Session 4: Social Responsibility & Community Leadership

Date: January 13, 2017
Location: Make Offices
Time: 12:00 pm – 5:00pm
Led By: Josef Fuentas,  AIA and Matthew Vargas, AIA

Session 4 PDF


Joe Fuentes and Matt Vargas coordinated Session 4, which was hosted at the newly-opened co-working space, MakeOffices, in downtown Washington, DC. The session consisted of opening remarks by DesignForce, followed by a presentation by Citizen HKS, an interactive session by OpenIDEO DC, a tour of the MakeOffices space, and a presentation by buildingcommunityWORKSHOP. The overall theme of the session focused on teaching and inspiring the scholars to think about the design process and how it can be used for social impact – above and beyond the “typical” architecture of residential, commercial, and institutional design.


The session began with a short presentation by Ahmed Kurtom, who briefly described his company, DesignForce, which is an executive placement agency, as well as a workforce solutions consultancy. His most memorable piece of advice to the participants was to, “Apply your knowledge; don’t just store it away.”

Sheila Ruder and Amber Wirth, architects with HKS Inc., started their presentation with a collaborative exercise using a map of the District of Columbia and its immediate surroundings. Participants were instructed to add two pins to the map: a blue pin to represent one’s place of work, and; a red pin designating where one lives. Each pin had a piece of circular translucent plastic with two concentric circles, representing a primary “sphere of influence” and a secondary “sphere of influence.”


The main goal of this exercise was to start thinking of our broader community and how we can impact it in a positive manner. Afterwards, Sheila and Amber outlined HKS’s public interest design initiative, which is called “Citizen HKS.”  As the non-profit arm of HKS, Citizen HKS began by providing professional design services to social and community projects, but has since expanded to include fundraising and volunteering efforts through a program called the “Global Month of Service.”  Citizen HKS appears to have been a very successful spin-off of the architecture firm in that staff members commit many additional hours of their personal time to the design of these projects and volunteer efforts.

Facilitators from OpenIDEO (the social impact spinoff of IDEO, an international design and consulting firm), Tina Grassi and Ana Bello, next lead an interactive session during which scholars were taught the “Human Centered Design” process. It is a step-by-step problem-solving methodology that can be implemented in a variety of timeframes – from a 90-minute session (which was implemented for this session), to a five-day seminar. The process was developed by IDEO and is currently taught at Stanford University in their “”


The “” process entails five steps: empathize; define; ideate; prototype, and; test. The class’ 90 minute “mission” was to “Redesign the TRANSIT STOP EXPERIENCE … for your partner.” We worked in pairs, going through various timed exercises that were entitled:

  1. Interview;
  2. Dig Deeper;
  3. Capture Findings;
  4. Define Problem Statement;
  5. Sketch at least 5 radical ways to meet your user’s needs.;
  6. Share your solutions & capture feedback;
  7. Reflect & generate a new solution;
  8. Build your solution, and;
  9. Share your solution and get feedback.

The solutions varied from the whimsical (like the use of a flying pony) to radical design solutions, such as creating an alternative bike lane within the metro subway tunnels.


Following this exercise, the class was led on a tour of the MakeOffices, ending with a break in their lounge, where free drinks, coffee, and tea are available to members.

The last speaker was Omar Hakeem, of the Washington, DC, office of buildingcommunityWORKSHOP. Omar introduced himself and described how his career path changed to include projects that are more socially oriented, including the design and implementation of community spaces in the very depressed city of Brownsville, Texas. He challenged the participants to think about one’s engagement within one’s own community as well as in other communities, how to implement designs that are impactful, and to be aware of one’s own biases when designing for others.

In order to counteract any biases, Omar presented a process of “LISTEN – CONFIRM – ACT.”  During the “listening” phase, the needs of a community are gathered.  Next, the design solution is created and “confirmed,” and finally implemented during the “acting” phase. He also encouraged the participants to think about using the design process to solve not just spatial issues, but policy issues as well.


Overall, the session was a solid overview of three different methodologies for implementing social responsibility and community leadership. The first presentation by Citizen HKS was an example of how a large corporation can successfully integrate a social impact effort within a traditional business model. OpenIDEO’s interactive session was enlightening in that it showed how the human-centered design process – which is a more structured version of the architectural design charrette – can be used to solve social and community issues. Finally, Omar Hakeem’s presentation brought the session to a close, melding ideas that were introduced throughout the afternoon. He described how a small architecture firm, like his buildingcommunityWORKSHOP, can successfully take on socially responsible efforts and use the design process to solve larger socio-cultural issues.



Session 3: The Art of Negotiation & Contractual Pitfalls

Date: December 2, 2016
Location: AIA National
Time: 12:00 pm – 5:00pm
Led by: Lucy Moore, AIA and Constance Lai, AIA, NCARB, LEED BD+C CQM-C

Session 3 PDF


The third session is focused on the art of negotiation and contractual pitfalls. It was organized by Lucy Moore and Constance Lai at the AIA National Headquarter, Washington, D.C. The session included three presentations by Mike Koger, Kirsten Kulis, and Leslie Mulligan respectively.


During lunch, Price Modern introduced the firm’s practice and products to the group on how they transform the way people think, collaborate and perform by creating modern office designs for smarter, happier and more productive work environments.


Mike Koger started his presentation with how to limit architect’s potential liability. He discussed some basic approaches such as being selective in accepting clients and incorporating limitation of liability clause in the contract, etc. After that, he emphasized on the concept of indemnity and its impact on architect’s everyday practice. The group was intrigued by the profoundly different legal implications depends on the way indemnity clauses are worded in the contract. Mike’s case studies were very helpful for the audience to understand the concept better. He then presented other negotiation strategies for architect’s benefits such as how to use the ownership of intellectual property to help getting paid, and how architects could use the standard of care to protect themselves from unreasonable claims. At the same time, overstating a firm’s performance in marketing material could be harmful to the company in dispute, even though it is not hard evidence.


Following that, Kirsten Kulis, who is a GSA Liaison, did a presentation on Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (NPHA). She first gave a general introduction to the NPHA and ACHP (Advisory Council on Historic Preservation), including its related programs and organizations. She then broke down Section 106 to a step by step process, including initiating the process, identifying historic properties, assessing adverse effects and resolving adverse effects. Each of the four phases is later discussed in detail with the group, followed by several case studies, including the old post office project in Washington D.C. Kirsten mentioned that bringing sketches and alternatives in back pockets is beneficial for the architects to help prevent deadlock conditions during the negotiation process. It helps people to reach consensus more quickly during the meeting.

Lastly, Leslie Mulligan from Watershed Associates was focused on negotiation skills. She
started her presentation with an image of two acrobats, making the point that negotiation
happens with movement. The difference between persuasion and negotiation is that persuasion is one-way movement, however, negotiation is all about offering different alternatives depends on the interaction. She discussed on how to push for dialogue that could discover the real need instead of the position held by people, as there could be a difference between what people want versus what people say what they want. During her presentation, there was a mini-activity when the group was divided into pairs of two to discuss what they have in common quickly. To find out as many shared things, the group experienced the fact that building a relationship through small talk could get people more comfortable in negotiating. After that, Leslie discussed the different types of negotiation such as those which are more outcome oriented, such as buying a car, or those which are more relationship oriented, such as deciding which movie to see with a family member. She underlined that people should use different negotiation methods depend on the actual scenario.


Session 3 gave the scholars an excellent overview of negotiations and contractual issues in the architecture industry. Mike Koger’s presentation covered typical tips and mistakes to avoid. Case studies are very helpful to illustrate abstract legal terms that are unfamiliar to architects. Kirsten Kulis was more specific in historic preservation while Leslie Mulligan included a comprehensive on people’s negotiation skills. Many speakers mentioned the importance of offering different alternatives and bringing options to the table. The presentations and discussed were stimulating and inspiring for young architects to learn to do work in a financially sounder and less risky way.

Session 2: Professional Practice

Date: November 4, 2016
Location: Herman Miller Washington DC
Time: 12:00 pm – 5:00pm
Led by: Albert Hopper, AIA, LEED AP and Yanwen Xiao, AIA, NCARB

Session 2 PDF


Albert Hopper and Yanwen Xiao organized Session 2, held at the Herman Miller Showroom.  The session consisted of multiple presentations and discussions focusing on the legal and financial considerations of entrepreneurship and partnership, firm start-up experiences and firm management.  The team augmented speakers’ presentations with video clips and an interactive group activity.


During lunch, Herman Miller staff discussed new research on the power of space to create adaptive environments within the healthcare industry that are better for patients and for business.  Following this introduction, the group watched a short video featuring Michael Murphy of MASS Design Group. During the TED Talk, Michael discussed his early career inspirations. These inspirations ultimately led him to become a founding member of the MASS Design Group, which has a philosophy centering on the notion that “Design Can Heal.”

After the video, participants interacted with three local architects who discussed their experiences founding their own firms. Greg Kearley, founder of Inscape Studio and Inscape Publico, discussed the vision and mission that led him to create his firm as well as Inscape Publico – a nonprofit architecture firm that provides professional architecture services for other nonprofits and the people they serve. Carmel Greer, founder of District Design, discussed the challenges she faced starting her own architecture firm in 2010 and how she has grown professionally over the past 6 years. Mark Lawrence, cofounder of El Studio, discussed the founding of the firm and balancing those responsibilities with teaching in academia. Together, these speakers reflected on the lessons that they learned while starting their own firm and discussed the sacrifices and practicalities of being an entrepreneur.

Matt Gaziano, attorney at Lee & McShane PC, built on the panel discussion by reviewing many of the legal and financial considerations architects face when taking an equity stake in a firm or starting out on their own.  Matt provided a framework for evaluating a contract when offered equity in an existing firm, focusing specifically on: due diligence; bylaws; governance; valuation of a firm, and; non-compete agreements. Matt also reviewed the basics of starting an architectural firm including: corporation; licensure; professional liability insurance, and; governance.


Switching gears, the scholars split into three groups for a breakout session exploring motivational misconceptions.  Each group was presented with a hypothetical situation around two different types of management styles. Scholars were asked to discuss and select the type of management style that would motivate the most people to produce a desired outcome. The questions were derived from social science research on how people are motivated. The group watched A TED Talk video by Daniel Pink that challenged many preconceived notions of how people are motivated. Daniel Pink concludes in this presentation that the best way to motivate people is through utilizing intrinsic motivational techniques that promote autonomy, mastery and purpose instead of financial incentives.


Yolanda Cole, founding Partner of Hickok Cole Architects joined the session as the keynote speaker. Yolanda discussed her career path and the decisions she made that lead to co-founding Hickok Cole. She discussed marketing, innovation, business development and how the firm continues to evolve through internal programs such as ILAB which promotes innovation by offering staff the opportunity explore passion projects during their office time.


Session 2 provided participants with an understanding of the challenges architects face when starting their own firm and different ways to overcome obstacles and build successful and fulfilling businesses. Many speakers noted the importance of strategic marketing and networking to help grow a business. The session provided an overview of the legal, financial and jurisdictional requirements for starting a firm. The speakers, breakout session, and videos also explored the challenges of being responsible to employees for more than a paycheck and fulfilling a desire to create forward thinking and socially engaged practices.


Date: October 14, 2016
Location: WeWork Manhattan Laundry
Time: 12:00 pm – 5:00 pm
Led by: Amy Vetal, AICP, LEED AP and Jennie Gwin, AIA

Session 1 PDF


Jennie Gwin and Amy Vetal organized Session #1, Working Together. The session explored how work culture can enhance opportunities for forming and strengthening organic collaboration. Clarke Consulting donated consulting services for the session and WeWork provided the venue at their newly opened Manhattan Laundry location.

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After lunch Cristina Crespo, Latin America Regional Design Lead for WeWork, presented “Changing Work Patterns in the 21st Century.”  Six years ago WeWork was founded as a company “to create a world where people work to make a life, not just a living”.  Today WeWork has 70,000 members in 110 locations in38 cities.  Creating a high design workspace, attractive to creative professionals, providing business services, and building relationships within each location has driven this rapid growth.  Ms. Crespo noted that the physical product of a WeWork location is a synthesis of understanding the programing/user mix, technology, how users inhabit the space in real time, and location/local customs.  Each location has a signature “design intensive moment” to give a sense of place.  Ms. Crespo presented images of the newly opened WeWork Mexico City location.  Furnishings in this location are representative of Mexican design and rely on the work of local artists and artisans as well as members of the WeWork community.  After the presentation scholars toured the Manhattan Laundry location.

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Following the tour Cable Clarke of Clarke Consulting presented “Personal Development: Understanding Thinking Styles”.  Prior to the session scholars completed the Life Styles Inventory (LSI) to gain insights into the ways they interact with others. The LSI is formed of twelve different sectors: four aggressive-defensive, four passive-defensive, and four constructive behaviors. Mr. Cable presented a number of organizations and outlined public perception versus internal corporate leadership cultures based on the LSI.  The scholars then went on to create help wanted ads based on passive and aggressive behaviors prior to individual LSI results being revealed. The ideal profile, where aggressive and passive responses are minimized, was discussed as well as how to interpret individual results and affect change to improve behaviors.  Mr. Clarke noted that the next steps to improving constructive behaviors are awareness, acceptance, and action. Literature for further study of LSI results was provided.

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The afternoon’s presentations ended with a discussion of collaboration in the design and building industry.  The panel, composed of Hanny Hassan, FAIA, Director of Beyer, Blinder, Belle’s DC office, Brenda Sanchez, FAIA LEED AP, a Senior Architect for the Smithsonian Institution, and Tom Whitmore, Director of Operations for the Historic Preservation Group at The Christman Company was moderated by Ms. Vetal and Ms. Gwin and focused on how to build successful collaborative relationships between contractors, clients, and architects.   The discussion centered on questions posed by the scholars earlier in the week.  Panelists provided examples of bringing stakeholders into the project at the earliest possible stages for the best results, including one instance of two contractors being involved in pre-design meetings for a competitively bid project.  While this was a challenging working relationship, more input yielded a better project. Teams where everyone has worked together and bring a familiarity with the project as well has their own internal dynamics were felt to be highly effective.  Mr. Hassan noted: “It’s easier to have a high level of collaboration when you get together on your second date”.  As a leadership team we should adopt an “our project” rather than a “my project” mentality.

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At the end of an engaging kick-off to the 2016/2017 Christopher Kelly Leadership Development Program, scholars came away with a stronger understanding of dynamic work environments that breed collaboration and community, their own strengths and weaknesses and how to better their lesser traits, and the benefits and challenges of working together as a team.  The group retired to Marvin and continued the discussion over rooftop drinks on a beautiful fall evening.