This March, global firm HOK announced significant changes to the management of its interiors practice: HOK senior principal Juliette Lam now holds a strategy and leadership role for the firm’s worldwide interiors practice, while Thomas D. Polucci, AIA, IIDA, LEED GA, group vice president and design director for HOK Chicago, assumed leadership of the HOK New York Interiors practice. The two designers, who both now are based in HOK New York’s new showcase office space, took a few moments with Contract magazine to divulge their goals for the firm, their history of success, and some inspirational words.
1. Congrats on your recent appointment! What are your goals for your new position?
Lam: We want to expand HOK’s interiors practice worldwide through investment in key leadership talent and are striving for greater consistency in how we deliver design services to clients from location to location. We have a reputation for thought leadership in a number of arenas, and we want to continue to build on our unique client offering.
Polucci: Thank you! This is an incredible opportunity, and I am looking forward to working with my colleagues and getting to know more folks in our industry as I settle into life in New York. My focus as director of interiors will be on working with corporate clients and bringing my experience working with other HOK offices to bear on our business relationships.
2. What first brought you to HOK?
Lam: I was running the New York office of Neville Lewis Associates, and HOK acquired the office. While it was a big change at first, it became a marvelous opportunity for me to grow.
Polucci: I started at HOK in the St. Louis office in 1997. I had worked for several smaller firms after getting my Master’s degree in Architecture from the Washington University School of Architecture; however, an internship at Ellerbe Becket really stuck with me. I knew I liked a larger multidisciplinary practice, and I enjoyed the intimacy of really getting to know a client when working on projects with an interiors focus. I applied for a position within Interiors, and I started on the ride of a lifetime.
3. How did you end up where you are today (i.e. what was your big break)?
Lam: The most singular event was being named Designer of the Year by Interiors (now Contract) magazine in 2003.
4. What do you feel has been your greatest success to date?
Polucci: Advancing HOK’s presence on the Web. I worked with my friend and colleague, Leigh Stringer, to create Life@HOK (http://hoklife.com/), the firm’s blog. We studied the possibilities of what our presence would mean for attracting and retaining talent by creating a blogging community within the firm, letting the world know about the interests our folks have, the impact they are making on the world with design—or even just what they had for dinner. The point was to show the world the fun, talented, diverse group we are and to get people excited about HOK. It worked: We are the first global architecture firm with an awarding-winning blog, and the impact has been felt in terms of the talent and clients we’ve attracted to the firm.
5. What are some of your first memories of design?
Lam: I grew up in the South, where there was a lot of emphasis on historic design and preservation. Family pieces were important and treasured.
Polucci: Legos at eight years old. I was building a city on the floor of the family room, and my father told me I should be an architect one day.
6. Motto to live by?
Lam: Not so much a motto as an approach: Work hard and enjoy your work, as well as the people with whom you work.
Polucci: Just do it. (Thanks Nike!)
7. What cities are you watching in terms of development and design?
Lam: Beijing, Hong Kong, Mumbai, Sao Paulo, and Shanghai…
Polucci: …We have established offices in those markets, and the type and amount of work is astounding.
8. What advice/tips would you give to aspiring designers?
Lam: Avoid getting pigeonholed, and keep learning new skill sets. One of your skill sets should be public speaking, so you are comfortable presenting to large and small groups of people.
Polucci: Take advantage of all opportunities, and find your chance to shine. Be confident, and speak up; no one will do it for you. Most importantly, be excited, and be grateful. (This is a pretty cool gig, and we are lucky to do this for others.)