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Our Atlanta Office was awarded the Better Together Award in December at the holiday gathering in Dallas. Over the past year, our office has undergone a tremendous transformation affecting everything from office culture to design excellence. Following are the key attributes highlighting why our Atlanta office received this award:

Atlanta Office Culture – We have a Cultivate | Challenge | Cheer initiative. We intentionally cultivate relationships, challenge potential and cheer each other through work and play.

  • People: We have been highlighting talent by giving them a platform to shine as they present their projects/ hobbies in an open forum during lunch time. We celebrate personal and professional milestones! Through the DiSC training, we are aware of our diverse personalities and have been training to leverage our differences.
  • Process: We have included play and team building initiatives to not only inform our design methodologies, but to also help improve clarity while solving challenges. We are building camaraderie by frequent huddles and by sharing meals.
  • Projects: We have increased pin-up displays of works in progress to showcase the different approaches to design. We extensively use mock-ups, tactical urbanism and virtual reality to communicate design intent.
  • Power: We celebrate each one’s strengths and have identified multiple champions for different efforts like lean design, design awards, software boot camps, etc., thus imparting a sense of ownership and increased stewardship within the office.
Together, we have flourished within this culture, expanding into a 60-person office filled with energy, passion, commitment and comradery.

Above all, our growth and passion is rooted in the values of HKS. This is exemplified through our strong “One Firm” culture as well as our participation in firmwide initiatives such the 2030 Challenge, CitizenHKS through volunteering and participating in the design competition for the Balch Springs Food Pantry, North Texas (We won 2nd place!).

Finally, we actively promote collaboration across regions and sectors. We recognize and appreciate the value of sharing knowledge and expertise throughout our firm. Additionally, we have heightened our focus on professional development, financial performance and profitability. Our goal is to strengthen our culture, drawing upon the talent and resources of our Atlanta team with the priority of strengthening the HKS brand.



By: Barbara Blum

A recent client-directed trend in marketing pursuits is to engage with the client in a worksession setting. We have enjoyed a lot of success in this setting as it provides an opportunity to let our personalities shine, get to know our clients on a more personal basis and really let us dig into the client’s vision and goals.

Following are some of the principles that drove the success of our recent Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Druid Hills Campus pursuit.

  1. Get to know your client: In this case, it was easy to get to know the client – we already knew them! We’ve been working with Children’s since the Atlanta office was established more than 16 years ago. Key to this is making sure you never take your clients for granted. Loyalty must be earned – and these days it is harder than ever to keep.
  2. Really get in your client’s head: You know your client. However, the challenge to having a strong, existing relationship with the client during an open marketing pursuit is ensuring that you don’t assume that you’ll be highly ranked just because of your current experience. One method we used to overcome the comfort and assumptions of what we know about Children’s is through an online visioning survey.
  3. Focus on What the Client is Asking For (don’t get distracted): Additionally, you need to listen – really listen – for what the client is challenging us to do. It can be challenging as architects and problem solvers to remain focused on what your client is asking for versus what you think they should be asking.
  4. It’s all about Preparation and Rehearsal: It is critical to be well-prepared and rehearse, to officiate a smooth and productive worksession. I know it seems hard to rehearse something that will involve open dialogue, but it is important to make sure you are hitting on key points, adjusting for timing and understanding the flow.
  5. Be Organized: Treat the preparation process like a project itself with regularly scheduled meetings, action items (homework) and notes to share.
  6. Be Collaborative: It’s important to value each other’s opinions. Our worksession preparation meetings were multi-disciplinary to make sure we were capturing the most creative and powerful ideas.
  7. Be Open and Flexible: Things change. You need to be flexible to adapt to changes. Yet at the same time, you also need to…..
  8. Stay on the Path: This is critical in respect for everyone’s time and to remain focused on the prize. It is important to not be disruptive and make major organizational changes during the worksession preparation process – or to your team’s work efforts!
  9. Focus on Maintaining Engagement: A worksession is a fine choreography of making sure we have a schedule that facilities a meaningful dialogue, enables both the client and the architect to learn about each other, and has a balance of hands on activities.
  10. Develop a Theme: There’s an old presentation adage that goes: (1) Say what you are going to say; (2) Say it; (3) Reinforce what you just said. It’s a reminder that simple and structured is the most effective. Repetition helps with recognition, comfort/orientation, and familiarity.
  11. Materials and Props: There is a fine line between having tools to facilitate discussion before it becomes too bulky or even cutesy. We worked hard to make sure we didn’t have too many distractions. During the perspectives activity, we had everyone discuss the perspective they bring to this project as professionals. After we had them each pick up a pair of glasses, representing the different perspectives of the Druid Hills Campus users – from patients to ambulance drivers – this served as a tool to reinforce our “lenses” team and provide a place for imagination and visioning as we thought about this project through many lenses.


Once again the holiday white elephant was a lunch full of laughter and fun! Some of the best gifts this year include:

  • Spam - made it's full loop back to Travis who started the tradition!
  • Coal - which was surprisingly pretty popular
  • Plunger-Tree
  • Pink Keychains - will look great on Mark for the holiday season
  • Toilet Golf
  • A rat trap - with a gift card inside (surprise!)


Thank you to Ginny Nicholson for planning and organizing HKS's participation in this year's Gingertown hosted by Specialty Tile Products Inc. The team was sponsored by Debbie Parsons with Spartan Surfaces to build Snyder's Shard (the gingerbread version of the London Shard). Proceeds from the event support the Lifecycle Building Center and Covenant House of Georgia. http://gingertown.org/location/atlanta/#sponsorships



Looks like we aren't the only office out there with a newsletter! Congrats to the Piedmont team for being featured in Piedmont Hospital's November Issue of Progress Notes.

Seeing designs come to reality is always rewarding no matter how big or small. Congratulations to the FEEK-Out team on the realization of your chair!

Shout-out to the Georgia State Classroom Addition team! All your hard work has payed off as construction begins. The fence is up and our name is even on the sign!

“The best way to predict the future is to design it.” - Buckminister Fuller

We would love to hear your NEWS! Please send pictures, questions, comments and ideas to Taylor Heim or Emilie Lindberg to contribute!

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