2 min read March 2023 — Kim Rousseau, corporate interiors firmwide practice chair and principal at architecture firm Perkins&Will in Atlanta, sat down with Invest: to discuss the firm’s focus on diversity, equity and inclusion. She also spoke about the company’s mindset of Living Design, current projects and developmental trends within the industry.
What highlights have you achieved at Perkins&Will in Atlanta over the last 12 months?
The past year was a gangbuster year, and the requests for new work has not slowed down one bit! In 2022, we worked on projects that were focused on diversity and representation in the community, which is something we are really proud of. We have uniquely crafted a purpose and we design to really impact the environment, people and society. Buildings need to be resilient and people need the same aspects that the environment needs. That all contributes to our philosophy of Living Design. It is about designing for life.
How do you ensure that your developments and designs stand out?
We focus a lot on research, such as in our Human Experience Lab. We marry that with our J.E.D.I. (Justice, Equity, Engagement, Diversity, and Inclusion) lens, which allows us to be inclusive for the population. As championed by our CEO, we want to embrace poetics and beauty to create joy. People want to talk about their return to work, and the impact from COVID-19. However, the lasting impact is that we have changed as a society, and as humans, and this has affected our sense of security and solitude. There will be a stronger link between healthcare research and mental health in the workplace. This must be done so people can thrive again, so that focus will be in our designs moving forward.
What parts of Atlanta offer the greatest opportunity?
There isn’t much more room in Midtown near Georgia Tech. Ten years ago, there were no buildings there but subsequent growth has been unparalleled. The west side still has a lot of room into the southwest part of the city. We are starting to knit the Central Business District into education and then down through a part of the city that has been historically underserved.
We have been working with Emory University on a project that will be used as a home for all its student groups. This kind of project connects our goals for diversity with similar goals presented by the clients. Together with some of our corporate clients, we have successfully executed many original ideas which are rooted in activism and social justice. Also, we are working on a corporate headquarters, which has ambitions to be one of the greenest buildings in the world. This is truly unique and fun, and we are pushing the boundaries of what a building can do for its inhabitants.
How have supply chain issues impacted your business and how is that driving changes across the industry?
It impacts our projects but it has also impacted our office renovations. We had to wait three times longer for the furniture that we ordered. We have several projects that are impacted by delivery times, and of course, increased costs. A new process has been adopted for designing, pricing and building a project. Everything gets more complex and chaotic, and that can trickle down to our clients. If we can’t get the material, then that is a problem.
What developments are you involved in that are important to Atlanta?
We completed both the Enmarket Arena in Savannah and Georgia State University’s Convocation Center in 2022. In addition to those projects, we are also working on a few other sports arena-type projects around Georgia.
Science Square is a project in conjunction with Georgia Tech and private industry. These types of projects are so popular because people are becoming interested in science and technology facilities.
Also, we are working with Atlanta BeltLine, Inc. and the City of Atlanta on phase two of Boulevard Crossing Park. In partnership with Agency Landscape + Planning, phase two will include planning and design of the 25-acre park and linking directly to the Southside Trail of the BeltLine.
How are projects meeting the demand for walkable cities?
We were heavily involved with the design and beginnings of the Atlanta BeltLine, which is about halfway to full completion. The sense of community that developed along with it strengthened the connection to diverse areas of the city – creating 33 miles of multi-use trails, 1,300 acres of greenspace, and more than 450 public art installations and performances. We have now worked with a number of clients that are trying to find a project location along the BeltLine. It is extremely walkable and a great neighborhood connector, but some challenges it faces are limited access to transit and parking along the trail. All that said, the walkability is very attractive to those tenants.
What is your outlook for the next two to three years?
We are cautiously optimistic about this year. While inflation has made us nervous, we are still very bullish. We are expecting this year to be a bit of touch and go. Right now, we haven’t been strongly impacted by any slowdown, but Atlanta tends to be very resilient with a lot of proactive development and sees continued migration of major companies. I think Atlanta’s diversity has helped it remain a strong and attractive city. This year, clients are feeling a little tentative, but I am not getting a sense that anyone is paranoid about it. I feel positive and I am excited about our many great projects that connect our community. We have worked hard to develop strong relationships based in trust, so people are asking for us and our work speaks for itself. We are excited about things to come in 2023!
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