Brett Leavitt, AIA, LEED AP, is one of our newly promoted design principals in HMC’s Ontario office. With 15 years of education design experience, he’s charting fresh trails for our education clients and encouraging his teams to discover new and better solutions every day. We caught up with Brett to discuss his design principal role and what he hopes to accomplish.
What is your new role at HMC and what do you hope to accomplish?
In my design principal role, I’m responsible for leading the design efforts and fostering a positive creative culture within my studio. When focusing on projects, it’s a matter of looking to see what we can do to increase the level of design and exceed our client’s expectations. I’m a big proponent for exploring technology, streamlining processes, and testing new ideas to find better solutions for our clients. As a result, I believe our clients are going to get a better product in the end while enjoying an immersive experience along the way. We like to pull our clients deep into the process and get them hands-on in the creative development of their project. They’re not spectators—they are teammates, and they have a tangible effect on the outcome of their project.
What’s your expertise and what kinds of projects have you worked on?
Shortly after architecture school, I had the opportunity to work for my mentor, Kip Dickson. That experience was critical for me because Kip had always been an influential teacher during my undergraduate studies. At the time, we were focused on K-12 work, and I fell in love with education architecture. I wasn’t doing architecture for architecture’s sake, or just because I liked architecture—there started to be an engrained purpose. With education architecture, I’m able to touch the lives of students through these projects. In a way, I feel like I’m playing some sort of role in their education, which is deeply satisfying for me. I joined HMC in 2004 to continue my focus on education architecture, and I never looked back. Along the way I have been blessed with the opportunity to work on a wide range of educational projects through the years, including a variety of academic buildings, student centers, science labs, campus master plans, and athletics facilities.
What value does your new role bring to HMC’s clients?
I have been told by my colleagues that I have a wonderful ability to sit and listen to what our clients want and need—and react accordingly—instead of coming into the design process with an agenda. To me, that’s a great compliment coming from my peers. Sometimes architects are given the bad reputation that they’re all about themselves and don’t care about their clients’ wants and needs. I don’t believe in that. I try to enter a design process without any preconceptions. It’s hard when you have ideas that are born out of experience about how and why something should be done, but I focus on what’s right for the client. I believe every design is a design-to-fit solution. Like a tailored suit, the circumstances and parameters for each are unique and should be treated as such.
What inspires or excites you as an architect?
Working with great people, both clients and colleagues. I feed off the interaction and exchange of ideas with others. I thrive in a team environment, and I’ve always believed that we can accomplish much more as a team than any of us could individually. I’m lucky because I work with a group of people that I respect and have a lot of fun with. I am also inspired by the great work of others inside and outside of our industry. That motivates me every day to do better work.