John Gilmore, who runs Life at HOK from the firm's St. Louis office and is a senior writer in the corporate communications group, gives all credit for the blog's popularity to the contributors: "They've run with it and are showing the world who they are, which is what we wanted them to do."

John Gilmore, who runs Life at HOK from the firm's St. Louis office and is a senior writer in the corporate communications group, gives all credit for the blog's popularity to the contributors: "They've run with it and are showing the world who they are, which is what we wanted them to do."

Credit: Stefan Hester

The blog Lifeat HOK is important not so much for what it offers—tales from the HOK cubicle as well as snark-free design-related postings, travelogue, commentary, videos, and ephemera—as for what it represents: a blue-chip firm, the kind of outfit one would expect to tightly control all external communication, allowing more than two dozen of its younger staff to express themselves on company time. (Most of the contributors, located around the globe, are under 35.) There is a “manifesto” and style guide, of course. But otherwise, says John Gilmore, senior writer in HOK’s corporate communications group and the blog’s manager, “it’s all organic.”

It also, says media relations manager Mike Plotnick, lets HOK showcase talent beneath the senior design principal level, something many firms struggle with. And by providing up-and-comers with “a forum for getting noticed and playing in the game,” says Plotnick, HOK expects the blog will help recruit young and midcareer architects.

How far things have come since the web’s early days. Back then, says Gilmore, “there was nervousness about putting names or e-mails on the website,” because top brass worried the best employees might be poached. These days, HOK’s leadership is more savvy. When the idea for the blog, which launched in October, was presented at the firm’s executive committee meeting, notes Gilmore, “our chairman and president stood up and applauded. Now, the approach is: This is a great place to work, and so we’ll let our competition know we have these great people.”

In the end, Life at HOK is one of many ways the firm—which also maintains a presence on Facebook, Flickr, Delicious, and YouTube—is embracing a generation that, as Plotnick says, has never known life without the Internet. “We can’t ignore that fact, because it’s only going to grow in importance,” says Plotnick. “We see this as the future of corporate communication.”


Links

paul-rand.com

Pretty much everything you wanted to know about the giant of 20th century graphic design.

lasvegasweekly.com/news/2009/feb/19/making-designs-vegas

The Las Vegas Weekly sits four local architects down for a conversation about the recession, CityCenter, and future development in Sin City.

borderwallasarchitecture.blogspot.com

The U.S.–Mexico border wall currently under construction is a flashpoint for the design and activist community. Follow the wall’s development, read news and commentary, and see proposals, installations, and videos about the 700-mile-long, $1.2 billion project.

architecturaldigest.com/homes/features/2009/03/john_updike

To celebrate the late, great American writer John Updike, Architectural Digest has collected four essays he penned for the magazine. From “Fictional Houses” (January 1985): “I have great trouble, myself, in imagining the floor plans of split-level homes, though I feel they are important sites of the American condition.”

architectsbirdfeeder.com

Think those nuthatches and sparrows outside your window might be modernists at heart? Offer them a stylish dining roost that would make Corbu proud.

ballardian.com/the-real-concrete-island

Over at Ballardian.com, a site devoted to the work of dystopic British novelist J.G. Ballard (a favorite among a certain breed of architect), regular contributor Mike Bonsall does a little sleuthing and makes the case that Concrete Island (1973) is based on a sliver of land beneath London’s Westway, a section of the A40 highway.

todaysfacilitymanager.com/facilityblog/labels/fm_alert

Facilities managers take care of the buildings you’ve designed. Now, thanks to a joint effort by FacilityBlog and the Facility Management Journal, they have a place to read news about their industry and affiliated professions, follow trends, and learn about innovations.