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14 July 2017

HOK’s St. Louis Office Hosts Its Biggest, Broadest Internship Class

Design students representing eight schools and four nations are spending their summer helping on client projects and overseeing pro bono work for the Saint Louis Zoo.

They come from Washington University in St. Louis, Maryville University, University of Illinois, Tuskegee University, Kansas State University, University of Pennsylvania, Purdue University and Louisiana State University. Their shared passions include a certain interlocking toy from Denmark and an admiration for cutting edge design. They are HOK in St. Louis’ 2017 interns, and they represent the biggest, most diverse class the studio has hosted in recent memory.

There’s the college football player, the Army veteran who worked on construction projects in Afghanistan and the business architect who left corporate work to pursue her passion for interior design.

“It’s amazing when you meet these interns and discover their varied backgrounds and then see how quickly they’ve gelled as a team—exceeding expectations,” says Charlie Lutz, head of the internship committee for HOK’s St. Louis practice.

And while this year’s class of 11 interns represents many cultures, Lutz says his committee chose each student based on just one: HOK’s.

Interns visit with design principal Eli Hoisington during a weekly coffee talk session.

“At all 23 of our global offices, we’re interested in not only the best and brightest students but also how they’ll fit in with the design culture of each studio,” says Lutz.

Since beginning their internship in late May, the students have worked alongside HOK’s designers on client projects, participated in weekly coffee talks with practice leaders and designed an intern project. This year’s intern project has the students working with the Saint Louis Zoo on conceptual designs for a space that could benefit from a renovation due to aging infrastructure.

Construction on last summer’s internship project, the Catalyst Innovation Lab for the St. Louis Arts & Education Council, is slated to begin this month.

“The Arts & Education Council was so impressed with the concept our interns developed that it greatly expanded the size and presence of the project, moving it from the interior of the building to a larger location on the street front,” says Lutz. “That’s a great example of why I think HOK’s internship program stands out. Not only are our interns integral to the the larger design studio, they also get to lead their own project. They work directly for a client and often see their work become reality.”

For more information on HOK’s paid internship programs across our network of 23 international offices (and how to apply), check out our internship page. Now, meet the 2017 interns of HOK’s St. Louis studio.

Wendy Nghixulifwa
Hometown: Tsumeb, Namibia
School + Pursuit: Maryville University; Bachelor of Interior Design

I became interested in design when I was in my first year of college. I was majoring in economics with the goal of finding solutions for the underprivileged. However, I found that these people often became mere statistics and figures in economics. I wanted to interact with them more, hear their stories and be in a position to positively make a difference in their lives. It was then that I discovered design and the power it has to not just make a space aesthetically pleasing but also impact people’s lives.

My HOK colleagues might be surprised to know that I once lived in New Zealand for three years. That experience inspired me to travel more and made it easier to adapt to societies and cultures that are not my own.

Twenty years from now I hope to be still as passionate about design and never lose the desire to keep learning and discovering what the world has to offer.

Jackie Chen
Hometown: Beijing, China
School + Pursuit: Washington University; Bachelor of Finance (with minor in Architecture)

I first became interested in design when I was living in Beijing. I loved wandering through the old imperial mansions scattered around the city and discovering secret gardens.

My HOK colleagues might be surprised to know that I attended a high school founded and designed by Theodate Pope Riddle, the first woman to become a licensed architect in New York and Connecticut. Her emphasis on education and architectural design influenced me greatly and continues to motivate me every day.

Twenty years from now I hope to be using my knowledge and skill to help build more sustainable and human-centered cities.

Cody Harvey
Hometown: St. Louis, Missouri
School + Pursuit: University of Illinois; Master of Architecture and Structural Engineering

I became interested in design when I received my first Lego set as a child and could build anything that my imagination could dream up.

My HOK colleagues might be surprised to know that, while stationed in Afghanistan with the U.S. Army, I had the opportunity to act as an architect/civil engineer assisting with the design and construction of numerous infrastructure projects. Also, I’m terrified of heights.

Twenty years from now I hope to be able to travel with my family to places around the world that we have never seen.

Fatemeh Shirpour
Hometown: Tehran, Iran
School + Pursuit: Washington University; Master of Architecture

I became interested in architecture when I was 16. After trying to write novels, short stories and playing music to express my dreams, I fell in love with the idea of practicing an art that is much more affected by its audience—a kind of art that has to shape itself based on what its audience demands.

My HOK colleagues might be surprised to know that during my undergraduate schooling I learned a lot of design concepts and principles from studying Iran’s ancient architecture. Today I still refer to these concepts in my design.

Twenty years from now I hope to have enough power and freedom to be able to build my designs.

Ian McNeal
Hometown: Detroit, Michigan
School + Pursuit: Tuskegee University; Bachelor of Architecture

I became interested in design after I read the book “Fallingwater: Frank Lloyd Wright’s Romance with Nature.”

My HOK colleagues might be surprised to know that I played fullback on the Tuskegee football team and that my first design work was with Lincoln Logs and Legos.

Twenty years from now I hope to be in a stronger relationship with God and be a licensed architect with a master’s degree in architecture. 

Hagan Doyle
Hometown: Nashville, Tennessee
School + Pursuit: Louisiana State University; Landscape Architecture

I became interested in design at a young age. My mother is a painter and instilled in me a passion for the arts. With landscape architecture, I’ve found a design field that inspires and challenges me creatively.

My HOK colleagues would be surprised to know that I have an unbelievable obsession with music. Growing up in Nashville, I was immersed in so many genres of music. I find so much joy in stumbling upon new bands and musicians, and I spend a lot of my free time listening to music and seeing it live.

Twenty years from now I hope to sustain the curiosity I have now as a student and propel that into my professional future.

Siyang Lv
Hometown: Xi’an, China
School + Pursuit: University of Pennsylvania; Master of Architecture

I became interested in design while growing up in Xi’an and watching my hometown transform into a modern and culturally significant city under the direction of architect and planner Zhang Jinqiu. Her work demonstrates how architecture can improve society, influence lifestyle and serve the public.

My HOK colleagues might be surprised to know that I have many interests including swimming, travel and cooking—especially cooking.

Twenty years from now I hope to be a project architect with several finished buildings in my portfolio.

Brent Vansoest
Hometown: DeMotte, Indiana
School + Pursuit: Purdue University; Landscape Architecture

I became interested in design because I wanted to be like my dad, a landscape architect.

My HOK colleagues might be surprised to know that I enjoy shark fishing.

Twenty years from now I hope to be leading great design by day and raising a family by night.