A Conversation With HOK’s Stephen Beacham, Director of Design for Interiors in Philadelphia
Stephen Beacham, AIA, IIDA, is the principal and director of design for interiors in HOK’s Philadelphia office. He has more than 30 years of experience as an architect and interior designer. Beacham led the design of HOK’s recently opened Philadelphia office space. In this Q+A, he discusses his design process, the firm’s move to Philadelphia and current projects.
How do you approach the design process?
SB: By nature, I love doing puzzles, conducting research and solving problems. When beginning a new project, I like to get to know the clients and the brand message. I try to relate to our clients personally to better understand their focus and passion. Paying attention to the body language they use to express their thoughts is often more telling that what they are verbalizing.
The most successful projects happen when we interpret the client’s focus and brand to create the three-dimensional expression of a one-dimensional concept.
Talk about the expansion of HOK into Philadelphia.
For years, Philadelphia was regarded as an “in-between” town due to its location between New York City and Washington, DC. In creating an office in Philadelphia, it was important to HOK that the people who worked in this office were already vested in the community. We’re excited about the opportunities this office will bring to the firm.
For the design of the new office space, we are aiming for LEED Silver certification. The reception area, meeting spaces and spacious design studio overlook Logan Square, the Barnes Foundation building, the Academy of Natural Sciences and the Franklin Institute. We hired local artist Isaiah Zagar, whose signature glass mosaic murals appear throughout Philadelphia, to create a stunning 150-square-foot mosaic in the office’s reception area.
Do you have a favorite place in Philadelphia?
Philadelphia is a city of well-defined neighborhoods, with each having its own characteristics, charm and nuances. My wife and I live in a house in Fairmount, which is close to HOK’s office in Logan Square, and really enjoy the neighborhood.
I love that I can get on my bike or walk from South Street all the way to East Falls up the Schuylkill River. There are so many wonderful sites to see, including the natural beauty of Fairmount Park.
What are you working on now?
We’re designing the 500,000-square-foot headquarters for a high-profile media company that is moving into the new Richard Rogers building at 3 World Trade Center in Manhattan. We’re also working on the offices for a financial services firm in Midtown and the workplace master planning and local implementation for a major pharmaceutical company.
What is your advice for young designers?
You are the only one in charge of your career. When I came out of architecture school at Pratt Institute, I knew I wanted to do interiors. I love what I do but not everyone comes out of school with that focus. We all leave design school as general designers. Opportunity, aptitude, focus and, above all, passion determine the rest.