Innovation – Diversity and Inclusion

Innovation – Diversity and Inclusion


Congratulations to Kimberly Dowdell, Principal at HOK, as the winner of the 2020 Innovation Real Award for Diversity & Inclusion.

One could easily argue that this award recognizes Kim’s lifetime pursuit of leveraging the architectural profession to bring awareness, support, and positive actions surrounding diversity, corporate responsibility and social change. Powered by an early childhood experience witnessing the social and cultural impact of the iconic J.L. Hudson Department store’s demolition, Kim set out to become an architect to make a difference in communities through the built environment. But she took her vision one step further: She has built a foundation for architects to effect positive social change on a local, national, and global scale.

While still an undergraduate at Cornell, Kim co-founded the Social Economic Environmental Design Network (SEED), a global movement that standardized social, economic, and environmental justice as metrics for design projects around the world. Today, there are more than 2,000 pledged members and projects are formally administered by the nonprofit group Design Corps. This revolutionary network has intricately connected design to positive social change.

After earning her Bachelor of Architecture from Cornell in 2006, one of Kim’s first projects was the renovation of a dormitory serving deaf students at Gallaudet University at Ayers Saint Gross (ASG) in Washington, D.C. From there, Kim took a position as an architectural technician in HOK’s New York studio and later became a communications manager with the firm. She co-founded HOK IMPACT in 2010 to promote the firm’s social responsibility and efforts to empower its communities.

Kim earned her architecture license in 2013. Two years later she earned a Master Degree in Public Administration from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. This provided her with expertise in the public realm to complement her architecture background. In 2015, Kim was recruited to work for the City of Detroit’s Housing and Revitalization Department to aid developers in navigating city departments for high-priority projects.

From there Kim took a leadership role with Century Partners, a startup residential development company in Detroit that was embracing grass roots community outreach and sharing the wealth that comes with rising home values around their projects with long-term neighborhood members. At the same time, Kim served as an adjunct lecturer at the University of Michigan’s Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning.

In 2019, Kim was elected as the president of the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA) and returned to HOK as a principal. Based in the firm’s Chicago office, she focuses on building business within the entire Midwest region. She also serves as co-chair of HOK’s Diversity Advisory Council, which works to build a diverse, inclusive environment and culture across the firm.