James Krueger, Assoc. AIA, wakes up every morning ready and inspired to take on the day—he loves that he’s able to design schools that positively impact students and the communities in which they reside. In his newly appointed role as design principal for HMC’s Pre-K-12 Practice, James is focused on evolving educational design, and ensuring that our projects are planned with flexibility in mind for the future. Education is constantly progressing, so we asked him to discuss how his role at HMC creates learning environments for an ever-changing future.
What does your new role at HMC entail? What solutions do you bring to HMC’s clients?
In my role as design principal, I’m focused on driving educational design forward by creating spaces that enable the dynamic delivery of instruction to the students. These students will become our future leaders, and the spaces we create allow for the kind of dynamic environments they need to collaborate and solve problems. I work with our design teams to provide our clients with the highest level of service to help them achieve their goals. In essence, our job is to bring innovative solutions to challenging problems, and work with our industry partners to bring the best results to our clients.
Tell me about your background. What is your expertise, and what types of projects have you worked on?
I knew architecture was the path for me when I took my first architectural drafting class in 7th Grade. That is when I understood how education could be applied to real world problem solving. It opened up a new world of art and design for me, and dramatically improved my educational experience. After high school, I earned my degree from Cal Poly Pomona, where I also interned with a former professor and Pomona’s department chair.
After traveling to Europe to work on an exhibit at the Venice Biennale with one of my professors, I joined HMC as an entry level designer. During this time, I supported the design teams I partnered with and worked my way up to my present role by leading the design efforts of several notable educational projects. Most recently, our team completed Irvine Unified School District’s Portola High School, a 2,400-student comprehensive campus that includes a stadium, performing arts complex, and aquatic center. I also had the privilege of leading the design of a K-8 school in San Marcos, which has special meaning for me because it’s the school that my two children attend.
How do you see architecture evolving in the next decade, and what are the biggest challenges facing educational design?
The way we practice architecture is constantly changing. This is a good thing because we are always finding better ways to collaborate and bring the best solutions to our clients. Beyond the design process itself, digital technology has been a driver within our field, freeing architects from geographic constraints and empowering us to work seamlessly across offices, practices, and around the world. We’re able to bring the best minds to our clients, opening up new possibilities and making it easier for our teams to focus on great design.
In terms of the education industry, it mirrors architecture because it’s also an ever-changing landscape. We operate under a wide range of assumptions, including the realization that we are training our kids for jobs that do not yet exist. This unique challenge requires designs that are flexible, so schools can evolve with the inevitable re-definition of educational needs.
What inspires you? What is your ultimate goal when it comes to your work?
I am inspired by the talented individuals I work with every day. They are the best in the business, and we push each other to create innovative solutions for our clients. When it comes to my ultimate goal, I not only want to design great buildings and move education forward through thoughtful architecture, I want to make a lasting, positive impact on the people who inhabit the projects we design. I wake up everyday excited to go to work because we design places that improve our communities, and knowing that I had a hand in that is just as exciting as it is fulfilling.