Up Close: Josh Stowers

Josh Stowers, AIA, LEED AP BD+C, is Associate Vice President and Public|Corporate Practice Group Leader in HGA’s Minneapolis office, where he leads strategic business growth. Here, he talks about changes in the workplace.

How did you get interested in design?

My interest in architecture started through travel as a teenager. My father taught architecture at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. I often joined him on study-abroad programs to major European cities, including Budapest, Moscow, Rome, and Venice. I learned about different architectural styles and soon became inspired to study architecture in college.

What are the biggest changes you see in today’s workplace?

I love learning about companies and exploring their corporate culture and mission, and then designing spaces that enhance their goals. The rate of change in the workplace is incredible, in terms of evolving workstyles. Technology is really driving this change. Square-foot design standards for the office are a thing of the past. Phigital (physical/digital) environments, once a competitive edge for retailers, are rapidly making their way into the workplace. Additionally, people and companies are moving back from the suburbs to the urban centers, where they can be part of the action. This in-migration toward downtowns will continue because we are simply running out of buildable land and it is more cost-effective to repurpose existing commercial properties into flexible workplaces that accommodate change.

How do you engage clients in the design process?

I never pre-assume anything. I like to ask a lot of questions and then listen: How do you measure success? Set goals? Recruit and retain employees? Identify markets? What keeps you up at night? By listening, I can lead clients toward the right decision for their workplace.

How can design support change leadership?

Change happens inside people. Designing for change is about the human experience, having empathy for change, and recognizing cycles of change that people go through. Change leadership is about understanding the psyche of change and how we adapt design to different phases of change.

What is your ideal project?

My ideal project is collaborating with a person or company that are disrupters. Workplaces can inspire disruption—make it happen and enable innovation. Yet you cannot have a prescribed design solution when their whole paradigm is a disrupter. Exploring what a space would look like to inspire disruption is exciting.