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28 March 2017

Susan Klumpp Williams: Even After 31 Years, “Always a New Challenge Around the Corner”

Susan Klumpp Williams, AIA, LEED AP, juggles several roles at HOK. She is the managing principal of the firm’s Washington, D.C., and Atlanta offices, chair of HOK’s management and managing principals boards, and a member of the firm’s operations committee.

Susan, who joined HOK in 1985, has led a wide variety of projects across the U.S. and overseas.

Here’s some insight into how she manages it all.

I’m currently working on a three million-sq.-ft. mixed-use project in Doha, Qatar. We have been the prime architect for Msheireb Downtown Doha Phase 4 (below) since 2011, so it’s exciting to see the project move into construction.

Msheireb Downtown Doha News

The 74-story ADNOC headquarters (below) in Abu Dhabi is a new supertall building that recently opened and just received LEED Gold certification.

One achievement I’m particularly proud of is the Washington Nationals’ MLB ballpark (below), which opened in 2008 in Washington, D.C. We had the idea to try for LEED certification even though the budget was a fixed guaranteed maximum price. We were thrilled—and a bit surprised, to be honest—to achieve LEED Silver certification. The project became the nation’s first major professional stadium to achieve LEED certification. It was wonderful to see so many people come together to make this happen, including the general contractor, which was a joint venture of Clark/Hunt/Smoot, and all the subcontractors.

Nationals Park_Credit HOK

What I enjoy most about my role is working with great people—both our clients and our incredible staff. I have collaborated with some very talented designers over the past three decades. In many ways, my colleagues have become my second family.

I love how different every day can be, with each one presenting new challenges. Even after working here for nearly thirty-two years, I never know what the day will bring—whether it’s traveling to Doha to deal with a client issue, mentoring a young architect or being interviewed by a journalist. The unpredictability keeps things interesting.

Career advice I would give to young architects would be to never give up. It can be difficult and tedious in the beginning when you are learning about architecture. But if you persevere, it gets infinitely more interesting as time goes on and you pick up more responsibilities.

I always told myself that when my work was no longer challenging, I would leave HOK. That obviously has not happened. There is always another great challenge around the corner and HOK has such a fabulous variety of great clients and great projects. 

DC Consolidated Forensic Laboratory Washington, D.C.

LEED Platinum DC Consolidated Forensic Laboratory

My favorite D.C. activity is riding bikes to the National Mall to visit the wealth of treasures here—the museums. This has become an experience for our whole family to enjoy. My husband and I recently took a ride to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, which was one of the most moving museums I have ever visited.