Chicago Design studio charrette space critique

A Shared Purpose with Opacity

Cultivating A Global Design Culture

Ask anyone who knows me and they’ll tell you that I am an ardent champion of telling great stories. The best stories — the most memorable ones — are those that teach while also engaging our emotions. And while storytelling is important to all professions, I believe it is especially critical to architecture and design. Stories help distill the essence of a project’s big ideas into the very reason for its being.

The story I want to tell here is not about projects, but about the people who have conceived the ideas that inspired the spaces, the buildings, and the experiences featured in our 33.3 Opacity monograph.

Opacity design critique workshop

Our design practitioners live in many different parts of the world and work on many different types of projects. Some are new to the profession or new to our practice, others are veterans with long careers. They reside in studios that, in most cases, are separated by great distances from one another. By virtue of the individuals who work in them and the countries and regions where they are located, each studio is distinguished by its own particular milieu, with its unique sensibility and distinct way of working.

Though we have arrived at this point in our firm’s history from many diverse origins, we have found common ground in our desire to use design to elevate the human spirit — and we’ve built a strong foundation upon it for a global culture that learns and grows from our heterogeneity.

The Opacity initiative reinforces the richness of this global culture beautifully. Not only does it provide an opportunity to consider our collective body of work at a single point in time, but it forces us to stop, think, and communicate with one another about our work in a meaningful way. It also forces us to listen to other perspectives, to reflect on what outside jurors think about our work and explore how we can improve from their critique.

HDR Berlin office collaboration at large table

Without a doubt, Opacity fosters a sense of friendly competition between the studios. Yet, we come away from it with a greater sense of camaraderie and a more profound understanding of our design practice in the process. This insight informs the intent of our efforts, which in turn becomes the framework for HDR’s story of our collective design legacy.

We are a firm composed of individuals who are all united by a singular purpose. That individuality is underscored in the pages of the Opacity books, where you will learn about who we are as distinct persons, as empowered members of a studio, and as valued professionals helping to write the global HDR design narrative.