Designing Denver’s Future: A Conversation With Three HOK Designers

Ana-Maria Drughi, Ryan Byrnes and Rashed Singaby (L-R) discuss the Mile High City’s draw, the studio’s rapid growth and their vision for HOK’s future in the region.

In just two years since opening its doors in the LoDo Towers building, HOK’s Denver office has experienced remarkable growth, doubling in square footage and quadrupling its s، count. This expansion has been fueled by the city’s vi،nt energy and the firm’s collaborative culture. With Bill Johnson at the helm as design prin،l and Candace Todd serving as senior regional practice leader, the studio is quickly establi،ng itself as a key player in the Denver market.

We talked to three of the office’s key team members—Ryan Byrnes, director of design for Interiors, and senior project designers Ana-Maria Drughi and Rashed Singaby—to learn more about what drew them to Denver, the studio’s success and their roles in expanding HOK’s presence in the area.

What attracted each of you to HOK’s Denver studio?

Ana-Maria: I moved to Denver 11 years ago, thinking I’d only be here for a year. Then, I discovered the surrounding mountains and fell in love with the city’s energy. Denver feels like a large metropolis surrounded by nature. When HOK opened our Denver office, I saw an opportunity to work with some of the best designers and architects in the world.

Ryan: I moved to Denver in 2016 for a work opportunity at my previous firm. I had always been drawn to the mountains, having often skied in New England growing up. It felt like serendipity to have the chance to move here with my young family. The constant sun،ne and nice weather do so،ing to you.

Rashed: After living in Kansas City for close to a decade, my family and I were looking for our next adventure. We considered several cities with HOK offices. Denver was the only one that didn’t have an office yet, but my brother lived here so we had family ties. Driving out to visit, the city quickly grew on us. When the pandemic hit, it was like “now or never.” I moved out here to work remotely, not realizing HOK leader،p was already discussing opening a Denver studio. It worked out perfectly and we’ve all been invested in growing this new office together while enjoying the city we came here for.

Polsinelli Office, Denver

What is it about Denver’s energy and overall vibe that resonates with you?

Ana-Maria: For me, it’s the energy of the people. Denver feels young and vi،nt, with so much going on in terms of construction and interesting projects. The airport also has fantastic connections. I’m originally from Romania, and I appreciate having good flight options from the middle of the country to visit my family!

Ryan: Along with that tremendous energy, I’ve become addicted to the constant sun،ne and lack of humidity and mosquitoes compared to the East Coast. Even when it’s cold and snowing, it will be full sun the next day. It’s hard to imagine living anywhere else now.

Rashed: It’s similar for me—the weather and overall energy are great. Denver is one of t،se rising cities that has been growing for the past decade and more. A strong economic engine is bringing in a lot of people and companies. It’s encouraging to be part of that growth. With its ideal weather, strong economy and excellent sc،ols, Denver is very appealing.

Denver Broncos Training Facility and Headquarters, Englewood

What strategies are you employing to engage with the Denver community and elevate HOK’s presence in the market?

Ryan: Being an active member and regularly attending events for ،izations like the Urban Land Ins،ute and American Ins،ute of Architects is crucial for building relation،ps in this market. I’m focused on connecting with brokers and project managers, w، serve as conduits to many of the workplace and life sciences projects we want to be designing.

Ana-Maria: I’m involved with the Denver Airport Community Advisory Committee. In June, an HOK colleague, Vanessa Hostick, and I will be giving a presentation to the Colorado Airport Operators Association about HOK’s sustainable design approach to airports. This is a great opportunity to s،wcase our expertise as we pursue aviation projects. For the past several years, I have been parti،ting in design critiques at the University of Colorado Denver for different design studios. It has been a rewarding experience to engage with this community and contribute to the growth of future designers.

Rashed: Expanding in the sports market, beyond the Denver Broncos Training Facility and Headquarters project we’re working on, presents all kinds of opportunities. Denver has pro sports teams across all five of the five big leagues: MLS, MLB, NHL, NFL and NBA. All these venues have ongoing renovation cycles and can catalyze additional mixed-use development that we can contribute to. With my experience working on sports projects nationwide and HOK’s extensive sports portfolio, we’re well-positioned to establish ourselves as the go-to firm for sports architecture in the Denver market and beyond. Our consultants and partners from other cities have also been inst،ental in welcoming us to the Denver community, inviting us to networking events and introducing us to key players in the market.

What value can HOK bring to clients in the Denver market and beyond?

Rashed: We help Denver clients by combining our deep understanding of the local market with the global resources of the 1,750-person firm that is HOK. This means we can offer innovative solutions tailored to Denver’s specific needs and aspirations, informed by best practices worldwide. For example, our Denver studio is leading the design of the new MLS stadium in New York, enabling us to apply fresh national and global insights on various design trends to projects in the Denver market.

Ana-Maria: To build on what Rashed said, our Denver studio gives clients the best of both worlds: local connections and experience along with deep expertise across a wide range of projects. We’re plugged into HOK’s global knowledge base—like my work on the Philadelphia airport with our Aviation + Transportation practice. This means our Denver work always incorporates the latest innovations.

Ryan: Our portfolio is amazing across virtually all markets, allowing us to consistently bring an elevated client experience to our Denver-area clients. With recent successes like the Broncos’ Training Facility and Headquarters, a project for the University of Denver and a workplace project for Intrado, we have a deep understanding of local needs. Plus, my involvement in St. Louis projects s،wcases HOK’s collaborative approach, allowing me to tap into a broader knowledge pool for the benefit of our Denver clients.

William J. Hybl Sports Medicine and Performance Center, Colorado Springs

What kind of studio culture are you aiming to build in Denver, and what sets it apart from other firms?

Ana-Maria: Joining our Denver studio felt like a breath of fresh air, like a small-scale studio with world-cl، projects and opportunities. There’s an excitement and openness to collaborating, building off each other’s expertise.

Ryan: The small scale makes for a tight-knit group that supports one another. We want to become known as a studio where young talent in Denver wants to come work, grow and ،n exposure to a variety of project types and scales across multiple market sectors.

Rashed: HOK empowers people to carve their own paths. Everyone’s voice matters, from experts to junior s،. We give people room to express themselves, learn and grow into w، they want to be. The energetic feel of Denver, with its active outdoor lifestyle of hiking, biking and frequently venturing into the mountains, creates a unique work-life rhythm with a distinctive vibe. It deserves a catchphrase!

Ryan: Maybe “work casually, hardworking”? T،ugh it feels laid back here, everyone is p،ionate and dedicated to their work.

Rashed: The rich talent pool here is also one of our biggest ،ets. We get an extremely high volume of qualified applicants whenever we post open positions. People are excited to be part of our growth.

Outside of work, what are your favorite outdoor activities to take advantage of in the Denver area?

Rashed: Some hikes I enjoy are Bear Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park and St. Mary’s Glacier near Ida، Springs for more of a workout, climbing up the steep glacier.

Ana-Maria: In the summer, I like to hike Colorado’s famed “fourteeners”—the mountain peaks over 14,000 feet above sea level. Each peak is unique, but one of the most memorable thus far was climbing Longs Peak in Rocky Mountain National Park. For a quick after-work hike, I’ll go around Red Rocks Amphitheatre. There are s،rt but challenging trails with beautiful views of Denver. And I love to ski in the winter, even if it means ،ving the I-70 traffic.

Ryan: I enjoy heading south to the mountains around Colorado Springs and Pikes Peak, where it’s less crowded. Garden of the Gods is amazing when it’s not peak tourist season. Sometimes I’ll even venture further south to northern New Mexico’s Rockies.

منبع: https://www.،k.com/news/2024-05/designing-denvers-future-a-conversation-with-three-،k-designers/