrey Pines Living and Learning Neighborhood (NTPLLN) at UC San Diego, we prioritized student health and well-being. We wanted to create a dynamic and welcoming place for many different types of people: the teenager experiencing their first time away from family; faculty and administrative staff responsible for guiding students during a formative period in their lives; and families and community members who visit.

The university’s Detailed Program Plan (DPP), a 1,400-page document created for competing teams pursuing the design-build competition, established a bold vision to create a fully integrated live-learn, mixed-use neighborhood nestled within UC San Diego’s sprawling 1,200-acre oceanfront campus in La Jolla, California. The largest construction project in school history, NTPLLN encompasses residence halls, academic buildings, faculty and administrative offices; below-grade parking and numerous amenities such as a market, two-story dining hall, expansive outdoor and public spaces, and the revival of the popular Craft Center, which closed in 2012.

Home to the university’s Sixth College, NTPLLN’s academic program includes the Social Science and Arts and Humanities departments. Founded in 2001, Sixth College prepares its students to become engaged 21st century citizens, offering rich and varied programs focused at the nexus of culture, art and technology.

The Neighborhood Takes Shape

During the project’s development, we interviewed students at the Sixth College who would eventually inhabit NTPLLN, asking them which elements of their environment contributed positively and negatively to their college life. We also used a persona mapping tool to understand the user experience from all points-of-view, which informed our design solution for each building type. Sixth College students said it was key that their culture of innovation and creativity be included in the design in a way that respects time-honored traditions while embodying future ideals: sustainability is a crucial tenet and aligns with UC’s system-wide initiative to be carbon neutral by 2025.

The main concept behind the design is simple and dates back to 6th century Greece planning schemes where dwellings, public amenities and learning buildings were often located near one another. We believe that students, faculty and administrators can experience a greater sense of community when their everyday tasks result in multiple interactions with each other. Starting with this basic organizing principle, we developed a design that reimagines the live-learn environment to align with the university’s vision and core values. And to make NTPLLN feel at home with the rest of the UC San Diego, we continued the traditional materiality found on campus, using exposed concrete and wood.

Due to the project’s density, we knew it would be critical to design for a human scale. The mixed-use neighborhood is organized around an active “main street” and to further develop a sense of community, we relied on the behavior mapping research we conducted that helped us put ourselves in the shoes of the college students whose valuable feedback we received.

We used the concept of nesting scales for the campus design, illustrated by considering a student’s bedroom and unit shared with suitemates as their home; the floor they live on — vertically connected to others in their building in a house style — as their community; Sixth College as their village, and UC San Diego and La Jolla as their city. We kept in mind how we could provide for meaningful social experiences at each of these scales.

When located adjacent to pedestrian areas, buildings more than four stories tall can feel intimidating, and we wanted the design to be a welcoming and accessible. Employing a dual scale design concept helped us minimize the actual and perceived magnitude of buildings throughout the neighborhood; those with podiums have stepped back towers from the lower podium facades, creating semi-private terrace rooftops for students and faculty to gather and enjoy access to the outdoors. Breaking up the verticality in this way also allowed us to create courtyards and varied building entry points.

Every residential building includes extensive natural ventilation and daylighting. Each floor is designed to provide both privacy and opportunities for social interaction and each student bedroom room is designed to feel like home. With 15 different housing configuration options, NTPLLN students could have a different living arrangement every semester of their academic career.

Academic buildings portray the distinct identities of the Social Sciences and the Arts and Humanities programs while maintaining shared connections among administrative staff via a shared outdoor entry plaza, courtyard and roof-top decks. Situated on the high point of the site, these buildings serve as a gateway and embrace the project’s dual scale theme on the campus grounds while providing natural daylight and fresh air to those inside.

A Place Where Well-being is Prioritized

NTPLLN opened to students for the Fall 2020 semester during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. But well before the pandemic caused us to think even more critically about how living and learning spaces can impact our physical and mental well-being, we sought to make healthy, sustainable design decisions.

The team centered design strategies around the mental, social, and physical health of college students and others on campus using the Point of Decision Design (PODD) framework developed by the Center for Advanced Design Research and Evaluation (CADRE). PODD is defined as the use of well-planned ecological schemes and cues within the built environment to influence how individuals decide on participating in healthy activities at critical points of decision where they can have the most impact. The underlying principle is to make the healthy choice the easy one, by design.

PODD strategies are evident throughout NTPLLN. Making internal and external stairs inviting and providing visible spaces for play and exercise encourage movement, while dining options and convenient access to kitchens and rooftop gardens promote healthy eating. Accommodating bike racks, buses and micro-mobility solutions like skateboards, as well as an underground parking garage created a place where cars are not the “default” mode of transportation to and within the neighborhood.

We took advantage of San Diego’s temperate climate, creating places for outdoor living throughout. Each building in the neighborhood offers scenic coastal views and connections to the tropical climate to facilitate mental and physical wellness. Communal areas such as a rooftop vegetable garden provide opportunities for healthy habit development and physical activities including gardening and fitness classes, and community kitchens on each residence hall floor encourage cooking and socializing. Even learning spaces with operable walls open up onto outdoor terraces.

Positive Design and Research Outcomes

For more than two decades, academic researchers have linked anxiety and depression among college students with external stressors concerning food, housing and transportation. Research has proven that when students must commute to campus, do not have proper nutrition, or experience financial constraints and familial demands, they are less likely to be able to concentrate in academic settings and less likely to graduate. Put another way, students who have significant personal and structural barriers preventing them from fully engaging in their academic and campus life tend to drop out more frequently.

At NTPPLN, we sought to remove as many of those barriers as possible. We hoped that the campus would be embraced by UC San Diego and the people of La Jolla, a place that would inspire ingenuity and invention, learning and growing. With affordable, healthy on-campus living and dining options and dynamic learning spaces, NTPLLN’s design has exceeded those initial hopes.

Pre-move and post-move occupancy evaluations conducted by a research coalition comprising the university, CADRE and HKS designers revealed that student satisfaction with Sixth College new buildings has demonstrably increased, compared with the college’s prior facilities. On-site observations, interviews and media reporting have illustrated that NTPLLN has become a new center of energy at UC San Diego. And retail and restaurant activity there is setting records that are causing the university to rethink all other food service options. Friday night student music concerts on the lawn and cookie baking pajama parties in the teaching kitchen are becoming new school traditions.

Sixth College students reported reduced rates of depression, despite the COVID-19 pandemic when college student anxiety and depression rates increased five percentage points in the U.S., according to the National College Health Assessment. Moderate, significant correlations were observed between well-being metrics related to life satisfaction and depression and physical environment metrics related to satisfaction with multiple types of campus spaces. The correlation between mental health and environmental satisfaction factors demonstrates that the design of the places where students live matters.

An engaging mixed-use community, North Torrey Pines Living and Learning Neighborhood is proving to be an environment that supports students’ holistic well-being and one that helps UC San Diego’s fulfill its mission to develop global citizens and environmental stewards. Based on our design and research outcomes, we believe that students who live and learn there are more likely to stay in school and achieve academic success on their path to becoming the next generation of civic leaders.