Where I Work: Anne Fletcher of HOK

For this edition of Where I Work, we’re visiting Anne Fletcher, AIA, LEED AP, at the Los Angeles office of global architecture firm HOK. After graduating with a Bachelor of Arts from Washington University in St. Louis and earning a Master of Architecture degree from the University of Virginia, she worked at various firms before setting up shop at HOK’s New York City office where she headed up the mixed-use practice. Towards the end of 2017, Fletcher decided to switch coasts and landed at HOK’s LA office where she’s the managing principal, as well as a member of their board of directors and management board. She brings over two decades of design and real estate experience to the Los Angeles practice, along with her impressive collection of winged Batman figurines. Let’s follow along to see how and where Fletcher makes it all happen.

What is your typical work style?

I have to work in the office; I really dislike working at home. Home is where I don’t have to think about work! If I bring it home, that’s all I think about.

I’m notoriously scheduled – it’s the only way I’ll do everything I need to. One of my colleagues just today said, “I had an Anne Fletcher” kind of day—every hour a totally different thing! I like to block out chunks of time dedicated to particular projects, and I prioritize what has to be done that day. Everything else I can let go, until then next day.

What’s your studio/work environment like?

My work environment is clean, but with just a little clutter. I could never do a completely clear desk; there’s always a controlled pile or two.

How is your space organized/arranged?

We’re fortunate to work in a gorgeous former warehouse space in Culver City. The expansive, open environment has bow string trusses, sky lights and 3 huge, operable garage doors on each end that we can open to let in the breeze. Our space has a few other private offices, and loads of informal huddle rooms and conference rooms. I work in one of the private offices, which has a glass front facing the studio. It has a small table with chairs for casual meetings.

How long have you been in this space? Where did you work before that?

I just joined the LA office in November, but HOK has been in the space for 15 years. Before my move west, I worked at a small desk in our office off of Bryant Park in NYC.

If you could change something about your workspace, what would it be?

I would love to be able to see the sky from my desk. But it means I move around the studio more to look outside.

Is there an office pet?

Regrettably no. Unfortunately a few staff have allergies. But if I could, I would love to bring Bobo (my miniature pinscher) to hang in the studio.

Do you require music in the background? If so, who are some favorites?

Our team agreed that we’d not have music playing throughout the space. People requested quiet to concentrate, though you do see some people rocking their headphones here and there.

How do you record ideas?

In my ideal world, I’d record everything on my iPad Pro. But in reality, I use a simple square notebook with gridlines and a pen.

What is your creative process and/or creative workflow like? Does it change every project or do you keep it the same?

As the Managing Principal of the office, I join the creative teams throughout the process, operating as a filter on behalf of the client. Part of my role is to look at the concepts and development the team is doing from the client’s perspective, which is still a design exercise but with a different viewpoint. I encourage the team to explore alternatives while keeping the big picture of meeting the client’s implicit and explicit goals. Every project is different, every client is different, so this process is always changing.

What kind of art/design/objects might you have scattered about the space? 

Batmen!!!!! To be specific: Batman action figures with operable wings, of all different sizes from 1” to 12” tall. I started collecting these over twenty years ago and they’ve miraculously proliferated throughout my office.

Are there tools and/or machinery in your space?

We have a model workshop that includes a wire cutter, 3D printers and all sorts of hand tools. We also just converted a conference room to a VR/AR room.

What tool(s) do you most enjoy using in the design process?

I use trace and pen and sketch over hard copies of designs. I think best when I draw layer over layer on trace. It may seem a little old school, but that is how I think.

Let’s talk about how you’re wired. Tell us about your tech arsenal/devices.

It’s still all about paper for me. I sketch things out for people, though I have an iPhone, iPad, a laptop and two monitors, of course. I look at models on screen with designers to help pick views that will be most expressive, but I usually end up with a pin up on the wall.

What design software do you use, if any, and for what? (if applicable)

In the studio we use Revit, Rhino, Grasshopper and all the latest and greatest. We collaborate closely with HOK’s Advanced Technology Group on the latest parametric design and our BuildingSmart team keeps us conversant with all the research and newly developed tools.

Is there a favorite project/piece you’ve worked on?

The ceiling at 4 Times Square. It felt more like sculpture than anything. It looks like a dragon belly – and no one ever lets me say that!

Do you feel like you’ve “made it”? What has made you feel like you’ve become successful? At what moment/circumstances? Or what will it take to get there?

I knew I wanted to be an architect from an early age, but never had a plan about what that meant. For me, ‘making it’ is continuing to do just that – working as an architect. I went to undergraduate at Washington University in St. Louis. HOK is one of the biggest firms there and everyone had an internship. I said “I’ll never work for them, that is working for The Man.” Now, a short 25+ years later, I am on the Board of Directors, so I am The Man. And I love that.

Tell us about a current project you’re working on. What was the inspiration behind it?

The design team is working on a project for an 80-story tower in downtown LA. They created an elegant design for a single swooping mixed-use tower based on hand gestures the client had made. I can’t take credit for it, but the simplicity of how it responds to the client’s program and motions is exciting.

What’s on your desk right now?

A row of batmen, wings ready for flight, a shovel from a groundbreaking, and then typical desk stuff: laptop, meeting agendas, contracts, business cards, and a picture of my dog.

Do you have anything in your home that you’ve designed/created?

I was really into printmaking and book binding early in my career. I have a series of three zinc plates I had done in my 20s inked and reprinted a few years ago. They are now framed and hanging in my bedroom as well as a couple books and portfolios I made of a dark green raw silk.

Caroline Williamson is Editor-in-Chief of Design Milk. She has a BFA in photography from SCAD and can usually be found searching for vintage wares, doing New York Times crossword puzzles in pen, or reworking playlists on Spotify.