Mia Blanchett is a Principal and recently named national Public Market Sector Leader at HGA, where she helps shape workplace culture for state and federal agencies. Her expertise includes master planning, programming, and design. Here, Blanchett talks about how she collaborates with clients to create innovative workplaces.
WHAT DO YOU LIKE BEST ABOUT YOUR ROLE?
I love connecting HGA's expertise to industry leaders across the country. Much of my work is with public agencies, and I am always impressed by how smart and knowledgeable the leadership is within these agencies. They really know their businesses and know what resources they need to serve the public. This inspires us to deliver the best design services possible to them.
WHAT ARE CHALLENGES FACING WORKPLACE CULTURE TODAY?
Technology is transforming the workplace. As a mother of three teenagers, I see first-hand how children are digitally connected from a very early age. Technology is second nature to them. As native technology users enter the workforce, they will continue to influence the evolving workplace through adoption of new technology, work styles, and cultural awareness.
HOW DO YOU HELP PUBLIC CLIENTS ATTRACT, INNOVATE AND GROW?
Public agencies have complex Program of Requirements (POR) regarding operations, workflow, building systems, sustainability and security that drive the planning process. The POR's can be hundreds of pages long, and someone on our team has to know every line item to address each requirement.
Yet our goal is to exceed the requirements. Public agencies share similar goals with private companies. They want to attract and retain the best talent possible so they can grow their business through innovation. As such, we partner with clients to create efficient workplaces that ultimately are about people. Government work can be very detail-driven. That is why it is important to create a sense of joy within the workplace. We want people to look forward to going to work and be energized by the space.
WHAT IS YOUR IDEAL PROJECT?
I have worked on a variety of building types over the years, from county libraries to corporate workplaces, federal office buildings, historic state capitols, and breweries. In all cases, I strive to connect people with what is special about the organization through architecture.
For the B.H. Whipple Federal Office Building renovation, for instance, we developed a series of interpretive exhibits in the entry corridor to highlight the geological, cultural and historic context of the surrounding Minnesota River Valley. At the Minnesota State Capitol renovation nearing completion, we planned efficient new workspaces while restoring the building's historic Beaux Arts details, thereby preserving one of the state's architectural treasures. And at Surly Brewing, we put the brewing process on display by visually opening the fermentation cellar and brew house to the main dining hall, essentially integrating the art of craft brewing into the visitor experience.
These buildings have been embraced by their users because the design reflects the unique mission of each organization. This variety makes every project exciting.