Celebrating 10 Years of Community Impact with Citizen HKS

Celebrating 10 Years of Community Impact with Citizen HKS

A decade ago, HKS launched Citizen HKS, an impact initiative dedicated to uplifting people through public interest design and community service. 

Fueled by the passion HKS employees have for taking local action and using their design skills to positively influence lives, Citizen HKS has grown into a global change agent during the last ten years. 

Our teams have provided pro bono design services for nearly 50 projects worldwide. We have volunteered almost 33,000 hours during annual Month of Service events in our home cities and raised $570,000 to support neighbors in need. Altogether, Citizen HKS has aided more than 870 community organizations including social services non-profits, health clinics, educational and recreational centers, and food banks. 

As we face urgent climate and social challenges across the globe, HKS believes that creating, connecting and contributing through Citizen HKS is foundational to our Environmental, Social and Governance approaches. Through this work, we have been able to build relationships with clients that empower our business to benefit more people and create lasting change in the architecture, design and construction industries. 

HKS is proud to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of Citizen HKS by highlighting five themes of impact that provide a snapshot of how our teams have been helping solve pressing public health and social equity challenges. 

Food Access

The United Nations estimates that a quarter of the world’s population doesn’t know where their next meal will come from, and that food insecurity is worsening globally with each passing year. Citizen HKS teams have worked to broaden food access for people experiencing hunger and nutritional challenges in cities across the United States and beyond.  

A key project that exemplifies our impact is the Urban Food Studio at Capital Area Food Bank, which opened in 2015. A flexible, all-season space and learning environment for gardening, cooking and nutrition workshops, the structure supports the food bank’s mission to combat hunger and food insecurity in the Washington, D.C. region. In addition to this vital project, Citizen HKS has also provided design services for North Texas Food Bank in Balch Springs, Texas and TNC Food Bank in Orlando, Florida, among others. 

Currently, a Citizen HKS team is designing a new home for Hunger Busters, a nonprofit committed to mitigating food insecurity among Dallas Independent School District students. The vibrant, sustainable food preparation facility is also a Design for Freedom pilot program project — the team is researching and selecting building materials manufactured without forced labor. The building will serve as a beacon of change supporting those who are food insecure in the Dallas region as well as a global symbol of how designers can alleviate human rights abuses in architecture and construction. 

Hunger Busters in Dallas, TX

Expanding beyond design efforts, HKS staff members have participated in annual Month of Service food drives and meal packaging and distribution events across the U.S., working with organizations including Atlanta Community Food Bank, Los Angeles Regional Food Bank, Greater Chicago Food Depository, Phoenix’s St. Vincent de Paul, and Houston’s Trinity Gardens Food Pantry to disseminate meals to people in need. 

Women’s Health

The UN estimates that a woman dies during pregnancy or childbirth every two minutes worldwide and in recent years, maternal mortality rates increased or stagnated globally. These alarming statistics are compelling HKS designers to take action to enhance women’s and family health. We have taken on this challenge by engaging in Month of Service activities and pro bono design work with local health services organizations and non-profits such as the Ronald McDonald House Charities and Texas-based LifeSavers Foundation, where a Citizen HKS team is currently designing a mobile clinic that will travel so providers can give direct care to women and children in disadvantaged communities. 

Citizen HKS’s most transformational work supporting women’s health has occurred with two hospital designs in Uganda. First, Kachumbala Maternity Unit opened in 2017. The unit houses two delivery suites and a seven-bed postnatal ward significantly increases access to maternal care in a rural area, including a 29% increase in deliveries monthly. Constructed by a local workforce, the building is made of local materials and HKS teams raised $50,000 for its design and construction. The highly sustainable design has led to a 96% reduction in predicted energy usage intensity compared to a typical U.S. clinic in a similar climate, and the project is a meaningful example of how design can benefit both people and the planet. 

Kachumbala Maternity Unit in Kachumbala, Uganda

We are also moving forward with a design for a neonatal unit at Mbale Regional Referral Hospital, located approximately 17 kilometers away from Kachumbala. This project will increase health care access for local families and mothers, support the hospital’s limited staff to provide better care and also limit impact on the environment with locally sourced materials and high-performance strategies. 

Inclusion + Neurodiversity 

The Centers for Disease Control reports that 1 in 36 children in the United Sates are diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. And globally, there are more than 55 million people living with dementia globally according to the World Health Organization, including 5.8 million in the United States per the CDC. As HKS continues its research and leadership working at the intersection of brain health and design, supporting inclusion and neurodiversity for people of all ages is central to Citizen HKS’ efforts. 

The first of many projects HKS has embarked on to aid neurodiverse youth, the Sensory Well-being Hub at Lane Tech College Prep High School in Chicago was a collaborative effort by Citizen HKS and the firm’s research team. We also raised $50,000 for the project’s design and construction as a firm. Built in 2017, the award-winning hub design helps students recover from sensory stressors and improves well-being, and our many research findings include that diverse approaches are necessary for sensory well-being environments.  

Lane Tech College Prep High School in Chicago, IL

Citizen HKS and the HKS research team have also done extensive work to understand what seniors living with dementia need from their living environments to lead healthy, happy lives. We have created designs for two sensory rooms for dementia care at senior living communities in Michigan. Completed in 2023, the first installation is designed to relieve dementia-related anxiety. 95% of staff have reported the room’s positive impact on residents’ emotional wellbeing. 

In our communities across the world, Citizen HKS teams have volunteered personal time to assist children with neurodiverse identities and older adults, providing direct support with organizations such as the Living Learning Enrichment Center in Northville, Michigan and Un Granito De Arena Community Center in Mexico City. 

Social Justice 

One in six people worldwide experiences discrimination based on grounds such as race, ethnicity, age, religion, disability, and health status, according to the UN. United States Census Bureau data shows that underemployment and a lack of financial and housing security are significantly prevalent among people of color, indicating that systematic discrimination prevents marginalized communities from thriving. Advancing social justice and building a more equitable built environment is a shared responsibility for designers, our collaborators, and our communities. 

In Dallas, where HKS was founded 85 years ago, Citizen HKS has designed spaces that help underserved people thrive. Opened in 2018, a new building for Dallas 24 Hour Club’s includes 14,000 square feet dedicated to providing safe, sober transitional living for people experiencing homelessness and substance abuse issues. The project includes living spaces, community meeting rooms, a commercial kitchen and dining area that help the 24 Hour Club offer diverse resources and support to those in need. 

Dallas 24 Hour Club in Dallas, TX

We are also currently working to adapt a former school in the historically African American Joppa area of South Dallas— one of the last remaining freedmen’s towns — where community members are isolated from necessary resources and infrastructure. The community-informed and sustainable Citizen HKS design for The Place at Honey Springs envisions a vibrant multipurpose center that reflects local history and serves residents of today and tomorrow. It will include gathering spaces, a recording studio, and classrooms for after-school programs and continued education that encourage creativity and lifelong learning. ​ 

Our teams have also dedicated their time to aiding people experiencing homelessness. In Singapore, Shanghai, and throughout the United States we have volunteered with organizations such as Habitat for Humanity in multiple cities, the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless, Lotus House and Camillus House in Miami. A Citizen HKS team also designed a masterplan to alleviate homelessness for Jeremiah Community in Fredericksburg, Virginia. 

Education + Play 

In recent years, Citizen HKS has partnered with schools and community organizations to foster education and play to improve development and well-being among children and teens. Teams in nearly every HKS office have partnered with the HKS K-12 Outreach Program on an annual book drive and mentorship programs to engage young people in learning about architecture and design. Citizen HKS design teams have also worked to broaden access to educational opportunities through design projects at a high school in Zirak, Afghanistan as well as CityLab South Oak Cliff Entrepreneurship Center in Dallas. 

Since 2021, Citizen HKS has been working on StationSoccer’s multi-site master plan to create youth soccer fields near underutilized land at MARTA transit stations around Atlanta. Partnerships with local government and nonprofits and a Citizen HKS fundraiser amounting to $40,000 have made this work possible. Several design projects are complete, and others are in progress — all of them enhancing play equity for youth throughout the city. Our Atlanta team has also participated in service events with StationSoccer, including a “draw and play day” and school supplies drive for the organization’s soccer tournament. 

StationSoccer in Atlanta, GA

One of Citizen HKS’ most exciting projects in development touches on several of the themes highlighted for the 10-year anniversary, including education and play: The Park at Floral Farms. Developed in partnership with South Dallas residents and community organizations, the park will replace an area known as “shingle mountain” — a waste dumping site that has affected locals’ health and well-being for years. The project reflects the possibilities of environmental justice and how public health awareness can be a catalyst for transformation. Ultimately, the park design proposes much needed greenspaces, playgrounds, and recreational facilities where all members of the community can play and enjoy the outdoors together. 

10 Years in and a Bright Future Ahead 

By celebrating 10 years of Citizen HKS, we look back at the progress our firm and industry have made in using design as a tool for progress. But we recognize that to create the future we all want — a future with sustainable, equitable, and thriving communities — we must continue to push forward new ideas and collaborate with intention. Through limitless thinking, we will tackle the challenges of today and create a brighter tomorrow. 

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.

Hunger Busters

Case Study

Hunger Busters Sowing Resilience: A Journey to Cultivate Change

Dallas, TX, USA

The Challenge

Nearly two-thirds of the Dallas Independent School District’s (DISD) 150,000 students face the prospect of food insecurity each day. To help reduce that challenge Hunger Busters, a non-profit meal provider program founded in 2012, serves freshly prepared dinners to 4,500 DISD students each school day. But with the continued urgency to feed hungry children in Dallas, Hunger Busters leaders recognized the need to expand their facilities overlooking the Trinity River.

After a break-in that resulted in the loss of equipment and food supplies, Hunger Busters used the temporary setback to launch a capital campaign to propel their ambitious expansion project forward. It trained its focus on the La Bahara neighborhood, one of the five vibrant Hispanic communities in West Dallas. Confronted by challenges posed by large-scale development and escalating housing costs, La Bahara became the inspiration for a facility deeply entwined with its community. Global design firm, HKS, working through its Citizen HKS philanthropic arm, volunteered to help bring that vision to life.

The Design Solution

Inspired by the symbolism of a planted seed that is nurtured and grown, the HKS team worked with Hunger Busters to create a vibrant, sustainable food preparation facility that will eventually help nurture, grow and sustain thousands of Dallas youngsters.  

The facility has three core sections: Hunger Busters’ operations, the commissary kitchen, and the rentable entrepreneurial section. Underground parking has been strategically implemented to optimize kitchen and collaboration spaces on the upper floors and address the site’s specific geological challenges.

The first level of the 17,000-square-foot building boasts expanded prep space, tripled production capacity, and a 1,400-square-foot (130 sm) revenue-generating commissary kitchen. Emphasizing sustainability, the site incorporates a chef’s garden for locally sourced produce.

The project incorporates a 1,500-gallon rainwater collection system, capitalizing on Dallas’s average rainfall to support the facility sustainably. With an annual collection capacity of approximately 636 gallons, this system plays a crucial role in irrigating the landscape and providing water for the plants in the chef’s garden. 

The second floor of the two-floor facility will offer a rentable shared workplace that local nonprofits can use to foster collaboration and resource-sharing. Another highlight of the second floor is the outdoor terrace, which boasts spectacular views of the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge, an iconic structure that acts as a scenic connector from the La Bahara neighborhood to downtown Dallas.

A vibrant artwork piece, chosen through a local high school art contest, will provide a fitting final touch, anchoring the facility’s high-profile corner. Hunger Busters’ journey, like a seed growing from a simple connection with roots to a thriving community project, exemplifies the transformative power of collective effort in shaping positive change.

The Design Impact

The project’s sustainable strategies included an anaerobic digester that can transform food and garden waste into bio-fertilizer and energy that can power all exterior site lighting; a rainwater capture system; and CLT as a structural system.

Also, a roof solar panel with 60% coverage, is anticipated to offset 46% of the building’s baseline energy usage, holding out promise for achieving a net positive project by 2030.

The use of Mass Timber construction, specifically through the incorporation of pre-fabricated Cross Laminated Timber (CLT) panels, aligns with Texas Regionalism and plays a pivotal role in drastically reducing the building’s carbon footprint. The efficiency of CLT not only accelerates the construction timeline but also minimizes labor costs and offers enhanced fire safety advantages. 

Throughout the design and construction phases, HKS and Hunger Busters remain steadfast in their commitment to ethical decarbonization. The overarching objective is to cultivate a building materials supply chain that is deeply environmentally conscious and actively advocates for a future free from forced labor. 

This new facility, overlooking the Trinity River, is a beacon of circularity. By utilizing excess food from local restaurants and businesses, transforming it into nutritious third meals for students, and then converting any remaining waste into energy, this innovative approach addresses food insecurity and exemplifies sustainable practices championing a circular and regenerative system that benefits both people and the planet. With this new infrastructure in place, Hunger Busters will be able to increase meal production to an impressive 14,500 meals per day, significantly widening their impact within the city of Dallas. 

Project Features

Five Design Trends Shaping Communities in 2024

Five Design Trends Shaping Communities in 2024

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

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

1 – Spaces for Healthy Living and Learning 

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

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

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

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

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

2 – Commercial Office Reinvention 

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

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

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

3 – New Mixed-Use and Planning Match Ups

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

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

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

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

4 – Adaptive Reuse Rising 

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

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

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

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

5 – Creating a Better World through ESG

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

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

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

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

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

The Place at Honey Springs

Case Study

The Place at Honey Springs A New, Inviting Future for a Historic Dallas Community

Dallas, Texas, USA

The Challenge

The Joppa community was founded in 1872 as a freedmen’s town in present-day South Dallas. Today, the community is isolated from the rest of the city by the borders of a highway, a river, railroad tracks and industrial sites. The neighborhood — also known as Joppee — is a food desert and lacks access to city infrastructure such as grocery stores or sports facilities.  

Citizen HKS partnered with the Melissa Pierce nonprofit organization to revive the abandoned 1950s Melissa Pierce School into a vibrant multipurpose center that reflects the rich history and character of Joppa.

The Design Solution

After extensive community engagement, the design team developed The Place at Honey Springs, a multipurpose center that embodies the vibrant spirit of Joppa’s residents. The center is named for the Joppa community’s original name of Honey Springs, which was annexed into the City of Dallas in 1955.

The Place at Honey Springs features several indoor and outdoor multipurpose areas for community gatherings and dining. A recording studio and classrooms for after-school programs and continued education encourage creativity and lifelong learning.  

The center also boasts a variety of opportunities for neighbors to pursue active lifestyles, including a soccer field, basketball court, exercise stations, open green areas and an indoor swimming pool. Further, community members will have access to fresh produce from multiple aeroponic gardens, and there is dedicated outdoor space for a pop-up clinic to deliver medical services. 

The Design Impact

The Place at Honey Springs stands as a testament to Joppa’s enduring history while equipping the community with tools to design its future. By reimagining the original school building, the new community center helps preserve Joppa’s identity, but is also more sustainable than a brand-new structure.  

The new sloped roof allows for the collection of rainwater to irrigate the center’s native landscaping, and the addition of new trees helps to mitigate the urban heat island effect. If incorporated, solar panels, minimal glazing on the south side of the building and other passive strategies could reduce both energy use and operating costs. 

Project Features


Jeremiah Community

Case Study

Jeremiah Community Virginia's Jeremiah Community Offers a Lifetime of Care, Security and Well-Being

Fredericksburg, Virginia, USA

The Challenge

Rising population and soaring living costs will likely escalate homelessness and housing insecurity nationwide. This absence of permanent housing fuels hefty spending by localities on managing crime, public health issues, and social injustices. Micah Ecumenical Ministries, experienced in aiding Fredericksburg, VA’s homeless, proposes an intentional solution: a holistic supportive housing community. Partnering with Citizen HKS and engaging the community, the Jeremiah Community aims to offer affordable, permanent homes tailored to the unhoused. This initiative includes health care programs, access to nature and faith, fostering a cohesive community for those transitioning from homelessness to a stable, supportive environment.

The Design Solution

The Jeremiah Community focuses on lifelong healing through deliberate design choices, ensuring well-being, safety, and accessibility. Citizen HKS, contributing expertise in place analysis, master planning, and unit design, collaborates with Micah’s partnerships at the University of Mary Washington Healthcare System and Virginia Supportive Housing. They strategically position essential facilities like the health care clinic, market, maker space, chapel, community center, and gardens to create varied public, social, and personal spaces catering to community healing needs— ranging from physical to spiritual.

Citizen HKS’ holistic approach balances environmentally friendly strategies and urban design principles on the dense site. Pathways carve pocket neighborhoods, connecting diverse programming while emphasizing nature’s role in wellness. These areas, centered around shared green spaces, encourage communal immersion in nature, addressing erosion and heat island effects passively.

This sustainable urban plan showcases how integrated design strategies create healing spaces within the Jeremiah Community, supporting individual and communal well-being for all.

The Design Impact

The Jeremiah Community seeks to eliminate chronic homelessness by offering ongoing care and stable housing for more than 100 individuals. Citizen HKS’ design approach emphasizes Housing, Purpose, and Relationship principles, empowering the unhoused community in the design process. This collaboration fosters a master plan prioritizing affordability and a sustainable, healthy environment for transitioning to permanent homes. As this community pursues choice and self-determination, our design journey will continue to align with their progress as we engage in future project phases.

Project Features

“Without the [unhoused] community, I would have lost the only possession I had left [when I was on the streets] – hope.”

Peg Phillips, Micah, Servant-Leader of Neighbor Care


Case Study

StationSoccer Building Social Infrastructure with the Power of Play

Atlanta, Georgia, USA 

The Challenge

Like in many large American cities, neighborhoods in Atlanta are divided by a variety of factors such as race and income, and low-income neighborhoods and neighborhoods of color have historically had less access to resources than wealthy and white neighborhoods. This includes less access to sports facilities and green spaces, as well as less access to pay-to-play sports leagues.  

Global design firm HKS collaborated with public and private interests through its pro bono practice, Citizen HKS, to help bridge this gap with an unlikely pairing: transit stations and soccer.   

The Design Solution

HKS joined the partnership of Soccer in the Streets, Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA), the city of Atlanta’s Department of City Planning and the Atlanta United Foundation to help develop a cohesive vision for StationSoccer: a multi-site master plan to integrate youth soccer fields into underutilized land in and near 10 MARTA stations around the city. The soccer fields host the “League of Stations,” a free youth soccer league.  

The HKS project team used extensive geographic information system (GIS) data to identify distinctions in factors such as demographics, walkability, land use and per capita income, but also engaged with each community to gain a wholistic understanding of the character of each neighborhood.  

Based on the research, HKS developed a unique program for each station that honors and serves the identity and culture of the community. For example, the neighborhood around Kensington Station has a large number of immigrants, so artist Kevin Bongang was commissioned to design a mural on the asphalt around the soccer field to represent the mosaic of cultures in the area. At East Lake Station, bike racks are also sculptural objects to highlight the prominence of biking in the community.  

StationSoccer also offers educational and community programming at its fields. Stations may feature a community garden, a learning center inside a decommissioned MARTA rail car, a mobile health truck or event space, all of which are included in a “kit of parts” that allows each station to be customized for each neighborhood’s unique needs. Each station also features benches made of Golden Spikes that pay homage to Atlanta United as a benefactor and Atlanta’s history as a railroad hub.  

The Design Impact

The League of Stations is the world’s first transit soccer league and now impacts 5,000 children in Atlanta. Because StationSoccer fields are built into transit itself, they’re accessible to not only those whole live near a particular station, but those who have access to MARTA’s entire service area. 

Soccer in the Streets has partnered with schools for years, but the new StationSoccer fields allow students from nearby schools to join a recreational league to play soccer outside of school. According to Soccer in the Streets’ annual impact reports, parents are thankful for the opportunity for their children to spend time outside and be active, especially as the world emerges from the COVD-19 pandemic.  

Once neglected greyfield land, StationSoccer fields are now vibrant community spaces that promote healthy lifestyles and amplify the identities of the neighborhoods they serve. StationSoccer is healthier for the environment, too. The heat island effect and runoff are reduced by replacing impervious pavement with pervious surfaces and with the infusion of nature and shade.  

StationSoccer has gained national attention with a visit from Pete Buttigieg, U.S. secretary of transportation. StationSoccer is now featured on the U.S. Department of Transportation website as an example of a successful transit-oriented development that combines transit, wellness and sport while cultivating healthy communities. The StationSoccer masterplan and design process are also featured in the AIA Equitable Communities Resource as a premier example of how architects can help create equitable communities.   

Draw+Play Engagement Session

Project Features


East Lake Station
Lindbergh Station
Kensington Station
Kensington Station

HKS in 2023: Projects To Get Excited About

HKS in 2023: Projects To Get Excited About

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

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

Pioneering Research and Designs that Transform Communities

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

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

Stunning New Places to Work and Relax

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

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

Game-changing Venues for Extraordinary Entertainment Experiences

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Looking Ahead

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

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

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

Dan Noble, HKS President and CEO

HKS’ 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 Celebrates Innovative and Impactful Design With 2022 Top Projects

HKS Celebrates Innovative and Impactful Design With 2022 Top Projects

A former dump site for roofing shingles. An Arizona hospital geared to serve its surrounding Native American population. A sports stadium inspired by a traditional Chinese art form.

Those are among the winners of the 2022 HKS Top Projects Awards. The awards — now in their seventh year — celebrate some of the global design firm’s most innovative and impactful work.

Only HKS projects that opened in 2022, are works in progress, or are current research initiatives are eligible for the Top Projects honors, which recognize projects for exhibiting the highest integration of beauty and performance, pushing the boundaries of innovation and changing the world for the better.

Top Projects are judged for their beauty, proportion, materiality and overall expression, as well as their adherence to the principles for sustainable, resilient and inclusive design supported by the American Institute of Architects’ AIA Framework for Design Excellence.

The AIA Framework is aligned with the values of HKS, said Tony Montalto, Chief Design Officer and a Principal at the firm. Basing the Top Projects program on the principles expressed by that framework helps HKS designers communicate those values and “helps us better focus on what matters most to us,” he said. “We want our projects to impact people’s lives in a positive way.”

“We want our projects to impact people’s lives in a positive way.”

This year’s Top Projects demonstrate a variety of scales, sectors and locales. The four designs selected for honor awards include a neighborhood park to help residents of Dallas’ Floral Farms neighborhood reclaim their community after years of environmental injustice; a medical campus meant to express the culture, spirit and Navajo heritage of Flagstaff, Arizona; and a state-of-the-art venue for international sporting events in Chengdu, China, that references an indigenous artform throughout its design. The fourth winning design is for a major U.S. sporting venue that cannot be publicly identified now because of a confidentiality agreement.

An external jury selected the winning projects from a group of 20 finalists representing each of HKS’ practice areas. A diverse panel of seven distinguished guests with expertise in a range of design and construction fields served as jurists: Amanda Kaleps, Managing Principal, Wolcott Architecture; David Staczek​​​​​​​, ​​​​​​​Principal and Senior Designer, ZGF Architects; Joey Shimoda, Co-founder, Shimoda Design Group; Karen Robichaud, ​​​​​​​Founder, Karen Robichaud Strategy + Communications; Nicholas Holt, Founder, Holt Architects; Thór Jónsson, Global Director of Design and Construction, Warner Bros. Entertainment; and Tonya Bonczak, Director, Strategic Sourcing – Construction, Henry Ford Health.

The judges commended all 20 finalists on the compelling narratives and videos they submitted about their projects. “The videos were extremely helpful” in expressing project goals and outcomes, said Kaleps.

What set the winners apart was “detailed information across the board” that helped judges “connect better with these projects,” Jónsson said. “Specific measures, specific outcomes, specific aspirations” put these projects a step above and made them worth recognition, Holt added.

Presenting work for judging by outside experts “results in more meaningful projects” throughout the firm, throughout the year, Montalto said. “Every time we have a conversation around our work and appreciate other peoples’ opinions, it will lead to better understanding.”

HKS’ Top Projects 2022:

Park for Floral Farms

The Floral Farms neighborhood was founded in South Dallas around the 1950s. The neighborhood is home to some of Dallas’s most important flower nurseries and the origins of the Black Rodeo. Many of the Black and Latino families living in Floral Farms have been there for generations.

Through self-advocacy and partnerships with area nonprofits, the neighbors united to fight successfully for the removal from their neighborhood of Shingle Mountain – an illegal dumping ground of shingles that grew to be over six stories tall. HKS designers partnered with the neighborhood team through the firm’s Citizen HKS public-interest design initiative to help bring life to the neighbors’ dream of having a communal park to heal, gather and play.

The park design honors the neighbors’ vision with safe walking trails and sports fields where people can decompress, a playground and splash pad for children to play and a community garden. A symbolic hill of soft green grass rises to create a reminder of the Floral Farm residents’ slogan: Together, we can move mountains.

Northern Arizona Healthcare Flagstaff, Arizona, Campus

This tertiary medical center and ambulatory care clinic, in design for Northern Arizona Healthcare Medical Group, will anchor a mixed-use development and is intended to serve as a health and wellness destination in Flagstaff. The design team is creating a Health Village that expresses the culture and spirit of the community, including the local Navajo population.

The project considers characteristics of the site – a relatively untouched greenfield of mature Ponderosa Pine trees – in order to connect authentically to both the natural setting and the history and community of Flagstaff.

Health care staffing is a major driver for the building design and operational planning. The proposed service lines and departmental planning are designed to create an environment of excellence that will help attract and retain top talent.

Chengdu Phoenix Hill Sports Park

Chengdu Phoenix Hill Sports Park was recognized as an HKS Top Project in 2018, when the project was in design. Opened in 2022, the sports park is a state-of-the art venue for major global sporting events and a public place where the local community can gather throughout the year.

The design includes a comprehensive master plan to create a sports-centered district with public spaces focused on diverse experiences, a 60,000-seat soccer stadium and a 18,000-seat basketball arena. To give depth and meaning to the work, the design is inspired by Imperial Embroidery, an art form that originated in Chengdu. Nature and the existing river are woven into the design to create a sports park and urban forest that enhance the connection to the surrounding community.

The project is designed with sports as the driver, with a diverse mix of uses (office, hotel, retail, residential, recreation) to create a sustainable community and balance the investment.

Four Design Lessons I Learned from Hurricane Sandy

Four Design Lessons I Learned from Hurricane Sandy

Ten years ago this month, Superstorm Sandy — which had been Hurricane Sandy just days before — slammed into New York City. Despite no longer being officially a hurricane, the storm packed “hurricane-force winds” that made a devastating impact on the tri-state area.

Back then, in October 2012, I was a college senior facing my most difficult semester yet. The biggest way Sandy affected me — at first — was that it gave me a reprieve from classes.

Growing up in the mountains of Northeastern Pennsylvania, I became used to snow days and late starts. But my college friends, most of whom were lifelong New Yorkers, rarely had school days off due to weather events. On October 29th, the City University of New York shut down campuses across all five boroughs and canceled classes for the rest of the week, an action that previously would have seemed unthinkable. It was a signal that things were going to be bad — a signal I glossed over.

Naively taking pleasure in the unexpected break, I invited friends who lived nearby over to my apartment. In the elevated safety of Harlem’s Hamilton Heights neighborhood — one of the highest points in Manhattan — we only saw the lights flicker a few times. We played games and laughed as the rain poured outside.

Elsewhere in the city, those same rains were flooding subway stations, causing major power outages, damaging buildings and submerging houses in the Atlantic Ocean. The city ordered 375,000 New Yorkers to evacuate their homes while I simply rode out the storm.

During the last 10 years, I’ve come a long way from being a college student who didn’t understand the impact of natural disasters or feel an immediate responsibility to help. Working alongside architects and engineers, I’ve gained insights into the value of designing for resilience and well-being.

Here are four things I learned because of Sandy and how I see HKS working to better shape stronger, more resilient communities:

1 – Building Beyond Code and Designing for Resilience Matter

Sandy resulted in 43 deaths and $19 billion in damage in New York City and 233 deaths and $70 billion in damage throughout the United States and the Caribbean. Among the massive number of evacuations and property impairments during Sandy, approximately 6,500 New York City hospital and nursing home patients were evacuated, and many health care facilities were damaged. I soon realized how crucial it is for hospitals, clinics and skilled care facilities to be able to operate continuously — and that additional evacuations brought on due to failing structures are dangerous for everyone, especially vulnerable populations with critical health issues.

In subsequent years, I’ve discovered that many standard building codes in the United States often simply ensure that people can survive a disaster if one occurs while they are inside a structure, but don’t necessarily ensure that buildings can functionally operate and properly shelter people during and after harmful weather events. I’ve learned that the value of designing for resilience is about far more than protecting buildings from damage, but also supporting people and their ability to lead happy, healthy lives.

Architects who strive to build beyond baseline codes are leading the design industries forward to create resilient, high performing buildings that support both life safety and continuous operations. High-performance design is embedded in HKS’ mission; the firm’s designers work around the world in diverse climates and cities that experience all types of natural disasters — from tsunamis in the Asia Pacific region to hurricanes in U.S. Southeast. Building beyond code, they design health care settings, and residential and senior living communities where people can live and receive vital care 24/7.

2 – Equitable Access to Services and Amenities is Essential

Close to 2 million people lost power in New York City during Sandy. Some of the most powerful images I saw on TV were of makeshift phone charging stations created by generous people who still had electricity so neighbors could charge their phones and contact loved ones. New Yorkers, myself included, also went several days without riding public transportation, as ferry, bus and subway service stoppages left nearly 5.5 million weekday riders without transportation.

During Sandy, many New York and New Jersey residents set up mobile device charging stations for neighbors without power. (Photo by Michael Bocchieri/Getty Images; Hoboken, NJ)

Sandy helped me realize how beneficial it can be to live in a neighborhood designed with the things we need close to home — grocery stores, emergency care, parks and public space amenities like electrical outlets and bathrooms.  Where I live now in Northwest Washington, DC, I have access to most of these things within a few blocks of home, but that’s not true for everyone in my city or in others around the world.

In addition to being necessary in the event of power outages and transit stoppages, public amenities and easy access to basic services can provide a higher quality of life year-round. Communities designed and planned with an equity-centered approach reflect the needs, desires and aspirations of people and who live in them. Using a Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (J.E.D.I.) lens, HKS designers collaborate with cities and communities, strengthening how the built environment can best serve people — providing design solutions that make living more convenient, even in times of disaster.

3 – Adaptable Public Spaces Provide Value in Communities

Though more than 1 million children and 250,000 CUNY students were out of class, many NYC public schools remained open to serve a different purpose during Sandy. Schools and public spaces throughout the five boroughs transformed into emergency relief centers, including the gymnasium at The City College of New York just two blocks from my apartment, where approximately 200 people received shelter, food, and internet access after evacuating their homes.

Before seeing people seek shelter on campus, I hadn’t quite considered all the possible multi-purpose uses of buildings I entered each day. More than places that can provide relief in emergencies, schools and other public buildings like libraries often accommodate a wide variety of activities for different populations daily. In my DC neighborhood, for example, there is an elementary school that plays double duty as a community center for after-hours fitness classes and local meetings.

Designing for flexibility and adaptability can maximize the potential of the built environment during emergency and non-emergency situations. Design strategies for shared space are increasingly being applied to public sector spaces like schools, colleges, and government building as well as commercial developments. HKS education, commercial, and hospitality designers are innovating new multi-use spaces that promote connection, offer more options for activities like shopping, working, dining, and gathering — with the goal to provide more beneficial environments for future uses, including unexpected emergency uses.

4 – Integrated Approaches Benefit People and Planet

In Sandy’s aftermath, I walked through my neighborhood and saw century-old trees downed in green spaces and cemeteries. Across the city, the storm damaged approximately 20,000 trees and nearly 400 parks had to close for major repairs. For months, caution tape cordoned off sections of local parks where families and neighbors could no longer get together for social events or enjoy fresh air outside of our densely populated apartment buildings.

Approximately 20,000 trees were downed in NYC during Sandy, including this one in the Battery Park neighborhood. (Photo by Allison Joyce/Getty Images; New York, NY)

Noticing how members of my community adapted by finding different places to gather such as sidewalks or park stairs, it really struck me that design is about more than creating architecture, buildings, or rooms — it is about creating places. Places like public parks and green spaces are more than just essential for civic life, they are also essential for our planet’s health. Designing for both people and planet — considering landscape, structures and potential climate shifts and weather events — can support both human and environmental well-being into the future.

Working in the architecture, engineering and construction industry today, I see the call for integrated design becoming more urgent. With holistic strategies and collaborative processes, design professionals can reduce buildings’ impact on the environment and create places that uplift people. Driven by a commitment to the firm’s Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) structure, HKS is leading conversations and moving toward more holistic, inclusive and sustainable design practices. HKS architects, designers, researchers, advisory professionals are creating leading projects with innovation and design excellence. Smarter and integrated sustainable building practices are non-negotiable in the fight to limit the effects of global warming and prevent natural disasters like Sandy from worsening over time.

Thinking Back, Looking Forward

Experiencing Sandy in New York was a key part of my journey to understanding the value, relevance and role of design in society. While it was the first time my eyes were really opened to the impacts of disaster, countless major emergencies have upended lives and caused harm to human and environmental well-being in the years since.

Many of my observations from Sandy — about the importance of outdoor space, the need for better access to basic needs, and the necessity of safe havens — have resonated even more strongly in the wake of other global natural disasters and during the COVID pandemic. From conducting research on pandemic-resilient communities and hospitals to designing hotels for intensifying hurricanes and delivering projects that can bounce back quickly after disasters, HKS designers prioritize recovery and resilience across sectors and around the world.

Many years later, and many miles from the apartment where I took it easy during Sandy, I’m still learning from the storm’s effects. It’s not a comfort that our future is uncertain; the threats of climate change are ever-growing. More disasters are inevitable. But with equitable, integrated design, we can rise to the challenges of a changing planet — and create places that help people survive and thrive.

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

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Hearing birds chirp outside. 

Smelling fresh flowers from the garden. 

Touching a fabric tied to happy memories. 

Seeing engaging images like old movies. 

Connecting with friends. 

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

Good design can awaken the senses. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Research Drives Design Impact 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rooms Designed to Awaken the Senses

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Sensory Engagement Room at Samaritas 

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

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

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

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

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

Help Make This Vision a Reality  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Commercial Real Estate Re-evaluation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Changing Job Markets Prompt New Design Needs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What “Mixed-Use” Means Moving Forward

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Integrated Design Approaches for Stronger Outcomes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


HKS Announces New Mexico City Leadership Team and Office Move

HKS Announces New Mexico City Leadership Team and Office Move

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

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

Twenty Years in Mexico City 

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

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

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

Expanding our commitment to the city, region, and country 

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

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

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


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


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

Veinte años en la Ciudad de México

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

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

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

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

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

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

Zac Rudd


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

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

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

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

1- Use What You’ve Got

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

2 – Prepare for the Surge

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

3 – Staff Needs Love, Too

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

4 – There’s No Place Like Home 

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

5. Office Work isn’t Dead Yet

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

6. Safe at Home

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

7. Air is Not Rare

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

Fast Company Places HKS Among 2022 World’s Most Innovative Companies

Fast Company Places HKS Among 2022 World’s Most Innovative Companies

HKS is ranked No. 4 in the architecture category on Fast Company’s 2022 World’s Most Innovative Companies list. The annual ranking honors business making the biggest impact on their industries and culture with some of the most inspiring accomplishments of the 21st century.

“The world’s most innovative companies play an essential role in addressing the most pressing issues facing society, whether they’re fighting climate change by spurring decarbonization efforts, ameliorating the strain on supply chains, or helping us reconnect with one another over shared passions,” said Fast Company Deputy Editor David Lidsky.

The world’s most innovative companies play an essential role in addressing the most pressing issues facing society.

As COVID-19 drastically reshaped the way we live, work and play, HKS’ most innovative recent work focused on people’s well-being as we continued to create high-performing environments that support physical and mental health. And when the pandemic forced us to become acutely aware of the quality of air around us, we delivered solutions for breathing easier, by design.

Dallas’ HALL Arts Residences— the first residential project in Texas to register for WELL Multifamily Certification — exemplifies how sustainable design improves air quality and overall quality of life at home. Our Future of Work research and Chicago studio’s Living Lab demonstrate just how much our working environments can support our wellness and enhance productivity. And our award-winning design for SoFi Stadium in California showcases how even the largest, most complex projects can include natural ventilation, restore the environment and foster community connections.

The World’s Most Innovative Companies ranking provides a snapshot and roadmap for the future of innovation across the most dynamic sectors of the economy. This is the first time HKS has made the list, and the firm was also honored by Fast Company in 2021 as a Best Workplace for Innovators.

HKS President and CEO Dan Noble appreciates the recognition of the global firm’s more than 1,300 employees including architects, interior designers, researchers, communicators and more.

“I see our teams fulfilling our strategic vision to ‘think limitlessly’ on a daily basis through our design work, and I believe we have some of the best creative minds propelling our industry forward,” Noble said. “It’s incredibly rewarding as a leader to see this recognized by an external panel of experts at Fast Company through this award.”

Explore career opportunities at HKS through the link below.

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Dallas Activist Marsha Jackson Honored as Mountain Mover

Dallas Activist Marsha Jackson Honored as Mountain Mover

The month of February is always special for Marsha Jackson. It’s Black History Month as well as the month of her birth.

And this February marks one year since a toxic, towering pile of shingles was removed from next to Jackson’s house after years of complaints from her and her neighbors.

Jackson and many of those same neighbors are now working with HKS to build a park where so-called Shingle Mountain once stood and redefine their neighborhood’s identity as a family-friendly rural area filled with flowers and free-range animals.

But before that happens, Dallas County has designated Feb. 22, 2022 — Jackson’s 64th birthday — as Marsha Jackson Day. The designation recognizes Jackson’s “fierce commitment” to removing the hideous Shingle Mountain and promoting environmental justice within her community.

The Dallas County resolution announcing Marsha Jackson Day proclaims that her efforts have made Jackson “a national hero of the environmental justice movement, admired by advocates locally and throughout the U.S.”

A Dallas Museum of Art exhibit also features her activism, and a BET Network documentary titled, “Disrupt and Dismantle,” is scheduled for release – on the eve of her birthday – to show how her activism in Dallas has reverberated throughout America.

A Dallas Museum of Art exhibit features a portrait of Marsha Jackson by Dallas artist Ari Brielle. Brielle placed a a mound of roofing shingles below the portrait for a larger piece titled “Poisoned by Zip Code.”

It’s all a big honor, Jackson says, and one that she never sought. The executive assistant for AT&T and Dallas Area Rapid Transit only turned to environmental justice activism as a last resort in 2018 to get Shingle Mountain removed from her Southern Dallas neighborhood.

“Our community has been hurting,” Jackson said. “People don’t understand what we’ve been through and what we’re still going through – the headaches, the breathing problems, inflammation of our vocal cords. What we’ve been through will always be a legacy of Black history in Dallas.”

Erin Peavey, an HKS Architect and Design Researcher who leads the firm’s Floral Farms park design team, praised Jackson.

“Marsha Jackson’s resolve is an example to us all of how to fight for what we believe in and do it with kindness and poise and determination,” Peavey said. “Marsha Jackson Day helps spread Marsha’s voice and her example to a larger audience, and it will hopefully help light more fires within each of us for service and justice wherever we may live and whatever community we find ourselves in.”

From Resident to Community Organizer

Jackson was 38 years old when her family moved to Floral Farms in 1995, drawn to the neighborhood’s rural and relaxed vibe just 9 miles south of bustling downtown Dallas.

At the time, the agricultural area was filled with flower nurseries and open pastures for animals to roam, and residents organized summer rodeo camps for their kids to learn roping techniques and other rodeo skills. Jackson raised two children, three horses, and three grandchildren in the neighborhood, where some families have known each other for generations.

Jackson’s commitment to the Dallas community dates back decades. She was a member of the African American Museum for nearly 10 years, volunteering her time in various roles such as the gift shop and guest lead. And she has been a disaster team member with the American Red Cross for almost six years.

She had just enrolled in an MBA program through Phoenix University in 2018 to advance her career when the Shingle Mountain fiasco began, with a nearby recycling company grinding and dumping roof shingles right next to Jackson’s bedroom. In a matter of months, the pile turned into a towering peak that soared above many of the homes in Jackson’s neighborhood.

Poor air quality – attributed to the shingle’s toxic dust – forced residents to stop letting their children play outside. Jackson quit inviting her grandchildren to her house out of concerns that their health would suffer. 

Marsha Jackson and her neighbors, many of whom have lived in the area for decades, gather at a community meeting to discuss the Floral Farms park plan. (Credit: Shirley Che)

The neighbors complained to the city numerous times, but to no avail. Jackson’s search for allies to help her neighborhood led her to Evelyn Mayo of Downwinders at Risk, a clean air advocacy organization in North Texas with a history of helping neighborhoods fight against unfair practices.

“It’s unreal when you see what people have to go through to have peace of mind. And by people, I mean low-income people, Black people, Brown people,” Mayo said. “It’s not right on so many levels, but Marsha has always been kind and open and relentless. What she was put through I don’t wish on anyone but at the same time it led to this incredible movement for environmental justice in the city of Dallas that did not exist before.”

Righting Other Wrongs

Shingle Mountain was finally cleared in February 2021 but a lot of work remains before Jackson and her neighbors can start living life normally again. The vacant land that housed the shingles will need to be remediated to get rid of the toxins that remain. And it will need to be rezoned to ensure that no other business can threaten the neighborhood’s health again.

“This neighborhood came out of nowhere in terms of political presence,” Mayo said. “They’re not some longstanding neighborhood association or HOA; this is a grassroots group that came together in a time of crisis and has done incredible work for their part of town.”

While waiting on the city to rezone the land, the Floral Farms residents are working with HKS and community grassroots organizers to design a park that they hope can one day be built on the land. HKS is overseeing the park’s design as a pro bono project through its public-interest design initiative, Citizen HKS.

Jackson and her neighbors gather in a neighbor’s barn in the fall of 2021 to unveil the final design concept for the Park for Floral Farms, which resulted from a close partnership between the community and Citizen HKS. (Credit: Shirley Che)

Shingle Mountain was a representation of environmental injustice; the Park for Floral Farms will be a testament to the power of coming together and speaking up to reverse injustice, Peavey said. Through it all, Jackson has been the force tying it all together. She often knocks on her neighbors’ doors to encourage them to attend planning meetings, taking detailed notes to share with those who can’t attend so they, too, can have a say in the process.

“Marsha is continually bringing people in and always expanding the circle,” Peavey said. “She always has a clear north arrow of how to bring a better life to her community, so everyone gets to participate and is brought into and up in this journey.”

Welcoming visitors with the line, “Together we can move mountains,” the park will help the neighborhood reclaim its identity as a welcoming, vibrant and safe community. And it will meet their needs with a community garden, soccer field, walking trail, and more.

“Our neighbors used to feel like a lost community; I have not seen the greenery we used to have in a while,” Jackson said. “This park will bring that back and brighten the community back up. HKS listened to our voice, and that’s the biggest thing.”

But Jackson’s work won’t end when the park for Floral Farms is complete.

Floral Farms residents accept a donation from Santander Bank to Southern Sector Rising, a nonprofit that was formed out of efforts to remove Shingle Mountain and address environmental inequity. (Credit: Shirley Che)

Her fight against Shingle Mountain has exposed her to other communities, both in Dallas and nationwide, that are experiencing environmental injustice. These neighborhoods are typically not in affluent areas, and they have mostly Black or Latino residents who often lack representation in city planning.

Jackson has taken up their cause, too. She is pursuing a doctorate degree in public administration through Walden University and intends to use her knowledge to help other communities seek justice for themselves.

“We finally got someone to listen to us; and I don’t want anyone to close the door on us because we’ve been waiting for change for a while,” Jackson said. “This has been an eye-opener for our communities, and for us. I don’t want anyone to go through what we did.”

The Floral Farms neighborhood is currently accepting donations to build the Park for Floral Farms. The “Rooted” exhibit is on display at the Dallas Museum of Art until April 2023. KERA will host a conversation on March 5 with Jackson, Peavey, and Dallas Artist Ari Brielle on how design and art can help communities heal from environmental injustice.