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Hunvey Chen: Architect Applies Lessons From Hockey Rink to HOK

Hunvey Chen

Hunvey Chen, AIA, remembers her mom discouraging her from playing hockey as a child. Still, she never stopped dreaming about the game.

Decades later, at the age of 34, Chen learned that her hometown team — the Los Angeles Kings — was offering a hockey clinic for fans. She signed up for her first-ever lessons. Now Chen, a project architect in HOK’s Los Angeles studio, plays a few times a week in two hockey leagues and recently starred in a PowerBar video about inspirational athletes.

Here’s the rest of Chen’s story — about how her passion for hockey translates to her passion for design and her team in HOK’s Healthcare practice. But first, what about this mother of hers?

It’s funny. My mom saw the video and she doesn’t remember ever telling me I couldn’t play hockey. Classic mom move! In her defense, at the time (1980s Southern California), there wasn’t a lot of information out there about hockey.

My parents were always supportive of me becoming an architect. My dad was a real estate broker and then an independent general contractor. I loved going to see houses and job sites with him. No one ever said I couldn’t be an architect because I was a girl.

Recent HOK projects I’m most proud of include the Scripps Prebys Cardiovascular Institute in La Jolla and its subsequent emergency department. I’m really proud of the projects because we had a great partnership with the client and the contractor. The design and construction process was fun and the users were thrilled with the end result. Not all projects come together quite so smoothly.

You absolutely cannot play hockey by yourself.  It’s truly a team sport—you have to learn how to play with your teammates and communicate on the ice. It’s the same way with the Healthcare projects I work on at HOK. It takes a lot of people to design a hospital. You have team members within the office as well as the design consultants, construction partners and clients. No one ever said I couldn’t be an architect because I was a girl.

Hockey also taught me to never give up, no matter how challenging the game is or how much your team is behind. Sometimes working on tough, complicated design projects is like that. Setting small goals (“Let’s score one this period!”) keeps you moving forward.

The Cedars-Sinai Advanced Health Sciences Pavilion in Los Angeles was a challenging yet rewarding project to design. It’s a beautiful outpatient building, which was complex because it houses diverse functions including clinical, diagnostic and research floors. We had a large internal team (more than 30 people at our annex office) and nearly 30 consultant disciplines, so it took a lot of teamwork to accomplish.

Someone recently asked me to describe a great day at HOK. Healthcare projects can take years, and when you see how successfully they can transform a community you remember why you love working on them. Some of my best days at HOK occur when we complete a project and we get feedback from the doctors, nurses and patients about how much they love the building and space. Oh, and days my hockey team wins are pretty great, too!

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