A Conversation With Tom Polucci, Director of Interiors in HOK’s New York Office
Tom Polucci, AIA, IIDA, LEED GA, director of interiors based in New York, discusses how his colleagues and clients inspire him every day. He also comments on workplace trends and explains how design can support healthier work environments.
As a firm-wide interiors leader, Polucci is a member of HOK’s board of directors and marketing board. He has more than 20 years of experience managing the design of projects for organizations worldwide. Educated, trained and licensed as an architect, Polucci focuses on creating exceptional environments for clients.
What workplace design trends are you seeing? What do you predict for the future?
TP: Collaboration is still key. Everyone is focused on being able to work in a team environment. We see flexibility — the ability to work wherever, whenever — as a continuing trend. Health and wellness in the workplace is much more prominent.
In the future, we’re going to see a greater focus on work-life integration. As Millennials become a larger portion of the work force, office style is going to shift to become more integrated between work and life. The ability to support a variety of work styles will be crucial as technology advances.
How can design enhance health and wellness in the workplace?
Design enhances the health of occupants. We make sure to bring natural light into the work environment, use the right lighting and materials so that people are comfortable, and ensure that we’re creating optimum temperature and comfort levels in the work environment.
Clients are creating custom programs within their organizations to help support healthier working environments. We have one client that hands out pedometers to staff, so we designed all their floors with wall graphics so employees can see how far they’ve walked while completing day-to-day tasks.
We can support this kind of health-oriented thinking through clever design, informative graphics and high-quality materials. Our designs closely align with programs that clients are enacting within their organizations.
Every client has different ways in which they want to measure the validity of a program and it’s our job to understand what those metrics mean for them. Some clients measure email traffic as part of success through collaboration — for them it could be a success if people aren’t communicating via email as much they are working face-to-face. Sales targets might be going up because people are working together more or have better flexibility. Those internal targets are important to our clients’ organizations so it’s crucial to understand what’s important to them.
Describe the ideal design process.
The ideal process is for everyone to understand the design progression and make sure that we’re all moving in sync. We want to work through the design process together with clients so the design becomes a reflection of who they are as an organization. A clear process and direct communication ensure a really fabulous design.
Who or what inspires you?
The team that I work with is my biggest inspiration. They have such interesting passions outside of the creative work we do every day, and I find that inspirational. A senior designer here recently gave a presentation about being a stylist for fashion week. Every season she’s participating in all the runway shows, so to hear her perspective about another area of design was fascinating.
What are you working on now?
We’re collaborating with a large international law firm on their headquarters here in New York. It has been interesting to get to know them and to move them from the space they built in the ‘80s to an environment with a 21st-century feeling. We needed to design a space that is going to be flexible today but also serve them well into the future. In New York City, many organizations sign long-term leases, so spaces must accommodate tenants for 15-20 years. We need to give them a “kit of parts” to allow for flexibility over time without having to reconstruct. That can be a different idea for a law firm to embrace.
We just began a new project for a pharmaceutical company based in New Jersey. We’ve had the good fortune of completing their workplace guideline so now we actually get to design one of the first projects using those guidelines. It’s exciting to see that come together.
We continue to work with Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield to transform their workplace. We took them from large perimeter offices to small internal offices, moving to a workstation footprint that serves the entire workforce. The team has created touchdown environments so the mobile workforce has a chance to touch down on the floors, and we’ve created more social and collaborative spaces. It has been a complete transformation of their office environment.
Tell me about the addition of BBG-BBGM’s people and HOK’s newly expanded Hospitality practice.
A large percentage of the Hospitality practice will be located with the rest of our interior design team. It has been exciting to get to know the team and see the intersections as we bring everyone together. The level of creativity and design that our hospitality group now provides is helping us come up with solutions that benefit our clients in new ways.
I’m enthusiastic about the elevation of design. The materiality and thoughtfulness in which the new team members design and document a project is interesting and very different than what we’ve been doing in corporate and commercial work. I just visited the Marriott Marquis Washington, DC and was impressed that we’re a part of something that significant and important to that city.
The opportunity for our teams to learn from each other is tremendous. That’s what excites me the most.