Each spring, HMC Architects awards two travel fellowships to meritorious employees to encourage the exploration of other cultures and to strengthen the creative ethos of the firm. All employees, regardless of position, are invited to submit a proposal to go anywhere in the world, describing how that experience would contribute to their personal vision and professional growth. Out of 24 entries received from employees throughout California and Nevada, the winners of the competition are Kaysha Bucher, Los Angeles, and Ruth Oh, Ontario, Calif. Each received a $4,000 travel stipend and an additional week of paid time off to complete their proposed journey.

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According to HMC Architects’ President and CEO, Randy Peterson, FAIA, LEED AP, “These 24 individuals managed to challenge their daily professional and personal responsibilities to put their dreams into words and images and share it with our jury of clients and industry leaders. The feedback from our jurors has been overwhelmingly positive, and the impact of this program solidifies the quality of design expectations HMC is providing to the marketplace.”

Kaysha Bucher, an interior designer from HMC’s Los Angeles studio, outlined a plan in her proposal to help rebuild damaged and destroyed schools in the quake-affected regions of Haiti. Bucher will spend eight days working with Schools for Children of the World, a group of architects, planners, engineers, and educators who come together to provide quality schools for children in underdeveloped countries. Bucher will visit several devastated school sites, meeting with the community and understanding their needs. She will work to develop a schematic design plan in partnership with the Spanish Red Cross, who will ultimately build the schools through use of local contractors. Bucher hopes to inspire the design community by sharing experiences on a public blog (http://hmcarchitects.com/category/xref), while also sparking hope in the Haitian people that solid signs of progress are starting to appear. (View Kaysha’s Xref proposal here.)

Ruth Oh, a designer from HMC’s Ontario, Calif., studio, will travel by bicycle on a national route across the country of Denmark. In her proposal, Oh eloquently described the physical act of cycling through a city—or an entire country—as contemplative, allowing time for observation and reflection on a pace and scale that can be controlled. Her 200-mile journey will take place over ten days, during which time she will investigate the many ways a city can accommodate bicycles, and the benefits—including environmental and health—and costs of non-motorized vehicle use. Oh will document her adventure through the iPhone app Cyclemeter, which will allow her to set routes using a built-in GPS and keep her on track. She will also share progress updates and photos on a travel blog. (View Ruth’s Xref proposal here.)

Jeff Averill, AIA, LEED AP, UCLA Capital Program Campus Architect and Xref juror, commented that, “It was a pleasure to participate as a juror in the Xref panel discussion. This unique program demonstrates HMC’s thoughtfulness and commitment to their employees as a method to promote personal growth and contribute to the firm’s communal knowledge.”

Established to enable greater exposure to outside influences, new ideas, or historic precedents, HMC Architects has branded their travel fellowship program “HMC Xref.” In computer-aided design—a primary tool for the architectural industry—‘Xref’ refers to a dynamic link between drawing files. It is also an abbreviation of ‘cross-reference,’ which plays on the program’s goal—to expose individuals to experiences that connect them to a wider span of influence. The resulting personal growth and creative renewal is reflected into all aspects of their lives, linking back to their work and enriching the lives of fellow HMC colleagues.