Face Time: Duncan Griffin in HDR


Duncan GriffinThe Seattle-based managing director of HDR talks about his effort to create meaningful change through architecture, address climate change through regenerative design, and share his love of nature with his children.

What drew you to a career in healthcare design?

The dedication and focus that healthcare clients—nurses, doctors, and administrators—bring to their patient care spaces is inspiring. When your client cares so deeply about the results of your work, it brings added meaning to the practice of architecture. Also, when I learned about the impact hospitals have on climate stability and their contribution to greenhouse gas emissions, I made it my mission and focus of my work to support regenerative design and help solve this problem.

What was your first healthcare project and what lesson do you still carry with you from it?

The Surgical Pavilion of the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle. I learned the importance of daylight and connection with nature in healthcare buildings. The east side of this project is dug into the slope and requires special mechanisms to draw light into the main corridors so that staff are not deprived of sunlight. On the west side, we maximized the view of the nearby clearing for family waiting rooms.

University of Washington Medical Center

What do you like most about working in healthcare design?

The challenge of solving difficult problems with dedicated partners. And finally to make a significant difference in people’s lives. I love working with healthcare clients because they genuinely care.

What challenges in your business keep you up at night?

The pace of climate change and our ability to respond. Reports from Northern California of hospital staff battling wildfires while working to treat fire victims just make me vibrate with the need to deal with this emergency. Design professionals must support our healthcare partners to help them save our communities.

Three recent healthcare projects and your role

1 New Inpatient Hospital The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, Columbus, Ohio, a leader in sustainable health care design.


2 Medical Center Master Plan Study with Behavioral Health Research and Treatment Institute, Seattle, Director, Sustainable Healthcare Design Lead.

3 VA Medical Center-Fort Harrison, seismic retrofit and retrofit, Harrison, Mont., health care sustainability subject matter expert.

An unexpected item on your desk

Low temperature Stirling engine. It is powered by a heat source from my mug.

Outside the office, we’ll probably find you…

Working on home projects, volunteering in nature with the family, or drawing buildings while on vacation. My wife and I raised our family in a small 1906 Seattle bungalow, so there’s always something to work on. When my kids were younger, we started volunteering at different nature and habitat restoration organizations and we always do something for Earth Day. I also love to draw buildings on vacation because that’s when I can really focus and capture on paper the image the building has painted on my retina.

What new habit or hobby did you acquire during the pandemic?

Intentional contact with my teams. The pandemic has created a need to provide meaningful mentorship and connection to support our teams’ goals.

Dog or cat?

Cat. Shadow is our 17 year old Abyssinian, a bit of a coward.

Morning person or night owl?

I’ve always been a night owl. This is the time when I come up with new ideas.

Coffee or tea?

Coffee! (The night owl architect lives in Seattle.)

A fashion trend you think should make a comeback

Dresses. I wear them at home. Sometimes you need clothes that flow (TMI?).

How did you earn your first dollar?

I was co-chair of the Save the Earth Committee in high school and managed a recycling center in my hometown on Mercer Island in Lake Washington. It was a win-win in the 70s because the recycling center provided real funding for educational activism and for other students.

Your favorite karaoke song

“Take On Me” by A-ha (not sure if I can still hit the high notes though).

The first album you bought

Srce (also my first concert). They are from Bellevue, Washington, which is across the lake from where I grew up. Much of their work is an homage to Led Zeppelin.

Cocktail of your choice

Highland Park Scotch Whiskey with one ice cube.

Your hidden talent

windsurfing. My dad and I started a windsurfing school on Mercer Island in the 1970s. The East Channel of Lake Washington has unique wind conditions and its narrow geometry creates a point spring like condition, which was magical.


If you weren’t an architect, you’d be…

Windsurfing instructor.


Quote “A servant leader focuses primarily on the growth and well-being of the people and communities to which they belong.” – Robert K. Greenleaf, founder of the modern servant leadership movement.

Movie character When I was younger, it was Luke Skywalker. People thought I looked like him when Star Wars: A New Hope came out. I now appreciate Simon Pegg’s character in “Hot Fuzz” and pretty much everything he’s in.

Show to binge watch “Stranger Things.” It’s so good. The scene at the end of the recent installment was also a cautionary tale, as it felt a lot like our climate emergency.

Weekend activity Outdoor swimming (only in summer).

Band/Music Artist David Bowie. He endlessly reinvented himself and set trends with his eternal creativity.

A guilty pleasure Non-dairy chocolate frozen sweets.

A snack when you travel Kind Bars.

Book “Drive” by Daniel Pink. It really gets what knowledge workers need to thrive. Purpose, autonomy and mastery give people the opportunity to develop in a professional environment.

A city to visit Venice. It is a completely different vision of how a city can function. I interned there in 1985 for Gaetano Pesce and I go back every 10 years or so. It still amazes me. I would work in the studio from 8 am to 8 pm every day, and when I got off work, I would have a pizza and then choose a direction to walk until I got lost and then find my way back to get to know the city.

Source link