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HMC Architects sets up a ‘design lab’ to explore new ideas

The goal is for project team members to collaborate earlier to inspire innovation.

March 17, 2019 |

Raymond Pan, an award winning archtect and urban planner, is leading the design lab initiative at HMC Architects. Image: HMC Architects

HMC Architects is creating a new, internal, designing model that pushes for earlier interdisciplinary collaboration and deeper integration of processes, technology, materials and systems.

This “design lab” approach is being launched from HMC’S office in Los Angeles. Heading up this effort is Raymond Pan, AIA, LEED AP, Design Principal. Pan is an architect and urban planner with 20 years’ experience. He is rejoining HMC, having previously spent 10 years with the firm.

Pan says that to keep up with the industry’s rapid changes, big firms like HMC need a more collegial approach. One of his goals is to bring builders into the design process sooner. “Our mentality needs to be extended,” Pan tells BD+C. “And architects need to rethink how they design.”

The L.A. office has already assembled a design team that includes an architect who started out as a contractor, and another architect who Pan says is a specialist in spatial visualization. Pan foresees circumstances where HMC partners with other AEC firms for specific expertise. “I would love to have a builder or a [technologist] on my team.” 

Pan notes that a lot of HMC’s work is for hospitals whose designs are taking on more hospitality and commercial retail features that incorporate signage and branding. He talks about “creating a personality” for such spaces that can sometimes be defined by the types of materials chosen for projects.

However, he does not see the design lab concept as being project-driven, per se. “We’re trying to build a culture, and a new architectural aesthetic” that brings in other things, like prefabrication. (His team hasn’t gotten to the point of selecting prefab manufacturers; what’s important, says Pan, is “to get the builders we partner with thinking that way.”

Image: HMC Architects


HMC Architects has six offices in California, and one in Phoenix. Pan couldn’t say yet what the design lab’s rollout strategy would be. “It could start with the next project, or take us a year to find the right partners.” However, he expects that, eventually, the rollout might require some organizational changes within the firm.

“This move will take HMC to a higher level of design and be an undeniable asset to our clients” in the firm’s healthcare, education, and civics practices, says Brian Staton, president and CEO of HMC Architects. Pan is leading this initiative at a time when the firm is capitalizing on significant opportunities in the healthcare sectors in southern California, Oregon, and Arizona.

The design lab is expected to double as an incubation platform for testing new ideas and technologies, he says.


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