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A Conversation with HOK's Kenneth Drucker re: Architect-US Professional Career Training Program

The design principal of HOK's New York City office discusses the benefits of participating in the program for both U.S.-based firms and young international architects.

June 22, 2015

Editor’s note: Architect-US Professional Career Training Program gives foreign architecture students, recent graduates, and young professionals the chance to pursue internship/professional training in the United States for up to 18 months, as part of the U.S. Government's J-1 Exchange Visitor Program. On Thursday, June 25, the AIANY Emerging New York Architects Committee (ENYA) and Architect-US are presenting "Emerging Talent Models of International Practice: Flourishing Spanish Architecture," an exhibition and panel discussion at the Center for Architecture in Greenwich Village. The exhibition showcases seven emerging talents from Spain making headlines with commissions outside of their country in a new model of networked international practice. The panel brings together participants from the exhibition and top architectural firm leaders to discuss the value of talent migration, and how local architecture communities benefit from the arrival of foreign talent.


HOK Design Principal Kenneth Drucker, FAIA, LEED AP BD+C, ULI, whose firm is among the sponsors of Architect-US, and who will be on the panel, discusses the value of the program for the industry and his own firm.



Q: What do you find interesting about Architect-US Professional Career Training Program USA?


Kenneth Drucker: I think it's really important for there to be an exchange program between Europe and United States, and between European and American architects. We have as much to learn from them as they do from us, culturally. There are different scale issues, different urban issues, technology is different. So trading that information is a great opportunity for HOK.


Q: What are the benefits of hosting an international architect?


KD: We speak 23 languages in the New York Office, and that's what is great about working in New York City – having a melting pot of culture and architectural ideas. To have additional talent to contribute to an international practice is really important to our core values. As an architecture practice you look at different ways of doing things in different parts in the world – issues of scale, texture, and craft – so it's really important to have a dialogue with architects who are doing that; and to train architects who are doing that, so we can share our knowledge between different cultures.


Q: What is the value of mentoring the next generation of professionals?


KD: I remember what it was like when I was a 20-year-old architect, and a 25-, 30-, and 35-year-old architect. It's important that we show how to be a professionals, how to do design work, and to give people from all over the world the opportunities that we had as young architects moving through the cycle of learning and growing.


Q: What are the special traits you find in international architects willing to come to work in the U.S.?


KD: What I find is there's a thirst for knowledge. International students are hungry to learn how we do work in the United States, how we do work in New York, specifically. This is a creative city, and architects from all over the world want to work here. By mentoring them and learning from them we have a chance to have this cultural exchange between our two countries.


Q: What is the benefit of bringing different skill sets and new prospective talents?


KD: The advantage of bringing different skill sets and different talents into the New York office is that, culturally, every country has different ways of how they view the world, how they assemble their projects. It's important to understand, especially with European architects, that there is an urbanity to their work, and there's an understanding of how different layers of people communicate, design, and operate within the context of the public realm and urban realm. What is great about European architects is that they're global individuals; in the United States there can be a lot of parochial attitudes about design, so creating this culture of communication between different countries allows us to create global experiences and global opportunities in how we do our design work.


Q: Why is it important to bring international talent to the American architecture industry?


KD: The importance of bringing in overseas talent is that through these cultural exchanges we can share ideas, we can show people how we work. We have young architects here today from Spain who are focused on trying to absorb as much as they can about how we go from concept design through completion. The way we deliver work in the U.S. is very different from the way work is delivered in Europe. So, for them to see how we actually produce our drawings and follow through on construction supervision is important.


Q: Why is important to give excellent international architects a chance to experience work in the U.S.?


KD: As New Yorkers we feel like New York is really the center of the world. We see design as an export – we want to basically export design to the rest of the world. So New York is a great place to learn, and to have access to all the cultural institutions and all the art institutions of New York, and to spread what those institutions are teaching all over the world.



(click on pictures to enlarge)