Bill Olen: How the University of Maryland is Planning for the Future of Cutting-Edge Research

  • June 18, 2019
  • Author: Ben Siegel

Bill Olen is the Executive Director of Planning & Construction at the University of Maryland. We recently sat down to discuss the exciting happenings at the university including the Cole Field House project — a living laboratory where innovators, scientists, clinicians, trainers and athletes work together to advance the practice of sports medicine.

How did the focus of research at the University of Maryland College Park come about?

Several years ago, the General Assembly approved legislation that encouraged the University of Maryland College Park and the University of Maryland Baltimore to collaborate in a comprehensive across the board manner. MPowering the State — our strategic partnership — allows us to maximize our complementary strengths and brings our campuses into close cooperation in many exciting areas of research. And that was the genesis of Cole Field House project — combining resources to provide a more comprehensive solution for health, science, wellness and entrepreneurship.

Can you describe the complex program that’s included in the Cole Field House project?

There are quite a few components within this undertaking. First is the Terrapin Performance Center – opened in 2019 – that will promote physical training at the highest level as well as enhanced fitness and recreational opportunities for intramural and club activities.

Next is the Center for Sports Medicine, Health and Human Performance that will bring together leading researchers in neuroscience, genomics, biomechanics and other fields, from the University of Maryland, Baltimore and the University of Maryland, College Park to study the brain and nervous system.

An Orthopedic Clinic will serve as a resource for thousands of patients in the region each year with more than 40,000 sf of dedicated treatment space. This will lead to a rapid translation of research into practice that will benefit the entire community.

The Academy for Innovation and Entrepreneurship is a dynamic space that will connect students with exciting experiential-learning opportunities to work across disciplines and launch innovative ideas, products and companies.

Can you elaborate on the research within and how the design it pushing that research forward?

UM College Park already has a strong program in neuroscience that continues to grow in quality and the number of researchers interested in this field. With the new Cole Field House, we are poised to be on the cutting-edge of this field of research.

As for the design, we have built incredible flexibility into the research and clinic spaces. At the south wing of the building where the clinic and some other research space are programmed, we have created flexible labs at grade level that can have a higher level of vibration control. Additionally, we have created space on level 2 that is the most distant from the new Purple Line to house state of the art neuro-imaging equipment.

Overall, we have planned and designed for the future of the neurology research. This field is going to grow and expand and having more space at the outset gives us the maximum amount of flexibility.

When this facility is complete, what kind of impact do you see to the university and beyond?

Although I can’t predict everything, I am most excited to see the positive impact the Cole Field house will have on the local economy though innovation and research. The opportunities for research dollars and grants as well as intent to collaborate with industry are very promising.

Learn more about Cole Field House >

Allison Méndez Imparts Insights in St. Louis Keynote Commencement Speech

  • June 13, 2019
  • Author: CannonDesign

Our own Allison Méndez, AIA, a recipient of this year’s AIA Young Architects Award, was recently honored as the keynote commencement speaker at Washington University in St. Louis’s Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts’s College of Architecture/Graduate School of Architecture & Urban Design. Méndez, who earned a Masters in Architecture from the school in 2012, is a lecturer there. Her inspirational speech offers a number of key takeaways from her education and professional experience.

“Most of our lives, including major moments, occur in buildings. That should serve as a reminder that architecture matters, but also as a challenge to design with empathy,” says Allison of her speech’s themes. “Architecture is both essential and existential. But perhaps most importantly: Architecture is inherently optimistic.”

Here is Allison’s complete speech:


Today, we are here to celebrate the achievements of the class of 2019. But first, to the parents, to the family, to the friends who act like family, and to the faculty next to me, I want to acknowledge you, for the hard work you’ve done to help this class get here today. (Grads, you can clap for that.)

Ten years ago, I had my first college graduation. I sat on the field of a very hot, very crowded stadium for about four hours, awaiting my commencement speaker, President Barack Obama. A decade later, I only really recall one piece of advice he gave. And perhaps, for a graduation speech, that’s quite good. So if you remember just one thing I say today – then perhaps I’ll be as successful as President Obama. In this one, minor regard.

So I’m going to start with that bit of wisdom he imparted and move on to the things I’ve personally learned in the intervening ten years.

2019 commencement ceremony at Washington University in St. Louis’s Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts’s College of Architecture/Graduate School of Architecture & Urban Design.

To my 2009 graduating class, President Obama said the following:  “No matter how much you’ve done, or how successful you’ve been, there’s always more to do, always more to learn, and always more to achieve.”

This piece of wisdom was especially relevant to us as we were in the throes of the Great Recession. Our hard work was just beginning, and we were not guaranteed anything. But there’s more to the quote than just that.

My first alma mater (not Wash U) traditionally gave honorary degrees to all of its commencement speakers, but did not confer one on the President Obama. He wasn’t just telling us we could achieve more, he was telling us that, apparently, so could he. And so, I share his challenge with you, the next time you don’t get what you think you deserve, let it motivate you to learn and achieve more.

Maybe it was the President’s artful speech, maybe it was the naivety of youth, or maybe it was Alice Cooper, who was performing, really leaning in to “School’s out… forever” but on that day, not even the recession could stop us from feeling like giants.

And that’s where I’ll pick up on a few key things that I’ve personally learned since my first college graduation.

There are moments in your life where you will feel large, and there are moments when you will infinitesimally small. And often those moments will occur only days apart.

Some will try to diminish the moments in which you feel large. They’ll want to make sure you stay grounded. That you don’t develop an ego. Here’s a helpful hint: it’s not the confident ones with ego problems. It’s the people who are insecure.

Confident people are content with others’ successes. So feel big today – learn how to take a compliment, and find your own special mix of humility and pride. Yes, many factors contributed to you getting to this point, but it’s OK to say: I worked really hard to get here, and I’m really proud of myself. If you feel on top of the world today: Good. You should!

And when you do come down from this feeling, all the way down, you will return to your rightful size relative to the universe. You can re-watch the Eames’ Powers of Ten for a reminder as just how small that is.

Major challenges, tragedy, but also the expansiveness of traveling the globe and being in nature can all make you feel small. Use those moments to discover essential truths, meaning of life kind-of-stuff. And if it’s spurred by a challenge or tragedy, you may feel at first quite unlucky. But I urge you to put that in context. To revel in the luck you’ve had so far, and the luck you’ll have again. The luck to exist in this amazing world. The luck to bear witness to places and ideas both vast and permanent, when you are both small and ephemeral. The luck you have to be overwhelmed with awe and love. In this, you will learn about empathy and the sublime. And remember, it wouldn’t be sublime if it wasn’t also terrifying.

Of all the degrees, of all the professions, you picked Architecture, Landscape Architecture, and Urban Design. Remind yourself why.

For me, and I suspect for many of you, the sublime is part of that story. So is empathy. So is the ephemeral. Those big concepts I just described that are so foundational to existence are also foundational to the pursuit of architecture. They explain why we seek to create things bigger than ourselves and more permanent than our own lives.

Over the last few years, you have studied the very best examples of this, and the architects and designers deemed responsible for these magnificent buildings and spaces. As you start your career, you may wonder how you can be like them. How you can emulate their careers. But I’m here to tell you that that’s not necessarily your path. It’s unlikely that each building you help create is going to be the next big thing, or that you will be.

But I suspect that if you remember what fundamentally drew you to the practice, you won’t be disappointed by that fact. You will be reminded that architecture and design provide constant opportunity. That architecture is inherently optimistic. Some of your buildings and projects may be quite ordinary in nature, but that won’t prevent them from housing – and enhancing – extraordinary experiences.

Almost all of you spent your first day of life in a building. The first light you ever saw was choreographed by the design of a fixture or a window. Many important days in your life, like today, will happen in a building. You’ll call several buildings, over the course of your life, “home”. And at the end of your life, rather than return to nature, you may very end up in a highly designed place of serenity, a place that doesn’t just house you, but the memory of you,  for the loved ones who will miss you.

All this is to say: so much of our lives are contained in buildings.

And that’s really why I wanted to be an architect. I wanted the opportunity to approach architecture with empathy, to imbue it with meaning, and to create spaces that could adequately contain or evoke the memories of someone’s home, of someone’s city, of someone’s life.

And I went into architecture to discover the spaces that could achieve this, not to author them with a supposed stroke of genius, or heavy-handed interpretation of the world.

At significant points in my education and now career, it has served me well to revisit that question: why Architecture. And know that these answers can and will evolve; they have to, because as you grow as architects, and as people, your understanding of the world and the profession will expand. Still, I find that the more I stay true to my core motivations – motivations about how to create and not about how to get ahead — the more I find success in practice, and the more I find happiness in life.

You’ll be tempted to take shortcuts to success.
Resist that urge. If your competitive spirit drives you to diminish the work of others, you aren’t becoming your best self or the best designer you can be. Look around you, your classmates will be your colleagues, some of your faculty will be your first bosses, and you will work collaboratively in some form from here on out.

So If there is one opportunity and you are one of ten people vying for it, first, figure out if you can make ten opportunities. Be generous. Architecture, success, and life, are not zero-sum games.

And while still on the subject of success: Only you can define what success, and happiness, mean for you. It’s not up to your parents (sorry parents), not your instructors (sorry faculty), and, certainly not me.

In the very near future, you will be confronted with many opportunities. You will have the agonizing task of picking a direction. If you know what success and happiness mean for you, you’ll know what decision to make.

If you don’t, then just pick one and figure it out later. Lucky you, to have so many good options in life!

When you are well on your way, you can post-rationalize it as the road less traveled. Or acknowledge there’s just the one you happened to take, and it was as good as any other.

And though you can never really make the big decisions over again, you will learn that there are millions of tiny decisions that will matter just as much, if not more, over time, and with those, you can continue to right your course, to head to your version of success.

So, what I’m ultimately trying to say is: Don’t worry so much.

The last couple decades of your life have been preparing you for this, and now, the next step is to go out there, establish your career, and make your mark on the world. There’s a lot of pressure in that next step.

But, please know, that I believe wholeheartedly that things are going to fall into place for you. Because you know what? You went to Wash University in St. Louis. You are some of the brightest people on earth, you learned from some of the best faculty in the world, and you are lucky, you are privileged, you are hard-working, and you are talented. And besides, as President Obama said, there is always more to learn, always more to achieve.

Finally, today I stand here, as an alum, as someone establishing myself in the field, and as someone doing what I love every single day, and I’m reporting from the future, to let you know, the best is yet to come.

To the class of 2019: Congratulations. This next part is really fun.

Modern Healthcare Recognizes CannonDesign as Leading Health Design Firm

  • May 31, 2019
  • Publication: Modern Healthcare

Five Big Ideas from the 2019 Laboratory Design Conference

  • May 13, 2019
  • Author: Danielle Larrabee

Our expert laboratory designers attended and presented recently at the 2019 Laboratory Design conference in Orlando, Florida, where the Lab of the Year award winners were also announced. Two inspiring projects were included, with special recognition going to University of Texas at Dallas Engineering and Computer Science West. The overall winner was MIT.nano, a brand-new nanotechnology facility at the Massachusetts Institute of technology.

We came away inspired and ready to take on the challenges our clients face when designing modern laboratories to meet the needs of science research and learning. Here are the five big ideas from the conference that stood out to us.

1. Researcher wellness is priority No. 1 to recruit and retain top talent





The modern scientist is rightfully demanding more out of his/her research environment. Often, traditional methodologies and long-lasting beliefs of laboratory design are not the right fit of the fast-changing, constantly innovating institutions of today. Our own Steven Copenhagen and Toni Loiacano discussed three case studies where traditional lab planning ideas were replaced by innovative lab design strategies — helping these organizations create dynamic and boundary-less environments to increase productivity, efficiency and creativity. The case studies were:

Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Building 201

CJ Blossom Park

Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research, Cambridge Campus

2. Smart labs give a huge advantage to analyzing building performance

Smart buildings are nothing new, but technology in the laboratory environment is more robust and abundant than ever before. Jeffrey Zapfe from Acentech and Jorg Scholvin from MIT presented on the Laboratory of the Year 2019 winner, MIT.nano, a brand-new nanotechnology facility at the Massachusetts Institute of technology. To prevent future performance degradation, MIT.nano is using a real-time and continuous live monitoring of the building’s environment so that any issues can be proactively identified and fixed.

3. Excellent design can help our clients achieve higher national research rankings

Expertly designed laboratories can boost a research institution’s ranking by focusing on key factors within the ranking process. Brian Kowalchuk of HDR discussed how creating a successful, iconic research facility can positively influence ranking factors such as grant funding, commitment to growth, peer recognition, distinguished faculty and alumni, and many others.

4. Designing sustainable laboratories are no longer an option – it is a priority






With an increased focus on the bottom line, organizations are constantly searching for money-saving solutions for their largest energy-consuming building assets. Often, laboratories consume the most energy due to air change rates and specialized equipment. Many presentations covered novel concepts that could be introduced in laboratory environments. Punit Jain from CannonDesign presented on Webster University’s Interdisciplinary Science Building where unique stormwater management features and an existing chilled water loop system won the project an ASHRAE award for innovation.

5. We need to start thinking about the next generation of laboratory designers

The final session of the conference focused on the future with a panel discussion about the next generation of laboratory designers. The panel included Patricia Larrabee from Facility Logix, Punit Jain from CannonDesign, and Victoria David from DLR Group. Preparing for the next generation of lab designers requires current professionals to mentor and train those passionate about lab design. They discussed topics like diversity, training programs, professional development, recruitment and a call to action to create local chapters of I2SL and AIA Knowledge Communities for Lab Design to enable exposure for emerging professionals as well as get involved in the schools.

CannonDesign Wins ASHRAE St. Louis Award for Maryland Heights Community Center

  • April 25, 2019
  • Publication: ASHRAE St. Louis

Nourishing Our Collective Health & Wellness at HORIZON St. Louis

  • April 23, 2019
  • Author: Cindy Bambini

How can we advance ideas that translate to a healthier future for all who call the St. Louis region home?

What are the opportunities, barriers and innovations we should be focusing on to ensure sustainable change?

These were just a couple of the questions discussed during our inaugural HORIZON St. Louis event on April 3 at the St. Louis Public Library, Central Library. The event united a strong group of speakers, including:

Together, the group focused on the intentional actions we could take to empower individuals, families, companies and communities to be healthier moving forward. The event is our first HORIZON St. Louis event with others planned into the future (stay tuned!). Thanks to all who attended and/or helped make the event a success.

Jason Hall on how wellness and economic development intersect
Economic development focuses on how we attract new jobs and investment, and there’s been so many fundamental shifts in this realm, particularly in cities as we collectively re-urbanize as a country. This brings forward issues related to sustainability, health and wellness, multi-modal forms of transit. And, the really fascinating shift is that 20 years ago, businesses mostly made decisions solely around economics and tax rates, etc. – but now, businesses are making decisions rooted in how they can attract top talent. So, for cities to be attractive to these businesses, they need to be great places to live first and foremost.

In St. Louis, my team’s been supporting the Chouteau Greenway project, which will ultimately connect the downtown Arch to Forest Park via walking and bike trails, while also establishing new hubs in the neighborhoods along the way. It will be a form of transportation and healthy living that’s fundamentally disrupting the status quote and creating positive opportunities.

David Polzin on St. Louis’ global health and wellness possibilities
We have such incredible brain power in St. Louis; I think that’s something to be proud of when it comes to our region. It’s not just about solving problems here in St. Louis one community at a time, but also being proud of how we can solve global issues. Just one example, there’s terrific research being done locally at Washington University in St. Louis on neuroscience. What if we said, in five years, that team had solved Alzheimer’s? I don’t think that’s out of the realm. We should be thinking beyond our own limitations and how we can have a real impact on the world at large.

Amy Eyler on health and wellness equity
St. Louis has a remarkable challenge related to health and wellness equity. In a recent report entitled, “For The Sake of All,” our department looked at health outcomes by St. Louis-area zip codes. The differences are staggering in a bad way. We’re talking about 20-year differences in life expectancy based on where you live and grow up.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has a concept around the culture of health, and how we need to have access to vibrant places where we can live, work and play. Spaces that facilitate health and wellness. In St. Louis, we have work to do to ensure all communities have access to these spaces and resources. Just because you live in a certain zip code shouldn’t mean you live 20+ years less. The bright side is what gets measured gets changed. And, the “For the Sake of All” report is opening eyes, igniting discussion and moving us toward change.

Eliot Frick on envisioning St. Louis’ future reality
There’s a futurist at the University of Hawaii I love, and his third Law of Futures is that the future is not predictable because it doesn’t exist. And, what that means is that from every moment here into the future that we try and predict, it becomes inherently less predictable. So, we’re really looking at possibility spaces.

What this means for community engagement is that we can’t just rely on the historical social science approaches like surveys to secure insight and then make decisions about funds allocation. What futurists universally recognize is that a vibrant image of the future isn’t successful if it’s exciting, but actually it’s more about multiplicity and exploring possibility spaces in a genuine way. So, we need to ask, how can we elicit visions of the future from our communities? How can we collectively generate more visions for the future?

Tracey Anderson on community engagement
We see so many initiatives related to health and wellness begin and then fall flat due to lack of participation and community engagement. I think we frequently develop good ideas, move quickly without taking time to engage the communities we’re trying to help about their needs, definitions of success and more. When we don’t address these things, we miss out on the potential of good ideas. And, then it becomes harder to revisit them. We need to make community engagement front-and-center of our efforts and it needs to begin at the outset of projects and initiatives.

We’ve made community engagement a cornerstone of our new master planning efforts for the city’s recreational future. People of all ages are open to sharing their ideas and like being part of shaping the future. We’re finding similarities across generations when it comes to desire for access to the outdoors, opportunities to move and engage. People want to feel they are in nature, people want to be healthy. And, when you talk to them and engage them, you realize we can unleash the power of their ideas.

Read more on HORIZON >

CannonDesign Leads Talks on Future Scientific Workplaces, Sustainable Design at Laboratory Design Conference

  • 04/30/2019 - 05/01/2019
  • Presenter(s): Toni Loiacano, Steven Copenhagen, Punit Jain

Earth Day 2019: What Will We Do In the Next 11 Years?

  • April 22, 2019
  • Author: Mike Cavanaugh

It has been 49 years since our first Earth Day in 1970.

Forty-nine years is quite a run. The passion and awareness ignited during those inaugural events in 1970 have driven significant positive change in our relationship with the natural environment. Next year will mark the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, and many will undoubtedly hoist up that number proudly.

This year, however, let’s focus on a different number: 11.

According to a report released in 2018 by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), we must halve our emissions by 2030 to avoid a future defined by catastrophic climate change. That deadline is just 11 years away.

CannonDesign knows we must bring critical focus in this short span of time. Nearly ten years ago we signed onto the AIA 2030 commitment. In it, we pledged that all new buildings, developments, and major renovations we design will be carbon neutral – requiring no fossil fuel or GHG-emitting energy for operations. Instead, we’d rely on clean energy to power our built environment.

We knew then this would be a massive challenge, but one worth striving toward. Like many decades-long plans, when our commitment was signed we had the benefit of time. Today, we do not – but we do now have a few resources almost as valuable.

Deeper Knowledge

Our firm and industry have made great strides in advocating for low carbon building solutions. In doing so, we’ve educated ourselves, learning how to best monitor our progress and promote our most important and innovative ideas.

Proven Innovation

Ten years ago, building energy use was quantifiable by a small percentage of engineers and an even smaller percentage of architects. Technology was available but was not widely used or known.

Today, thanks to our industry’s continued leadership through the American Institute of Architects, Architecture 2030, and with help from incredible partners in the software community, we have sophisticated tools that are both accessible and integrated into our workflows.


We are fast approaching the year 2030. While we have had many successes, the transition to carbon neutrality needs to accelerate significantly. Time is not on our side, but we can use that reality to motivate us.

Of course, Earth Day, environmental awareness, and sustainability are about more than just building energy consumption. We must also think about how we’ll take action related to embodied carbon, material health, and resilience among other issues key to the building industry. While more generally, plastic pollution, air/water quality, and forest protection loom larger than ever. There are many ways we can individually recognize Earth Day 2019.

Our planet faces rapid, perilous and unprecedented threats from climate change. It has become the greatest challenge of our time. We have what it takes to meet this challenge, but we will need courage, commitment and sincere urgency to help us achieve our 2030 goals.

Time may not be on our side. But, Earth Day is a chance to look around and recognize the millions of people who do stand with us. Around the world, companies, institutions, cities, states, and nations are stepping up their commitments and demanding better. We are lucky to work with some of these organizations as they clear paths for others to follow.

We all have an impact on this planet and therefore a chance to ensure that is a positive one. This is our hope, inspiration, and potential – that together we can honor the vision of those who launched Earth Day 49 years ago, and preserve this planet as we know it for the generations to follow.

First Look: USI Screaming Eagles Arena

  • April 14, 2019

Allison Mendez Profiled in Architect’s AIA Voices Series

  • April 14, 2019
  • Publication: Architect