Where Ideas Work
Since its founding in 1955, HOK remains committed to providing exceptional services and helping clients find innovative, artistic and responsible project solutions.
ARCHITECTURE LEADERS TODAY
T H E M A G A Z I N E F O R C A P TA I N S O F I N D U S T RY www.architectureleaderstoday.com
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o H K This globally known architecture and design firm has over 23 offices world wide and is a place where ideas work. by Joel Cornell
“Buildings aren’t good enough,” said HOK CEO Patrick MacLeamy. “They cost way too much to build, they don’t work too well and they don’t last very long. Why is this true? More importantly, what can we do about it?” In 1955, three classmates from Washington University in St. Louis started doing something about it. There in St. Louis, Missouri, George Hellmuth, Gyo Obata and George Kassabaum founded their eponymous firm that was later shortened to HOK. The firm initially practiced locally, doing work on various municipal and private projects. It was only a short decade later that the firm began to expand their portfolio across the country. They opened their first additional branch in San Francisco in 1966. Over a history of 55 years, the firm has opened 23 offices across North American, Asia and Europe, run by a staff of over 1,800 professionals.
They are consistently rated by industry surveys as among the very top of virtually every list, across numerous building types, specialties and regions. Much of the longevity of the firm can be attributed to the environment of integrity at the founding of the firm. “Don’t depend on one building type,” Hellmuth wrote. “To cushion a drop in demand for any one specialty, develop a battery of them: schools, hospitals, libraries, prisons, industrial buildings, shopping centers, office buildings. Diversify in locations also; go where the work can be found. Expand into full-service related specialties: landscape design, city planning, interior design, industrial design, graphics design.” To date, HOK has accomplished all of these things, becoming masters of many disciplines and far more. As their website puts it: “Lines between sectors are increasingly blurred
ABOVE: The 11 story, 24-hour, public green parking garage in the River North neighborhood of the Chicago features wind turbines, rain water collection systems and electric car plug-in stations. A reversible meter has also been installed to measure and return power to the city’s grid throughout the year. A wayfinding system has also been implemented at each elevator lobby to educate Chicago residents on how to live more sustainably and better protect the environment.
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in the 21st century. Our market-based specialists actively share ideas and learn from their HOK Colleagues in other groups, bringing a rich blend of expertise to each client as a single creative force.” Even in the past decade, HOK has expanded rapidly, opening five new offices internationally: in Dubai, Miami, Beijing, Singapore and Mumbai. A short list of their accomplishments includes the first LEED certified airport terminal at Boston Logan International Airport and the world’s most frequented museum at the National Air & Space Museum in Washington, DC. By 2007, more that 40% of HOK’s work consisted of international projects. In 1995, then President and CEO, Jerry Sincoff, worked with Martha Whitaker work within the firm, eventually going on to establish HOK University, an internal learning in initiative that would serve to develop the firm from the inside out, even as the company continued to grow. Whitaker and her staff (including current “Dean” of HOK University, Marsha Littell) have worked to increase the firm’s internal resources for learning and for documenting learning credits to meet new AIA requirements for membership entrance. In 1999, the program won the AIA award for Excellence in Education. Some of HOK’s recent work includes the Greenway Self Park Facility in Chicago. The building’s sustainability is optimized and apparent. Featuring naturally ventilated exteriors, a cistern rain water collection system, a green roof, electric car plug-in stations and vertical wind turbines lining the southwest corning of the building, HOK has aesthetically exemplified green design. The Salvador Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg, Florida decided upon a new location nearby in 2008. From the very beginning, HOK handled the entire design process. The new building is scheduled to open in January of 2011. With more than 1,800 employees working in office locations spread from Washington, DC and Toronto and Los Angeles to Dubai, Mumbai, London and Hong Kong, keeping the staff connected, united and on one page can be difficult if not impossible through traditional means. Enter HOKLife.com, a blog and gathering place for all things HOK. The site gives employees, clients and interested parties in general a chance to look past the professional veneer of HOK and into a much more personal side of the firm and its staff. Topics can range from local interests and community life to individual outlooks on business, design and life; all written by HOK personnel around the world. HOK has sustained itself through an innovative operating method they refer to as Integrated Project Delivery. Current CEO Patrick MacLeamy described it as such: THIS PAGE: St Petersburg, Fla. As the most-visited museum in the Southeastern US, the 68,000 sq. ft. Dali Museum fronts a beautiful site on the St. Petersburg waterfront. Influenced by Dali’s Surrealism, HOK’s design creates an iconic signal of the importance of the collection. Though the museum is designed as a treasure box that shelters the priceless collection from hurricanes behind thick concrete walls, the box opens in ways that welcome and intrigue visitors.
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“Projects tend to have three main players: owner, architect and contractor. For over 150 years, architects and contractors have always worked separately. There tends to never be a contract between architect and contractor; only an agreement between both parties and the owner to exchange the information necessary. We architects are required to provide the contractor with specs and drawings. The contractor is required to provide us with material samples and shop drawings. “However, teamwork and trust do not spring naturally from this model. Instead, the architect and contractor think of each other separately, not as a team. This lack of trust often creates what I call a ‘risk gap’. Instead of sharing information freely, both sides learn that the more information is exchanged, the more the risk is increased. The risk gap is an open space and, naturally, nature abhors a vacuum. So into that gap come construction managers, lawyers, insurance companies, for example. These players do not design or build anything. Instead, they consume our time, effort and money. This traditional organization is broken. “So, we discarded that structure entirely. We still have the same three entities (owner, architect and contractor). Instead of two separate contracts creating one risk gap, we have one contract that binds owner, architect and contractor together. This single contract mandates full sharing of information, risk and reward. This model binds the three together mandating teamwork to accomplish the goal: better building, better prices, better value.” MacLeamy keeps as a motto for both himself and HOK the idea that, “buildings are assembled, not built. “Too often we get trapped by old thinking and old word usage. Take the word building. We naturally think then that we ‘build buildings’. But do we? I don’t think so. I think we assemble buildings. It’s important to improve the process as a value proposition. People need better buildings at more affordable prices. “We know that most buildings don’t work well enough. I challenge the building industry to take the steps necessary to create teams that are collaborators and partners instead of adversaries, and to insert design back into its rightful role as a real problem solving element in the creation of affordable, long lasting buildings for everybody.” ALT THIS PAGE: Sophisticated technology enables the global architectural firm of HOK to foster dynamic, real-time collaboration among multi-office project teams while reducing the firm’s overall environmental footprint. Operating within 14 of HOK’s global offices, “Advanced Collaboration Rooms” (ACRs) combine Cisco’s TelePresence high-resolution, interoperable videoconferencing technology with PolyVision’s Thunder Virtual Flipchart System. The integrated system enables the firm’s project teams worldwide to conduct videoconferencing meetings while designers sketch ideas and collaborate in real time. Participants can display images, videos, documents and live views of computer desktops as part of design charrettes, design reviews, client presentations and project status updates. Using a series of projectors in each ACR, multiple ideas can be displayed at one time, and all meeting notes and documents can be instantly saved, printed and emailed to all participants. All photos courtesy of HOK.
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