interior of building designed by HKS with a bar and gold honeycomb backsplash

HKS Elevates Design through Bespoke Research

Part of the Leading Edge series, HKS supports its clients in looking beyond benchmarks to create breakthrough solutions through a collaborative, investigative approach.


What makes an architecture and design practice unique? How do firms and offices develop areas of expertise, deep insights, and passion projects? For the Leading Edge series, Metropolis editor in chief Avinash Rajagopal sat down with 20 firms in 2023, speaking to practitioners about what distinguishes their work. Here are 11 architecture and design leaders on what gives them their edge. Watch the full series on DesignTV by SANDOW.

Information and insight drive design at HKS. Through a collaborative, investigative approach, the firm supports its clients in looking beyond benchmarks to create breakthrough solutions. HKS principal, global practice director of venues interiors Meena Krenek and partner, global practice director of commercial interiors, Kate Davis share the importance of bespoke research to elevate design.

interior of building by HKS with two people sitting on yellow couches

HKS Dives Deep Into Information and Insight

“Our clients look at us as true partners and consultants. We’ve spent a great deal of time workshopping with our clients, really diving deep and thinking about space quite differently than we’ve ever done before. The work is not as specific as we’ve seen in the past. It’s not always a workplace project or a health care project. There’s this incredible blurriness. We’ve really leaned into that as a consortium of practitioners: How can we come together and invest internally in our relationships to trust each other and really to build?

We are big believers of art and science coming together. One thing we keep hearing from our clients, is that nobody knows what they’re doing. Our director of research is fond of saying we’re living in an experiment. Pre-pandemic, we and our clients relied a lot on benchmarks, which never really told the whole story, but it was a way of managing risk. Now, we’re working with clients around the future, and it’s incredibly personal and bespoke to individual organizations.

Taking a Different Approach to Create Breakthrough Solutions

One thing that makes our research different is the people on our team. They are true academic researchers, not just architects and designers who like to use Google. There’s an ego looseness that exists within us to be able to take this research point of view, and to be able to partner with a client and say: ‘Nobody has the answers right now, but let’s roll up our sleeves and figure them out.’ Research is also incredibly accessible within our firm. Our research incubator program is open to everyone; anyone who has a good idea can pitch it. So the ideas are coming from the people doing the work for our clients, not from someone incredibly disconnected.

We are so fortunate to have clients that truly trust us. We become their partner in the process. They feel our passion. We’re keen listeners. Our clients are eager to test forward-thinking ideas because they believe in our design firm. That says a lot about our power of influence; and we want to be able to use design as a tool to elevate their business, to take a consumer to a new place. Every place has a story, and as we design, we help tell it. Our work enlivens communities, energizes the users and consumers, and respects and protects our planet.

Our interiors practice in health, education, corporate, venues, and hospitality continues to redefine type, thoughtfully apply science, influence market, inspire awe, and collaborate to positively transforming our clients’ organizations through the built environment. Our strategic thinking and bespoke mindset builds on behavior-focus systems, and values the embrace of the whole-person.”

Meena Krenek is the principal, global practice director of venues interiors of HKS, and Kate Davis is the partner, global practice director of commercial interiors of HKS.

The Leading Edge

This story is part of the Leading Edge Metropolis partnership series that examines what sets apart architecture and design practices. Explore the core values and new initiatives of industry innovators across disciplines. 

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