HKS’ Tim Logan Unlocks Exciting Possibilities Through Computational Design

HKS’ Tim Logan Unlocks Exciting Possibilities Through Computational Design

Tim Logan doesn’t have a typical design firm job. He doesn’t spend his days in client meetings, creating drawings, or coordinating with contractors. Instead, he writes code and invents digital processes to bring complex design ideas to fruition.

As a computational designer and application developer with HKS’ Laboratory for INtensive Exploration (LINE) studio, Logan “helps people translate their designs into something the computer can help us make,” he said.

A Texas native, Logan started as an intern in HKS’ Dallas office in 2006 while he was taking architecture classes at the University of Texas at Arlington (UTA). Firm leaders brought him aboard because he was proficient at a then-emerging software — Revit — which has since become the industry standard building information modelling (BIM) platform.

“He knew the software well enough to already prove himself valuable working at a large firm on high profile projects,” said Heath May, HKS’ Global Practice Director of LINE.

Logan and his wife of 12 years, Cara Johnson, enjoying a horseback ride.

Over the next five years, Logan became a technical guide as the firm navigated using new technologies to advance its design work. In 2012, not long after he and his wife, Cara Johnson, married, they moved to Seattle and Logan took a brief hiatus from HKS.

By that time, Logan had developed a widely adopted computational plugin called Elk, which allows users to input open-source topographical data into Rhino’s Grasshopper programming so they can generate maps to use in design projects. This creation, among other achievements, elevated him to being recognized as “one of the pre-eminent computational designers in the industry,” according to May.

When Logan and Johnson decided to move back home to Dallas in 2014 to be close to their families, May hired Logan into the LINE studio, where he still works today.

As part of LINE —which seeks to elevate modes of architectural production and construction with new technologies — Logan uses programs and creates scripts that automate pieces of the design process. He helps transform complicated two-dimensional concepts into buildable, three-dimensional digital models.

Combining design thinking with computational thinking is at the heart of his day-to-day work.

“My goal is to act as the communicator between my designer colleagues and the computer to make things flow a little easier,” he said.

Logan has been a key player in many of HKS’ biggest innovations of the last decade. As just one example, Logan developed tools and processes that aided the design of SoFi Stadium’s complex roof canopy, as well as the patented methodology HKS used to validate and deliver the nation’s first 3-D Model of Record for that same structure.

“Without Tim, it would have been hard to ask the question if we could deliver the project purely digitally. We could only take that risk because of our trust in Tim and others with similar attributes and skills,” May said, underscoring that Logan’s unique abilities gave him and the HKS team who designed SoFi Stadium the confidence to blaze a previously untrodden trail.

A Longtime Interest in Computers and Design

Logan’s fascination with computers long predates his time at HKS. During the early 1980s, his father worked in electronics engineering, which meant that his family “always had some sort of computer around the house,” Logan said. This was when his parents settled in the Dallas-Fort Worth area after his father’s Marine service required them to move around Texas when Logan and his older sister, Amy, were kids.

As a kid, Logan moved around Texas with his parents and sister, Amy, who is a year older than him.

Household computers were a rarity at the time, and few, if any, resembled modern desktop and laptop computers. The “mini” computers Logan’s and his dad tinkered with were sometimes as big as a closet.

“I started building my own computers from his spare parts way back in the day and have always been around them ever since,” Logan said.

In addition to discovering how computers worked, Logan also used them to play games and engage with early internet bulletin boards, precursors to file sharing services and chatrooms. Gaming and socializing via the internet are a big part of his life to this day — he often gathers with Dallas-area friends for board game nights and spends time virtually hanging with pals who live overseas in online gaming and chat portals.

After high school, Logan pursued coursework in computer science, music recording and philosophy before studying architecture and beginning his career at HKS. He said he was initially drawn to architecture because he enjoys learning how buildings work, how they are created, and the many ways to modify them. Recently, he’s been getting first-hand experience with the latter while updating and renovating the 60-year-old East Dallas house he and Johnson purchased in 2022.

What Logan loves most about architecture, however, is the field’s inherent nature of problem solving and how that aspect of it dovetails with his own work. Just like architects must iterate and come up with various options for a building’s massing, program layout, or details, Logan often must go through trial and error as he codes scripts and connects disparate sources of data to generate digital solutions.

“There are a lot of parallels with the way architecture works and the way computer science works, and the way computer scientists try to systematically solve problems,” he said.

“There are a lot of parallels with the way architecture works and the way computer science works, and the way computer scientists try to systematically solve problems.”

Working Toward Better Outcomes

Logan and fellow LINE studio members collaborate with project teams across HKS’ many practices including Commercial Mixed-Use, Cities & Communities, and Health. May said the LINE team often refers to Logan as the firm’s “secret weapon” because he is driven by curiosity and has an innate ability to frame problems and work through them with patience.

“Through a series of questions, Tim is able to understand what a designer wants to achieve and then translate it,” May said. “He will look at something, appreciate the artistic and conceptual side and then take it into the realm of computation.”

Andrew Cortez, a Senior Designer with HKS’ Health practice first collaborated with Logan on the Texas Health Frisco Hospital, which opened in 2019. One of the team’s design goals, Cortez said, was to create a highly customized façade while adhering to cost and schedule constraints. For the project, Logan developed custom scripts to streamline the design-to-fabrication pipeline of the façade’s precast concrete panels. The scripts maximized panel sizes, concrete form re-use, and created internal documentation processes that enabled smooth, expedient collaboration with fabricators.

Logan developed Rhino and Grasshopper interfaces (top left) to aid the fabrication and construction of the façade of Texas Health Frisco Hospital.

“We were able to achieve goals beyond our original vision that had a substantial impact to the project budget and schedule,” Cortez said. “It taught me the benefit of bringing experts like Tim into the room early to help us develop our design strategy, but also look beyond our perceived limits and goals to achieve something even greater.”

His contribution to the Texas Health Frisco project is one example of how Logan has paid forward his expertise. As architecture technology grows more sophisticated with each passing month, he is helping to introduce new tools and methods to younger designers both within HKS and at UTA’s School of Architecture, where he has joined LINE colleagues to teach studio courses, give lectures, and participate in critiques.

“While he works, he teaches. He helps realize projects, but he’s also helping grow the next generation of people that can use parametric and computational thinking as part of their process,” May said.

Looking Ahead to the Future of Architecture Technology

When he’s not writing code or collaborating with designers, Logan spends time with Johnson, a medical lab technician at Childrens Medical Center in Dallas. Together, the couple sees plays and musicals produced by Broadway Dallas and take their “grumpy, old” corgi, Pippa, for walks around their neighborhood.

Logan’s dog, a charming, but grumpy corgi named Pippa, poses for a photo in Dallas.

Logan’s other hobbies coincide with his knack for experimentation. He has been known to “mash up” 3-D models to create unique geometric forms and 3-D print them. And he once pulled the original engine out of a 1987 Volvo 740 and replaced it with a Ford 302 V8 engine despite having little knowledge of the vehicles.

“Diving into the unknown and reconfiguring a car I barely knew about is kind of how I like to do things,” he said.

The spirit of diving into the unknown is integral to Logan’s work at HKS — he’s always on the leading edge of design technologies, just like when he started at the firm. During the last three years, he’s headed up HKS’ efforts on a U.S. Department of Energy-funded research project with Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Lumileds. The interdisciplinary team is seeking to develop new lighting devices with the potential to reduce energy consumption in commercial buildings and positively impact human circadian rhythms and well-being.

Being involved with such research and development projects showcases Logan’s ability to look ahead and see the potential benefits of ideas and technologies in their infancy. As the firm turns more toward exploring the use of machine learning and artificial intelligence in architecture, Logan’s unique qualifications will make him and his skills “indispensable” to the future of practice at HKS, according to May.

And though May says Logan is “one of the smartest people,” he knows, and Cortez called him “one of the most innovative and open-minded individuals” he has worked with — Logan’s personality is grounded in humility. He simply enjoys his work and helping to improve people’s experiences in the places HKS designs.

“What excites me most, fundamentally, is trying to solve big problems,” Logan said. “That’s my main thing — that we’re progressing, not to make things easier, but to make things better.

SoFi Stadium Brings Home a Win from the 2022 World Architecture Festival

SoFi Stadium Brings Home a Win from the 2022 World Architecture Festival

HKS-designed SoFi Stadium won first place in the 2022 World Architecture Festival’s Completed Buildings: Sports category. And Emory Musculoskeletal Institute (EMSK) was a finalist in the Completed Buildings: Health category.

The prestigious World Architecture Festival (WAF), the world’s largest annual architectural event, took place in Lisbon, Portugal. As finalists in their respective categories, HKS designers who worked on the SoFi Stadium and Emory Musculoskeletal Institute projects presented their projects live in Lisbon before a panel of judges. The winners in each category then had the opportunity to compete for the titles of World Building of the Year, Future Project of the Year, Landscape of the Year or World Interior of the Year.

As the National Football League’s largest and first indoor-outdoor venue, SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California was designed as a source of pride for Southern California.

“The team is honored to receive this award from WAF,” said Lance Evans, HKS Venues Design Director and lead designer of SoFi Stadium. “To have a group of our peers recognize the stadium’s design, ambition and sustainability is truly wonderful.”

HKS Studio Practice Leader – Health, Teresa Campbell, was part of the team that presented Emory Musculoskeletal Institute, located in Atlanta, at the WAF.

“It was an honor to be selected as one of 12 finalists for the WAF Completed Health Buildings category,” says Teresa. “To be considered amongst the world’s most innovative, influential architects and designers is a defining moment. As with all great projects, EMSK is a product of not only an amazing team, but also a visionary client, to whom we are grateful for their trust.”

The World Architecture Festival annually invites architects and designers across the globe to gather, learn and discover from one another. For more than a decade, it has served as a unique architecture event where some of the most influential people in the industry sit on the live presentations and judging. Earning a spot to present at WAF identifies designers and firms as leaders within the industry.

The 2023 WAF will be held in Singapore.

Six Developments to See While You’re in Dallas for the ULI Fall Meeting

Six Developments to See While You’re in Dallas for the ULI Fall Meeting

Welcome to Dallas, ULI! As you settle into my hometown, I thought you might enjoy seeing some key developments that make the DFW metroplex the dynamic urban environment it is today. As sponsors of the conference, HKS is participating in a host of ULI-led tours. But if, like me, you enjoy exploring cities on your own, then here are six places that I recommend visiting—with tips on nearby spots to grab something to eat or drink, too.

1. Klyde Warren Park

Klyde Warren Park, the 2014 ULI Urban Open Space Award winner, is a must-see for any urbanist. The park that was built atop an interstate highway—and reconnected downtown Dallas to adjacent Uptown and Victory Park neighborhoods for pedestrians—transformed Big D. HKS-designed projects, including the Park District, KPMG Plaza, WELL-Gold certified Hall Arts and 2000 Ross (arguably one of the most elegant parking structures you’ll ever see) line the perimeter, and prove that urban open space coupled with great design amplifies real estate investment and transforms cities.

Hungry or thirsty? I’m partial to the modern take on southern cuisine at Ellie’s Restaurant inside the elegant new Hall Arts Hotel.

2. Victory Park

Victory Park is another development featured at the ULI Fall Meeting many times through the years, and for good reason: the once-desolate downtown neighborhood is booming today. HKS-designed projects, including the American Airlines Center, home of the Dallas Mavericks, W Hotel & Residences and mixed-use development The Union make the walk from Klyde Warren to Victory Park pedestrian-friendly.

Where to stop for a drink or food nearby:  Billy Can Can is a sophisticated take on Texas cuisine and one of the development’s many great places to eat and drink. If you’re more interested in people-watching, try The Henry in The Union.

3. Pacific Park

I’ll argue that the architectural epicenter of Dallas can be found at One Dallas Center, the IM Pei-designed, HKS-repositioned tower home to HKS Global Headquarters. Our 650 local team members help make the adjacent Pacific Park and Pacific Park Pavilion one of Dallas’ most successful new urban spaces. (Just two years ago, it was a pothole-riddled parking lot!) We hope you visit our office during the Fall Meeting, and after you do, be sure to walk around the corner to see the late, great Philip Johnson’s Thanks-Giving Square Chapel.

Where to stop for a drink or food nearby: the Park is a five minute drive to Deep Ellum, where you can try some Texas barbeque at Terry Black’s or the Pecan Lodge. In Deep Ellum, bars, music & nightlife abound.

4. South Dallas

What’s next in Big D’s renaissance? Be sure to see what’s happening in South Dallas and take a look at what’s to come. My personal favorites are the Park for Floral Farms, Forest Theater, and future Southern Gateway Park, which is the South Dallas bookend to Klyde Warren. And for folks looking for historic Dallas neighborhoods with great food, well… South Dallas is the place to be.

Where to stop for a drink or food nearby: swing by Bishop Arts and enjoy the people-watching, food and drink at Written by the Seasons or longtime neighborhood favorite The Boulevardier.

5. Arlington

I know there are a few of y’all who will argue that SoFi Stadium or U.S. Bank are the most beautiful NFL Stadiums of them all, and I get that. But let’s be clear: it all started with the HKS-designed home to America’s team, the Dallas Cowboys: AT&T Stadium.

It’s hard to imagine today, but when we first built the stadium more than a decade ago, there wasn’t much else to do in Arlington, from an entertainment perspective. Today, it’s a whole different ball game, as it were. The newly-opened Globe Life Field, home to the Texas Rangers, and resort-like hotel with killer views of AT&T Stadium at Texas Live by Loews make Arlington DFW’s hottest new entertainment district.

It’s not all football, either. Did you know that more visitors see the world-class modern art collection annually at AT&T Stadium than they do at the Art Institute of Chicago? Or that half of AT&T Stadium’s revenues happen when the NFL isn’t in town? It’s true. And for local residents: the Arlington ISD Center for Performing Arts offers neighborhood students professional-caliber performance venues to prepare for careers in the arts (be sure to check out the Fall Meeting session for a deep-dive into what makes it unique).

What’s next in Arlington? The soon-to-open Loews Arlington Hotel (that pool!), and newly-repositioned Choctaw Stadium, former home of the Rangers, that’s now an eSports venue.

6. The Stockyards

When in DFW, it’s imperative to visit Fort Worth. There are many fantastic places to see here, but in the interest of your short stay, let’s focus on the place Where the West Begins: The Stockyards. It’s here that you can enjoy the Fort Worth Herd Cattle Drive, or watch a rodeo at nearby Dickies Arena. If you do, be sure to check out the 2021 CoreNet Global award-winning adaptive reuse for Simpli.Fi, and then perhaps wind down at the newly-opened, HKS-designed Hotel Drover.

Where to stop for food or drinks or new cowboy boots nearby: The Drover’s 97 West Kitchen & Bar is a perfect vantage point to consider whether you should buy Lucchese or Ariat after your visit to the Texas Rodeo Cowboy Hall of Fame.  

See the ULI Fall events HKS is hosting, speaking in and sponsoring. 

Connect with us!

Brandon Andow, PhD

Case Studies

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.

Sources:

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 ANUNCIA SU NUEVA UBICACIÓN Y EQUIPO DE LIDERAZGO EN LA CIUDAD DE MÉXICO

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

Veinte años en la Ciudad de México

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

LA Times: HKS Releases Plans for Music Studio Complex for CMNTY Culture in Hollywood

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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Bringing Equity into Focus, HKS Honors Black History Month 2022

Bringing Equity into Focus, HKS Honors Black History Month 2022

Each year in February, we celebrate Black History Month by recognizing and honoring Black Americans who have influenced our country’s history and paved the way for future generations to succeed. The Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) defines an annual theme for the month, and the 2022 theme, “Black Health and Wellness,” is especially relevant and one that’s personal to me as a designer. Architects should take great pride and responsibility in our ability to impact health and well-being through the buildings we create, the communities we impact, and the end-users who interact with our facilities. We have the power to create places that address and potentially resolve systemic inequities that continue to exist in Black communities today.

Though our industry historically has low numbers of Black architects, we are making progress in being a more diverse and equitable field, and we all play a part in that — whether through recruitment efforts, mentoring opportunities, community outreach, and more. And it’s more important than ever before; with a more diverse population racially, culturally, and socioeconomically within the U.S., the teams designing buildings in diverse communities should make efforts to reflect those environments. If our teams can better reflect the populations for which we design, we can ensure more inclusive, equitable and successful projects for all stakeholders.

After all, our role is not to design for people, it’s to design with people.

HKS is fortunate to have a growing number of Black leaders within our firm who bring their expertise and visions to life each day while paving the way for future team members to join our firm and the industry at large. We’ve asked a few of them to share their thoughts on this year’s Black History Month theme, their role within our industry, and how they contribute in their communities.

From left to right: Shantee Blain, Selwyn Crawford, Chandler Funderburg, Tyrone Loper

What is your cultural background and how do you connect with it?

Shantee Blain — Office Director and Project Architect; Washington, D.C.

All four of my grandparents come from mixed lineage and they and my parents all identified or identify as Black, as do I. I consider myself a native of the DMV (District, Maryland and Virginia) area. My parents relocated here from Southern Virginia shortly after they married, and my siblings and I were born and raised here.

Selwyn Crawford – Editor; Dallas

I hail from the Deep South (Florida), as do both of my parents (Georgia), and I strongly identify with the Southern Black experience – and for me, that is not a negative.

Chandler Funderburg (Davis) – Engineer; Fort Worth

My mom is Black and white, and my father is Nigerian, but I grew up with my mom’s side of the family, all of whom are white—just like the majority of my peers in grade school. It took me a long time to make sense of who I was and find a real sense of authentic identity, but it also allowed me to develop the skill of adaptation, patience with people, and a widened perspective of the world.

Tyrone Loper – Senior Project Architect; Detroit

My father, Otis Loper, was born just under a century ago in rural Mississippi. My grandfather, Marshal Loper, was a sharecropper born in the late nineteenth century. It is believed that my great grandfather was born in bondage in rural Mississippi. This would place me three generations post chattel slavery. My parents moved north during the second great migration and settled in a Detroit Slum called Black Bottom. The City of Detroit razed Black Bottom and my parents settled into one of the many neighborhoods open to Negros after European immigrants settled into Post-War suburban Detroit.

How does the theme “Black Health and Wellness” resonate with you as important in the year 2022?

Blain: Black Health and Wellness, and specifically Black mental health, is often overlooked — not just from a global standpoint, but also within the Black community. Often, mental health isn’t talked about until it’s too late, but there’s been more conversation about it recently during the pandemic and due to the Black Lives Matter movement. Working from home during the pandemic was beneficial because it took away the need to be “on” all the time at work, but it was also easy to get sucked into the distress of the news. I plan to find a better balance by taking the time to process and reflect. 

Crawford: To me, Black Health and Wellness goes back to the days of slavery and how from then until this very day, Black people have constantly prepared themselves physically, emotionally, and spiritually, for the unique challenges that they face. In other words, “Black Health and Wellness” is not just a 2022 thing or a COVID-19 pandemic thing, it’s a generational way-of-life thing.

Funderburg: Black Health was and still is so often neglected, and it’s important not only to address and improve barriers to our physical health, but also to allow ourselves to care for our mental health and well-being. In the Black community, at times, we get caught up trying to prove ourselves and our worth through work and striving, but we often don’t put enough emphasis on taking the space to give our mind and body the care and rest they need to live a fulfilling and long life. I’d like to see that change.

Loper: The Association for the Study of African American Life and History 2022 theme “Black Health and Wellness” is timely in this pandemic. SARS-COV-2 exploits comorbidities or underlying health conditions and as such magnified the poor nutrition, lack of access to medical care, fresh air and safe spaces for Black men, women and children

“Black Health and Wellness” is not just a 2022 thing or a COVID-19 pandemic thing, it’s a generational way-of-life thing.

Tell us about a project or initiative you have contributed to that you are particularly proud of.

Blain: I’m proud of how diverse the D.C. office has become in recent years. I started with HKS when the office opened about 17 years ago and we had few people of color and no women in leadership positions. We’ve dedicated ourselves to bringing on and promoting diverse talent as the office has grown. We reach out to students — including those at HBCUs like my alma mater Florida A&M and local schools like Howard University — to offer guidance and make connections for hiring staff and interns. Personally, I make a point to maintain mentoring relationships with young people I meet through those initiatives and through more informal connections. It’s a huge deal when you have people who look like you in your desired field or workplace.

Crawford: Since I joined HKS in June 2018, I have been directly involved in the hiring of four full-time employees. Of those four, three (75 percent) have been people of color. If we continue on a similar path to seeking diversity in all areas, it can only serve to elevate our firm.

Funderburg: I was incredibly grateful to be a part of the work done by the HKS J.E.D.I Council and Champions this past year. I’ve seen so many people channel their time and energy into making HKS an even better place to work for everyone and I can’t wait to see what impacts continue to be made for HKS and for the young talent that we hope to see in our seats one day.

Loper: In 2011, I encouraged HKS Detroit leadership to start recruitment and I led the first interview team at my alma mater, The University of Detroit Mercy, hoping to identify more Black American talent. In 2018, I successfully secured HKS sponsorship of the inaugural Hip Hop Architecture Camp offered through the Museum of Contemporary Art – Detroit (MOCAD). There, a group of Detroit youth got to craft imaginary space from their unique perspective using the Hip Hop genre as inspiration for expression. For most of these young people, this camp was their introduction to creating architecture and interacting with architects.

How would you encourage peers and colleagues in the architecture, design and construction industries to provide support for Black people in the workforce — not just during Black History month, but always?

Blain:  Encourage younger staff to reach out to you and have frank conversations with them. Advocate for them to get experiences you may not have gotten when you were just starting out.  I’m genuinely interested and invested in the professional growth of our office and believe we succeed together when given opportunities to pursue what we are most passionate about. Also, expanding your network and circle is important. Over the last few years in our more virtual work environment, it’s made a huge difference to me to make more connections with people outside of D.C and the East region.

Crawford: First, don’t just talk about it, be about it. Second, along with your complaints, bring viable solutions to fix what you’re complaining about; and lastly, advocate on behalf of someone other than yourself, particularly your fellow Black colleagues whose work efforts might seemingly be overlooked.

Funderburg: Widen your circle. The best way to learn how to support someone is to get to know them. If you make an intentional effort to understand someone’s needs, motivations and background, it’ll be easier to know what you can do to support them.  But most importantly, help make space for people to be themselves, whether you understand every aspect of who they are or not.

Loper: I would encourage my peers to participate in one of the many initiatives that companies like HKS have launched, such as our HBCU Engagement Team. Recently, the Detroit chapter of the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA) sponsored a career fair and encouraged young professionals to participate. I know firsthand the power of such exposure. During high school, I participated in the inaugural Boy Scouts of America Explorers Group, sponsored by a large architecture firm. I knew that a career in architecture was a real possibility for me because the director of the group was a Black American architect.

Architectural Record Details What Makes SoFi Stadium’s Environment So Special

Forbes Lists 6 Things You Didn’t Know About Sofi Stadium

Inglewood Gets New Image as Super Bowl Lands at SoFi Stadium

Inglewood Gets New Image as Super Bowl Lands at SoFi Stadium

In his 1995 classic, California Love, Tupac Shakur briefly described the city of Inglewood as “always up to no good.”

But the late rap legend likely wouldn’t recognize the Inglewood of today. Gone is the stigma of a city routinely avoided and oft-maligned — sometimes erroneously — for high crime, poverty and unemployment. Instead, steadily falling crime rates, trendy new housing opportunities and a sparkling global entertainment hub at Hollywood Park are quickly turning Inglewood into the place to see and be seen.  

On February 13 the crown jewel of that entertainment complex and Inglewood’s resurgence, HKS-designed SoFi Stadium, will be on display to the world when the stadium hosts Super Bowl LVI.

“We had a brand of a city that nobody wanted to come to. When asked where they lived, people who lived in Inglewood would say, ‘I live next to Westchester, or south of Culver City,’” Inglewood Mayor James T. Butts Jr. said in an interview. “And now when you ask them where they live, they say, ‘I live in Inglewood, California.’”

The climb back to being one of California’s leading communities has been a long one. Incorporated in 1908, Inglewood was America’s fastest growing city from 1920 to 1925, when it became the Chinchilla capital of the world. Decades later, the city gained prominence when The Forum was built there in the 1960s to house the Los Angeles Lakers and later, the Los Angeles Kings.

The Great Western Forum in Inglewood, 1989. (Credit: Rick Stewart/ALLSPORT)

But during the late 1970s, 80s and 90s, the city fell on lean times as crime and unemployment spiked to worrisome levels, putting a serious dent in the city’s image. The challenges mounted after the Forum closed in 1999 when the Lakers and Kings bolted for the Staples Center (now Crypto.com Arena) in downtown Los Angeles. The loss of revenue was devastating to Inglewood and the closure of 75-year-old Hollywood Racetrack in 2012 didn’t help.

But in his 2020 State of the City address — delivered from inside SoFi Stadium — Butts noted that overall crime in the city dropped by 73 percent from 1978 to 2019. The city’s alarming unemployment rate also began to fall, he said.

Much of that decline was aided by Los Angeles Rams owner/chairman, E. Stanley Kroenke’s decision to build SoFi Stadium at the site of the former racetrack to serve as the home of both the Rams and Chargers. More than 1,200 Inglewood residents worked on the project, Butts said, with more than $19 million paid to people who worked in the city. 

‘SoFi Stadium is Beautiful’

The stadium itself — the largest in the National Football League at 3.1 million square feet — was designed by HKS as the world’s first true indoor-outdoor arena to take advantage of the soothing Pacific Ocean breezes and showcase the diverse Southern California environment.

The Inglewood mayor described his first visit to SoFi Stadium as “the metaphorical equivalent of walking into the inside of a video game” with its Infinity Screen by Samsung dual-sided video board that immerses fans into the action on the field, and ocean breezes that ventilate the indoor-outdoor space.

“It was not real,” he said. “It’s the most magnificent stadium in the world, and it’s in the city that’s working on becoming the most magnificent city in the world.”

SoFi Stadium puts Inglewood on the map as the home of the largest stadium in the National Football League at 3.1 million square feet.

In addition to the 70,000-seat stadium, which opened in 2020, the Hollywood Park mixed-used development also includes the 6,000-seat YouTube Theater; the 2.5-acre American Airlines Plaza; a 6-acre lake; 25 acres of public space; as well as retail, residential and office space.

And in addition to Super Bowl LVI, SoFi Stadium will be the site of the 2023 College Football Playoff Championship Game and the Opening Ceremonies of the 2028 Summer Olympics.

“SoFi Stadium is beautiful,” said Terry Dulan, owner of Dulan’s Soul Food Kitchen, a Los Angeles-area institution with three locations, including one in Inglewood. “What SoFi (Stadium) has done is help reignite this whole area with beautiful architecture, and I love the space.”

So does fellow Inglewood business owner, Jasmine Summer Ohtman, co-owner of Orleans & York sandwich shop. Ohtman said that Orleans & York is the only local business with space inside SoFi Stadium, which Ohtman says gives her goose bumps whenever she’s there, even when it’s empty.

“It’s definitely driving in new business and new customers,” Ohtman said of the stadium’s impact on Inglewood. “Imagine having a stadium that’s the most talked about stadium in the world in your back yard. It’s amazing.”

Antoinette Davis of Inglewood has a dual interest in SoFi Stadium. Not only has she been a resident of the city for 26 years, but she also works at the stadium.

“Before, Inglewood would be a place that a lot of people would be scared to come to because when you heard the name Inglewood, you thought it was the hood,” Davis said. “When SoFi (Stadium) started, new businesses started opening up, high-rise buildings are being built. Once SoFi (Stadium) came, everything completely changed. Now everyone is trying to get into Inglewood.”

Left: Terry Dulan, Owner of Dulan’s Soul Food Kitchen; Right: Jasmine Summer, Co-owner Orleans & York Deli

‘We’re Different Now’

Butts was born and raised a mile from Inglewood. He moved to the city in 1972 and was a longtime member of the police department, serving as deputy police chief at one point.

Despite being the home of the Lakers and Kings, and hosting patrons of the Airport Park Hotel and a racetrack that attracted thousands of people weekly, the mayor said Inglewood wasn’t historically considered a destination city. It was an entertainment city that people drove to and left immediately after an event.

“We’re different now,” he said.

Football fans attending games at SoFi Stadium tend to arrive early to Inglewood or leave late to avoid heavy traffic, which provides a big boost to Inglewood businesses.

Indeed, SoFi Stadium and Hollywood Park are at the forefront of Inglewood’s economic and cultural renaissance. In his 2020 State of the City address — delivered from inside SoFi Stadium — Butts ticked off a litany of new developments opening or planned in the city including a $23 million senior center; a new Hilton-brand hotel; the NFL Network relocating from Culver City; and a LA Philharmonic Youth Orchestra site.

Los Angeles Chargers Owner/Chairman Dean Spanos, Los Angeles Rams Owner/Chairman Stan Kroenke and Inglewood Mayor James T. Butts Jr. attend SoFi Stadium’s ribbon-cutting event on September 8, 2020 in Inglewood, California.

A Source of Pride

In addition, the Rams and Chargers soon won’t be the only professional sports franchises to call Inglewood home. In 2024, the NBA’s Los Angeles Clippers will begin play inside their new $1.8 billion Intuit Dome located only a few blocks from SoFi Stadium.

“We’re a city that believes in the concept of self-determination,” Butts said. “We’re providing employment opportunities for our residents, providing recreational and cultural opportunities for our children. The only thing that’s changing, is everything.”

Even Butts serving as mayor is a continuing sign of extraordinary change in Inglewood. A century ago the city, which is 41 percent Black, was the Southern California regional headquarters of the Ku Klux Klan and an all-white community where people of color were not allowed to purchase homes.

Now, it is an international entertainment and destination spot, with SoFi Stadium serving as the city’s unofficial welcome ambassador as millions of air passengers fly over it on their way into nearby Los Angeles International Airport. Real estate flyers for homes in surrounding cities now mention “Inglewood-adjacent” to capitalize on the added value of living near the area’s newest entertainment venues.

“Ultimately for the fans and the surrounding area, it’s a source of pride to have one of the nicest stadiums in the world,” said Dulan, a Rams season-ticket holder and lifelong Los Angeles-area resident, “It’s going to uplift the entire area with the amount revenue it’s going to bring, it’s going to improve the tax base. It’s very good for Inglewood. It’s a boon.”

Seven Surprising Things about SoFi Stadium’s Design

Seven Surprising Things about SoFi Stadium’s Design

As the National Football League’s newest and largest venue, much has been said and written about HKS-designed SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, CA. The picturesque home of the Los Angeles Rams and Chargers is an entertainment and destination spot that will ultimately attract millions. But there are several captivating aspects of the amazing stadium that many fans — including those who attend Super Bowl LVI — might never know about. Here are just a few:

The stadium’s roof doesn’t touch its walls.

It’s completely free-standing, hovering above, around and over the massive venue. It’s held up by 37 massive earthquake-resistant columns. The roof is open on three sides, which allows for a fantastic ocean breeze to flow through the seating bowl.

The videoboard’s weight holds the roof down in high winds.

Fans love the NFL’s only 4k, 70,000 square foot, double-sided videoboard, called The Infinity Screen by Samsung. Suspended 120’ above the playing field, it weighs 2.2 million pounds. It’s heavy, and that’s important because SoFi Stadium’s enormous roof can act as a wind sail in a major storm. That’s when the videoboard’s weight comes into play, anchoring the roof.

A giant, “seismic moat” up to 12’ wide and 100’ deep encircles the stadium to keep it safe during earthquakes.

If there’s a temblor, the roof and stadium move completely independently from one another, separated by the massive moat. If you’re in the canyons and notice a giant paneled door on the north or south side? You’re likely looking at the details around that joint. 

Who sees the games that are projected onto the top of the stadium’s roof?

The 80 million annual passengers who travel through LAX, which is 3.8 miles away. SoFi Stadium is directly in the LAX flight path. That’s why…

The field is 100’ below ground

To keep the structure’s overall height below FAA flight-restricted areas, crews had to dig deep to accommodate the massive, vertical seating bowl for the 70,240 fans who attend events at SoFi Stadium.

Standing on the field, the quarterback can look to his side, through the seating bowl, and see palm trees.

How’s that possible if he’s standing 100’ below ground? There are two landscaped canyons carved down into the east and west sides of the stadium, which bring natural light (and native plants!) down to the lowest public levels of the stadium.

It’s not just a stadium.

In fact, the 6,000-seat YouTube Theater and 2.5-acre American Airlines Plaza are also under that one massive, swooping roof, which also protects the NFL’s largest stadium.

Inside SoFi Stadium’s Innovative Design

View Transcript

Inside SoFi Stadium’s Innovative Design

Unlike any stadium anywhere, SoFi Stadium reflects the finest aspects of life in Southern California with a true indoor-outdoor experience and boundary-pushing design.

“Our mission was to create the best version of an outdoor stadium that we could.” – Lance Evans, RA, HKS Principal

“Our mission was to create the best version of an outdoor stadium that we could.”

Part of the 300-acre Hollywood Park mixed-use development in Inglewood, CA, SoFi Stadium is the NFL’s largest at 3.1 million square feet. Designed by HKS, the stadium combines Southern California’s indoor/outdoor lifestyle with state-of-the-art sports and entertainment architecture.

Open-Air and Below Ground

SoFi Stadium sits directly in the flight path of Los Angeles International Airport, located just three miles away. Designers placed the stadium 100 feet below ground to adhere to strict Federal Aviation Administration height restrictions. It also provides airline passengers with a breathtaking view as they approach landing.

What The Fans See

Open concourses and landscaped canyons draw visitors into the stadium, which has approximately 70,000 fixed seats and can expand to accommodate up to 100,000 guests with removable seating. The stadium’s club spaces, suites and concourse areas that extend as far down as the field provide a diverse array of opportunities for fans to engage with the NFL experience, whether first-time visitor or season-ticket holder.

An open-air design capitalizes on Southern California’s mild climate, allowing visitors to feel as if they are inside and outside at once. The design encourages wind flow, provides relief from direct sun and protection from rain while maintaining connection to the sky and surrounding nature. Whether they’re walking through the wide concourses or catching the action from their seats, people who visit SoFi Stadium enjoy cooling ocean winds that make attending events in the LA heat feel like a breeze.

Infinity Screen by Samsung

The first dual-sided 4K LED display system, the Infinity Screen by Samsung is the largest in sports, suspended above the playing field and visible from every seat. The largest video board in sports, the Samsung Infinity Screen is 70,000 square feet, displays 80 million pixels and weighs 2.2 million pounds.

“I believe SoFi Stadium is the best stadium in the world. Architecturally, it’s the greatest thing I’ve ever been in.”

“I believe SoFi Stadium is the best stadium in the world. Architecturally, it’s the greatest thing I’ve ever been in.” – Lebron James

“There is no comparison. SoFi [Stadium] is above and beyond what anyone could imagine.” – Mike Pugrad, Los Angeles Rams Fan

“For the fans and surrounding area, it’s a source of pride.” – Terry Dulan, Dulan’s Soul Food Kitchen, Inglewood, CA

“Not one bad seat, just really well-designed stadium.” – Bee Maeda, Los Angeles Rams Fan

A Structural Marvel

The building’s monumental exterior shell and roof structure has a distinct form reminiscent of Pacific coastal waves that wash ashore just over five miles away. The stadium’s porous canopy is comprised of more than 35,000 anodized aluminum panels, with each panel conforming to the geometry in a way that no two are the same.

HKS’ Laboratory for INtensive Exploration (LINE) developed a custom computational tool that could handle the panels’ complex geometry and generate a massive digital model. The City of Inglewood accepted a stamped and sealed digital Model of Record in lieu of paper drawings, establishing the first instance in the United States of a Model of Record being allowed for permitting an architectural project. This process ensured construction accuracy and helped the project come in under budget and ahead of schedule.

“Delivering a digital model allowed us to achieve exactly what we wanted from a design perspective rather than trying to explain that in two dimensional drawings that would be re-interpreted.” – Heath May, AIA, HKS Principal

“Delivering a digital model allowed us to achieve exactly what we wanted from a design perspective rather than trying to explain that in two dimensional drawings that would be re-interpreted.”

Three Venues Under One Roof

Three interconnected venues — all housed under the massive roof — can host simultaneous events that don’t disrupt one another. A concert at YouTube Theater, a Rams or Chargers game at SoFi Stadium and a watch party at American Airlines Plaza can occur at the same time, making Hollywood Park an integrated entertainment destination.

SoFi Stadium

SoFi Stadium does not have exterior walls. Instead, the long-span cable roof structure anchors to the ground in four locations. The roof, bowl and concourses were sculpted to evoke an outdoor venue while providing the flexibility of a traditional domed stadium.

American Airlines Plaza

The roof canopy covers American Airlines Plaza, a 3-acre multipurpose outdoor event space. Visitors can gather for events free from obstructed views while the ocean breeze circulates to keep them comfortable.

YouTube Theater

YouTube Theater is Hollywood Park’s only fully enclosed indoor space. The theater brings world-class performance design and entertainment technology together in an intimate venue.

Seismic Safety

The entire building is engineered to withstand seismic events. The roof is detached from other components, meaning the stadium bowl, Youtube Theater and American Airlines Plaza can independently move in response to shifts in the Inglewood seismic fault line.

ETFE

Made of single layer ethylene tetrafluoroethylene (ETFE), the fritted roof is comprised of more than 300 panels. 46 of the 300 panels can be opened to take advantage of prevailing winds without the need for air conditioning. ETFE reduces solar heat gain and allows natural light to flood into the stadium and nearby plaza.

ETFE was also used on HKS-designed U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis

A Bird’s-Eye View

An LED system embedded in the ETFE panels projects video without sacrificing transparency inside the stadium. Live feeds can be seen from the air by passengers traveling in and out of LAX.

“We want the first-time fan that comes to SoFi Stadium to be blown away by what they see, hear, and experience. Hopefully we’ve created something that will become one of the next storied elements of Southern California.” – Lance Evans, RA, HKS Principal

“We want the first-time fan that comes to SoFi Stadium to be blown away by what they see, hear, and experience. Hopefully we’ve created something that will become one of the next storied elements of Southern California.”

A New Community and Entertainment Destination

Within a few hours’ drive of Inglewood, Californians can visit the beach, the mountains, and the densest metropolitan area in the United States. Inspired by the unique local climate and geography, Hollywood Park features climate-adaptive landscape architecture, including a 6-acre lake and network of green spaces.

SoFi Stadium: An Ecosystem Fit for a Super Bowl Ring

With 25 acres of open public space and year-round events, SoFi Stadium and Hollywood Park will boost overall tourism revenue for the City of Inglewood and the Los Angeles area. Beyond Super Bowl LVI, events slated for the venue include the College Football Championship Game in 2023, and the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the Olympic Games in 2028. As the world’s first true indoor/outdoor stadium — where visitors are immersed in the Southern California lifestyle — SoFi Stadium is the ultimate entertainment destination in the greater Los Angeles area.

HKS Design Team:

Mark A. Williams, FAIA, LEED AP BD+C (Principal in Charge), Kevin Taylor, AIA, LEED AP BD+C (Principal Project Manager), Jay Caddell, AIA, LEED AP (Project Manager), Lance Evans, RA (Design Principal), Greg Walston (Lead Project Coordinator), Chad Scheckel, AIA (Senior Construction Administrator), Mike Rogers, AIA (Senior Designer), Anice Stephens, AIA (Senior Project Architect), Bryan Mounger, AIA, LEED AP (Senior Project Architect), Michelle Stevenson, RA, LEED AP BD+C (Senior Project Architect), Niel Prunier, AIA (Senior Project Architect), Morgan Newman, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, RID (Project Architect), Manzer Mirkar, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, WELL AP (Project Architect), LaKendra Clark (Job Captain), Mark Timm, IIDA, RID (Senior Interior Design Project Manager), Katy Cagle, IIDA, LEED AP (Interior Designer), Amanda Trimble, IIDA, ASID, RID (Interior Designer), James Warton (Senior Computational Designer), Sean Huynh (Construction Administrator), Steve Bayne, AIA (Senior Construction Administrator), Scott Hunter, FAIA, LEED AP (Principal Project Director), Heath May, AIA (Senior Designer)

SoFi Stadium: An Ecosystem Fit for a Super Bowl Ring

SoFi Stadium: An Ecosystem Fit for a Super Bowl Ring

When football fans make way to their seats at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California, they behold things never before seen at a sports venue. At once, they have views of an expansive playing field; The Infinity Screen by Samsung, a 360-degree dual-sided video board; and a massive, semi-transparent roof with LED lights.

But they can also look through open air concourses and see a diverse Southern Californian landscape — a newly designed local ecosystem that preserves and restores natural resources.

Open to fans and visitors this year, the Hollywood Park mixed-use development comprises the 70,000-seat SoFi Stadium, the 6,000-seat YouTube Theater and American Airlines Plaza. Situated on the former grounds of Hollywood Park Racetrack, the development also includes a vast network of green space and a six-acre lake.

HKS Principal Lance Evans said that in 2014, Los Angeles Rams Owner/Chairman E. Stanley Kroenke asked HKS to create a “uniquely Angelino” destination. That edict quickly became a guiding light for the design team as they set out to honor Southern California’s unique qualities and create a one-of-a kind place for public enjoyment and environmental well-being.

The 300-acre master plan harkens back to the historic racetrack — which closed nearly two decades ago — drawing inspiration from the small lakes and fields previously encircled by the track where people picnicked and gathered for 75 years. HKS, in collaboration with landscape architecture firm Studio-MLA transformed the site by re-introducing open landscaping and water to create an inviting place for area residents and visiting fans.

“From day one, we took hold of this idea that we’re building for something bigger than NFL Sunday. We’re building for a community and for Southern California,” said Evans, who served as lead designer of the stadium, which will host Superbowl LVI in February.

A Complex Site Yields an Innovative Design

The Hollywood Park site presented a range of site conditions that required complex design solutions. Due to its proximity to Los Angeles International Airport, the stadium needed to adhere to a strict height limitation, resulting in a semi-subterranean building design.

But while the idea to place a large portion of the seating bowl 100 feet below grade solved one problem, it presented new challenges for the design team: How could they create a welcoming experience without having visitors feel as if they were going underground? And how could their design achieve an authentic indoor/outdoor environment connected to the natural world?

The solution was all around them in the unique architecture and geography of Southern California. Designers researched Los Angeles area landmarks that also had challenging sites like the Getty Center and the Hollywood Bowl and crafted a new vision for what a civic entertainment destination could be. Evans and fellow HKS Principal, Mike Rogers call the stadium, with its recessed seating bowl and wave-inspired roof, an “embedded object” that creates harmony between the natural and built environments.

“Through this notion of an embedded object, the stadium takes on a really beautiful relationship with the site,” said Rogers.

The team also studied cliffside architecture and ocean access points throughout the region. Inspired by the naturally occurring formations and design solutions they saw, they devised a series of terraced, landscaped canyons that lead visitors down into the stadium’s seating bowl — a walk that takes them on a tour of local flora and fauna.

Paying Homage to SoCal’s Climate

A microcosm of Southern California’s geography and climate, every aspect of the development’s landscape design delivers on the project’s “uniquely Angelino” promise.

“Within a two-hour radius of Los Angeles, there is access to a variety of plant and wildlife, from the Desert of Joshua Tree to the Montane of Big Bear,” Evans said. “We decided to make the landscape strategy around SoFi Stadium an educational journey.”

Architecture and the surrounding landscape were designed completely in conjunction, according to Evans and Kush Parekh, the project’s lead landscape architect. The stadium’s passive ventilation and daylighting strategies — both defining features of its indoor/outdoor atmosphere — capitalize on the sun’s position and ocean winds throughout the day, resulting in a series of small microclimates on the site that informed landscape planning.

“Our idea was to take this transect of Southern California, use elements and plantings from different areas and apply them to sides of the stadium based on those microclimates. We explored and celebrated California’s unique geography and created smaller ecological areas,” said Parekh, an Associate Principal at Studio-MLA, the renowned firm led by Mia Lehrer that’s been involved with various landscape projects at Hollywood Park.

Featuring plants from the Mediterranean biome, which exists in several regions around the world (including Southern California) that share similar climates, the landscape palette is diverse and carefully planned to contribute to a functional, healthy ecosystem.

The landscape design spreads out like a pinwheel from the stadium, giving each side a unique personality with one of five different plant communities found in Southern California that all fall under the umbrella of the Mediterranean biome. Montane evergreen trees and dark foliage populate the East Canyon while the West Canyon, which is closer to the ocean, emulates Chaparral coastal bluffs. Desert elements can be seen on the stadium’s north side, and the lake park is surrounded with sycamore trees and tall grasses characteristic of Riparian ecosystems. Throughout the entire site, climate-responsive plants from other Mediterranean biome regions will sustain the local ecosystem even in the face of harsh environmental changes predicted for the future.

A new take on an environmental education center, the landscape surrounding SoFi Stadium also includes informational signs about the biomes and plants, encouraging visitors and residents to learn about local climates and even take steps toward environmental action in their own backyards.

“The goal is absolutely that people will come to the site, know more about where they are and what they can do to make our world better,” Parekh said. “Even if it’s just a little bit of knowledge, people take that when they leave.”

Rounding out the new ecosystem, the landscape palette generates wildlife habitats that the area hasn’t seen in nearly 20 years. As soon as planting started on the site three years ago — far before construction on the stadium was completed — birds and insects returned.

“Along with the landscape flourishing, we’ve seen a lot of the wildlife starting to come back in and an ecosystem start to actualize,” said Evans, who recently saw butterflies below grade in the stadium’s club level. “You notice the energy and the life,” he said.

A “Water Wise” Strategy

While SoFi Stadium’s award-winning design and its landscaped canyons may appear to some as the focal point of the development, designers say Lake Park is the project’s true heart. With its lushly planted walking trails and gathering spots, the lake and its park provide an enriching and beautiful environment for visitors, regardless of whether they attend a game or concert.

Driven by their on-going work on Southern California water conservation projects and advocacy, Studio-MLA designed the lake and landscape surrounding SoFi Stadium to tackle one of the region’s most complex climate challenges: water scarcity.

Parekh explained that because droughts and fires are common in California, water is one of the state’s most precious resources. The success of the design, which includes more than 5,000 trees and native plantings, hinges on responsible water use. Incorporating as many performative landscape elements as possible and saving and re-using water were key design drivers, Parekh said.

Though the LA area experiences significant rainfall somewhat infrequently, designers incorporated multifaced stormwater capture strategies to capitalize on every possible opportunity to keep naturally occurring water on site. The lake, as well as bioswales, storm drains and rolling arroyos all collect rainwater that gets filtered by wetland vegetation and soil so it can be used to irrigate the rest of the landscape. The stadium’s 28-acre roof and subterranean cisterns also collect and store rainwater, leveraging the architecture as a tool for environmental health. Approximately 75% of stormwater that reaches the site is retained there for irrigation, according to the designers.

“We had a very water-wise strategy,” Evans said. “With every decision we made, we took into account how we could be responsible stewards of water with an appropriate level of planting that will allow for the site to thrive and not be a burden on our environment. It will be something that actually heals and helps.”

To ensure water would be high enough quality to maintain healthy ecological conditions regardless of the season, Parekh said the team devised a custom filtration system that allows reclaimed water from a nearby water recycling plant to be used as lake infill. Before construction began, the team set-up a “water laboratory” on site for six months to test out different methods and chemistries, resulting in a filtration process that could support a thriving ecosystem over time.

“This system is the first of its kind. It hasn’t been done before on a scale like this,” Parekh said.

The water-wise strategy and filtration system are working. Now, an estimated 26 million gallons of water per year — 100% of all irrigation water used on site — is reclaimed. The landscape flourishes without taking away precious potable water from area residents and those who visit and work at the entertainment venues.

“In the next 20 years, we feel that water is going to become one of the scarcest resources on the planet, so we really need to think smartly about how we use and conserve our water for our future,” Parekh said.

An Example for the Future

With an eye toward upcoming high-profile events at SoFi Stadium, including the 2028 Olympics, plans for Inglewood and the land surrounding Hollywood Park include new commercial and mixed-use properties as well as connections to the region’s public transit system. As those projects come to fruition, the design team hopes that the landscape will influence future designers and developers working in the area.

“It’s not just a stadium and a parking lot. This landscape is intended to promote education,” Rogers said. “As the site develops and becomes denser, hopefully this landscape strategy can be applied to retail establishments, offices, and hotels.”

Parcels of land near the stadium, currently used for temporary parking, will likely be developed at some point. To help ensure future projects at those sites contribute to environmental health and maintain the rich landscape, Parekh and his team designed a series of tree boxes with planting palettes that sit on the parcels today.

“As these lots are highlighted to get developed, each of them has a series of trees maturing over time already in place that developers will get as part of the land and that they can implement within the landscape,” Parekh said, adding that each box’s plantings correspond with the plant community on its respective side of the stadium, which he hopes inspires other designers to incorporate them in their own way.

Symbolizing Design Excellence

Hollywood Park highlights how stunning architecture, environmental sustainability and high performance can coexist in one special place. Though the project implements strategies outlined in every one of AIA’s 10 Measures for Design Excellence — the industry-leading sustainable design framework — the most surprising, perhaps, is “Design for Ecosystems.” The project’s environmentally sensitive design is a rarity for large sports and entertainment venues, which are often surrounded solely by parking lots and secluded from the natural world.

In addition to employing Design for Ecosystems’ best practices that promote resource conservation and environmental regeneration, the project’s architecture and construction also reduce ecological impact. Almost all dirt from the stadium excavation was re-used on site, decreasing the need for trucked-in soil and reducing the project’s carbon footprint.

The stadium’s open-air, partially subterranean design is free of tall vertical enclosures and limits the need for loud and energy-intensive mechanical systems, which reduces the building’s potential to disturb regional wildlife and migrating birds. All lighting on site also adheres to Federal Aviation Administration guidelines that accommodate planes flying into LAX and in turn, cuts back on light pollution, especially on non-game days.

Evans says the HKS sports practice is committed to an integrated, sustainable design approach and that SoFi Stadium is the continuation of an exciting journey he and his colleagues have undertaken to transform stadium design.

“We see ecologies playing a large role in this venue type in the future. We’re trying to evolve stadiums into destinations that provide something memorable for everyone — places that are not burdens to communities but enhance them and provide necessary public amenities,” he said.

Creating a ‘Tangible Connection’

To create this “uniquely Angelino” destination for today and for the future, the designers all said the inspiration comes back to the people — to Angelinos themselves.

Parekh, who believes that any conversation about ecology and the environment “must include humans and how we interact with where we live,” said that the project’s green space drove all design program decisions his team made and, “created a connected fiber that brings people from around Inglewood into Hollywood Park.”

For Evans, who lives very close by, Hollywood Park and SoFi Stadium offer new spaces that combine the best of Southern California’s unique climate and culture for all to enjoy.

“We really wanted to create a place for people to go for entertainment that also had a tangible connection to its surroundings and would strike an emotional chord and resonate for generations to come,” he said.

Not Just a Building: Using Design and Advocacy to Create More Socially Just Communities

Not Just a Building: Using Design and Advocacy to Create More Socially Just Communities

Every major U.S. city has been historically affected by social and spatial injustice in some way, from housing to policing to policymaking. And reversing generations of unjust policy making and economic disenfranchisement will require individuals across industries to take an active role in redefining  our cities.

An HKS panel recently explored what the architecture industry can do to help create more socially just communities. As stewards of the building environment, architects, designers and planners have the unique opportunity to redistribute power to undeserved communities by translating their vision and voices into the spaces around them.

The multidisciplinary panel, organized as part of HKS’ two-week ESG in Design Celebration and moderated by HKS Project Designer Hilari Jones, captured how the industry can enable social justice through urbanism, policy, and community-focused projects to encourage inclusion and a stronger sense of belonging among the people those projects serve.

Each speaker touched on the value of diverse teams, repairing community relationships, and scaling the impacts to enable broader change.

‘Designing for Humans’

For New York Architect and Keynote Speaker Pascale Sablan, socially just design starts with intentionality.

“We need to not just think about the client who pays the bills, but also who is impacted by the projects and structures that we are developing,” said Sablan, who founded the organization, Beyond the Built Environment, to advocate for equitable environments that reflect the diversity of their people.

Success in architecture is often evaluated on the finished product: How big is it? What features does it have? What makes it unique? The panelists emphasized that design teams should challenge themselves to think bigger, defining their purpose and processes early on and ensuring that each project meets those shared goals.

“It’s actually not a building – it’s an opportunity. Who are you going to invite to be your partner in that?” said panelist Karen Weigert, of the climate-focused nonprofit Slipstream.

“And we forget that we’re designing for humans,” Patricia Acevedo of JLG Architects added. “If we’re looking inside our site, we’re forgetting that architecture is the first impression that people have of any town.”

Repairing Community Relationships

Community engagement is more than simply checking off a box before starting a project, the speakers said. The planning process should be a human-centered approach that strives to serve, not harm, the people whom the project touches.

At the start of any project, it’s wise for designers to identify who isn’t in the room and invite them to have a say in the decision-making process. Failure to do this can erode the trust of the community, leaving ripple effects that last well past the project’s completion.

“I get asked all the time, ‘How can we introduce architecture to kids of color or socioeconomically challenges communities?’” Sablan said. “And it’s not that they don’t know what architecture is; it’s that their relationship with architecture is negative. Their built environment fails to provide them the kind of spaces that they need.”

Siboney Díaz-Sánchez is a licensed architect who became a nonprofit affordable housing developer because she was tired of advocating for more community voices in projects and being told by clients that those voices had no place in the scope of the project.

At the start of any project, it’s wise for designers to identify who isn’t in the room and invite them to have a say in the decision-making process.

She participates in the Design as Protest collaborative that works with artists, architects, designers, and planners to make policy recommendations addressing issues such as permanent affordable housing, eviction, and social injustice.

In her current role as a developer, community members are paid as consultants for sharing insight on upcoming projects.

“They have valuable experience information and should be compensated for that,” Díaz-Sánchez said. “Not only do we make room in the schedule for those feedback loops, but we need to compensate community members for their time.”

Díaz-Sánchez explains to owners early in the process that if they get input from the community up front, it could save them money that they would spend later on legal fees and other expenses to address issues that residents might bring up during public forums or hearings.

“It’s going to benefit the project, the sustainability of the project, the pride of the project, and the longevity of the project if we have community voice and authorship,” she said.

Elizabeth Kennedy, who leads one of the oldest black-owned and woman-run architecture firms in the U.S., said it’s also important for everyone on a design team to leverage their unique identities to bring out the best in their work. She shared how her own experiences as a Black woman have helped her be more aware of the experiences of other people of color – even when those experiences are different than her own.

Working with clients, one key step is to educate them about the process of completing their project and the impact the project could have on the surrounding community. After learning of the impact on the surrounding community and ways to engage them in the project, clients may be more willing to support  an equitable solution that serves their business interests and addresses the community’s needs.

“Just like doctors, who originated as patients, had to learn bedside manner, there has to be some concerted effort of restoring to individuals the ability to understand the process … in order to advocate through design solutions that sustain,” Kennedy said.

Scaling the Changes

But change and advocacy don’t necessarily require grand gestures. Sometimes, the broader changes within the architecture industry come from more socially responsible policies that can tackle a variety of issues and concerns.

Policies can address equity, climate and sustainability while also dictating who is paid to do the work, as a way to give back power to communities that have been historically left behind in the public realm.

For example, some states now require a certain amount of money be set aside for energy efficient measures at new constructions. And some businesses have altered their procurement policies to prefer, or require, hiring minority or women-owned businesses for their construction projects.

Designers can also connect with like-minded individuals outside their firms to collaborate on issues they are most passionate about and learn what else their own firms can do  to move the needle forward.

Sablan is an active member of the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA), where she promotes knowledge-sharing among younger and more veteran members. She also founded Beyond the Built Environment in 2018 to promote diverse voices and stories, and show the various pathways that minority designers have taken in the field.

“I’m empowering us to feel comfortable about telling our stories, sharing ourselves, and being the author of how we’re introduced to the profession,” she said. “I’m also exploring all the different ways that we impact the built environment because there’s not just one right way to do it.”