Kaveh Amirdelfan is a principal specializing in higher education architecture with HGA. His work includes campus master planning to student life, instructional/classroom and science buildings. Always current on changes impacting higher education, he is a resource to campus leadership who must balance budgets, student needs and stakeholder voices when planning new facilities. Here, he talks about why higher education work inspires him and why, quite frankly, he loves meeting with clients.
WHY DOES HIGHER EDUCATION WORK INTEREST YOU?
I get to work with people who have a real passion for teaching and helping students. That passion is contagious and exciting. I'm surrounded by really smart people and I'm always learning from them--whether from professors, administrators, or students. Every campus has a distinct culture and a unique history and evolution, and each campus department and program has a story to tell about their aspirations, about where they are and where they want to be in the future. Higher education clients want projects that will take them to that destination, particularly with how cutting-edge pedagogy is shaping learning today. I contribute my expertise to their story and wishes through sustainable and attractive architecture.
WHAT CHALLENGES ARE IMPACTING HIGHER EDUCATION TODAY?
Declining state funding presents growing challenges for colleges and public universities. Colleges need to think creatively about how to raise financial resources and use resources strategically to update infrastructure and invest in new facilities that will enhance student life. Public-private partnership (P3) is playing a big role in responding to needs on various campuses. However, most of those projects are student-funded projects, such student housing, recreational facilities, or wellness centers.
HOW CAN YOU HELP LEADERSHIP ADDRESS THESE CHALLENGES?
Campuses are about people. They are diverse places with multiple stakeholders invested in the college's financial, academic and social wellbeing. I like to get to know the different personalities and respond to their needs in a meaningful way to build trust and long-term relationships. This is the fun part, listening to people, learning from them, and implementing our professional expertise that will help them realize their dream.
Campus leaders--whether educators or administrative--have developed a great deal of expertise in their fields, but many are planning an academic building for the first time and are unfamiliar with the architectural process. Our team helps peel away the complexities for them, prioritize and streamline budgeting, and make the process as user-friendly as possible so they can visually imagine how written and functional program turns into spaces--and ultimately a building.
WHAT IS YOUR IDEAL PROJECT?
I love exploring different building types and programs and learning about various campus programs. Yet student life buildings, such as student services and student unions, remain my favorite because they serve multiple user groups. The program includes a variety of components, from food services to meeting rooms, lounges, auditoriums, and impromptu gathering spaces. Student services and unions are often the iconic core of campus. They serve as a tool for recruitment and are the first place that students visit to orient themselves to campus. They are community centers where diverse voices come together to share in the campus experience.