Episode Description

Growing up in South Africa, Mike’s father pushed him toward the medical field, but after one visit to the architecture wing of the University of Cape Town and Mike switched his field of study. Today Mike designs laboratories that inspire people to work together in harmony. 

Talking Points:

{01:15} Becoming a member of Mensa 

{02:47} Growing up in South Africa and the journey to a career as an architect

{10:10} Lessons from working international

{15:00} Game plan that you have for every facility you build

{27:10} Favorite top three projects

{31:10} Overwhelmingly challenges  

Resources and Links:

Connect with Tom Finn

Episode Transcript

Welcome to the Talent Empowerment Podcast, where we share stories of successful humans so you can lift up your own organizations, your teams, and your community. I am your humble host, Tom Finn, and on the show today we have a British Mensa member who was born in Namibia and grew up in South Africa. He goes by Mike Mulvey. Mike, thrilled to have you on the show. Welcome.

Yeah, thank you. It's great to be here.

Well, we are thrilled to have you on the show. And for those of you who are listening, Mensa is a group that allows like-minded people to socialize, stretch their intellectual muscles, and participate in interesting activities.

The Mensa family comprises over 140,000 folks from more than 100 countries across the world, and we will ask Mike all about the details of this amazing society. And while that is a part of Mike's life, he is actually an architect by trade and joined HD Design in 2018. He's got a long history of success before that. He also specializes in laboratory design for life science companies. So essentially, he's designing the structure for smart people to design the next exciting discoveries in human science for all of us. And before we get to that, let's back up. How does one become a member of Mensa Mike?

Well, way back, with that kind of half-off deal, I got in for half the normal IQ requirement. But, in reality, especially in the UK, as most things are, it is a drinking Club, which used to meet in pubs, discussing football, soccer, and rugby. You know all those things about politics, of course. And every now and then, some intellect stuff, but that is really just an aside. It is good. first got to the UK after leaving South Africa, it was a great way to socialize, meet new people, and talk nonsense.

The website does not mention drinking clubs and pub football discussions. As of now, the only requirement for membership is a score in the top 2% of the general population with an approved intelligence test; the name Mensa was chosen because it means table in Latin and represents the idea that all members of the society sit as equals around a table, regardless of racial, religious, political, or socioeconomic distinctions, which I think is absolutely fabulous.

Yeah, that's very true. I mean, I've done none of that... The thing is, I've traveled all over the world, lived and worked on four continents, and probably in twenty different countries. I’ve often met other Mensa members from all cultures, religions, races, nationalities, etc., and it's been a great leveler. It's a great way to introduce each other, get to know each other, and just talk.

You mentioned that you grew up in South Africa. Was this a part of your plan when you were growing up? What was the plan when you were growing up.

Well, it is, you know, growing up in South Africa during the days of apartheid, and the southern part of South Africa, Cape Town, where I grew up, is analogous to San Francisco. It's the liberal part of the country; we never wanted any part of apartheid; it was forced on us by the people up north when they took over the country back in 1949.  

I just never felt I could survive long-term there because when I left the country in 1988, Mandela was still in jail, and there didn't seem to be any hope of his ever being released. No future there, and I expected it to come out. I have had children. I realized one day that I didn't want to raise them in that society, so leaving South Africa was an option in the back of my mind from the start. It's a lovely country with fantastic people, but politically and economically it still has a lot of challenges.

Yeah, I understand. You're in South Africa. You're thinking of a better place and a better life for yourself, and you end up in the UK. Did you always want to be an architect?

Oh no, I started college for medical school in those days you attended medical school immediately after graduating from high school. It’s kind of scary to think about because had I carried on that track, I would have been a fully qualified MD at the age of 22 or 23. And knowing the hooligan, I was at 22/23 compared to the hooligan. I am not a little bit older than that. It would be dangerous. I probably would have killed people.

But one night I walked into the artificial school and was acting as a photographic editor for the campus newspaper. I walked into the architectural school late at night to cover a story of some sort, and it was a party city. wine flowed and the music blared good old rock’n’roll. And I said, "Gee, here's four years of hard work in medical school, or architectural school is a wild party.” Also, there is a six-year course there, but you can still switch majors much to my father’s disgust.

I didn't just do it randomly. I did have a talent, I think, for design and spatial recognition and things like that. So, I graduated from there and took the opportunity to move to the UK. In those days, South Africa was still sanctioned and pretty much a pariah around the world, but not in the UK. I had British citizenship thanks to my father. So, it was a fairly easy segue for me.

I worked in London for about a year and a half—two years—and the office there offered for me to go out and run their office in the Middle East in the Sultanate of Omar. Now London is an interesting place. It's a great place to visit. My office was in the same complex as Westminster Abbey. I could walk across Westminster Bridge every morning on the way to work. Walking through 1000 years of Western civilization. But after the first week or two and the rain, the sleet, and the rest of it, it's just the way to work.

When they frequently assume this position in the Middle East, they are grabbed by both hands. I had a fantastic time in Muscat, the Sultanate of Oman. We got to do things like drive a Ferrari that belonged to the bodyguard of the Sultan through the desert at about 300 kilometers an hour; to sail an Arab ship and scuba dive on the coast there, with just some architecture in between.

But thanks to my background in medicine, which involved a lot of biotechnology, chemistry, etc., I've always had an interest in lab design, so I tend to gravitate towards that. When my contract is over in the middle east. I thought of going back to London but was not enjoying it. My wife at the time was interested in doing a course in gemology, so we came across to LA so she could study, and I found a job there; the rest is pretty much history.

I've been in the United States for about 37 years, and in 1990 I met a guy named Ken Kornberg, who was He and Earl Walls were, I think, the only two specialists in lab architecture in the country, one of the very few anyway. And I worked with him for 24/25 years, eventually becoming the principal in charge of the San Diego office.

But the thing about Ken Kornberg is that he is very, very involved in science. His entire family is made up of scientists; his father and his brother are both Nobel Prize winners. He’s kind of the black sheep of the family, not being a scientist. But again, he is focused on science, and the thing about designing lab buildings is that we're working with very sophisticated, highly educated people. Now to put them in the machine, so to speak. I think it's a mistake. Because these are the people that you want to help create your next cure for cancer. Your next wonder drug, your vaccines—that's the stuff we deal with on a day-to-day basis. So the way we designed our labs was very much centered around the people.

We'd just use color and texture. We were one of the first firms to emphasize the use of wood for lab casework. Many people have asked, "Why is wood better than stainless steel or phenolics?" The thing is wood with a decent sealant. It's just sanitary; it's just as safe to use, albeit not in clean rooms but in general lab areas. And I believe that most people react to and resonate with wood. It’s a natural substance.

So, using wood, using colors, and going back to the color it's a fascinating thing I got. I got crazy in Southern California, where we have what a friend of mine calls "condominium mania," where everything is beige Navajo white. It's a type of hair color. And yet we traveled to the Mediterranean, and people came back raving about the beautiful colors on the Algarve coast, from, you know, the Italian Riviera, et cetera. And yet we come back home to our beige boxes.

So, in laboratories, to paint a wall bright blue, for instance, maybe it's the company logo. Maybe it's going to do the research; whatever it may be, it just brightens up the space and takes the accent a little bit away from the mechanics, because otherwise, a lab is very much a machine that people are living inside, very heavy on the HVC, very heavy on the piping.

And you're going to a GMP facility where they manufacture drugs, for instance. And it's like working inside the boiler room, almost to bring in some color. Play with light; make it interesting. It's going to encourage your people to work longer hours to be happier and more creative.

The other thing that's important in lab design goes back to, I think, Cambridge University, where they found an amazing number of breakthrough discoveries. And what they got down to in the end was that the old buildings tended to lead people to interact more with them. They'd run into each other in the very large stairwells, that were generously spaced, they just talk randomly about different things, and people from different disciplines would cross-fertilize.

I was once taught by a gang of crazy Joshua priests in South Africa. And one of the two things they taught me was to think outside the box. Second, to challenge everything. To have an open mind. In fact, one of the things they like to tell us is that their goal is not to educate us. But to open our minds so that when we graduated from high school, we would be receptive and open to learning when we join the real work. Again, you know we've got to be creative with things like that.

Mike, that was a great overview. Where you started, and how things have progressed along the way. And it has been an incredible journey.

So as we sort of unpack some of these components here, you went to the UK. You went to the Middle East, and then you made it. over to the US. And so what did you learn through moving to multiple places? Did you? Did you meet anyone new? What do we do, people? Were the lessons really from being so international?

And the lesson I learned—and, you know, obviously pretty receptive. Again, thanks for those gestures, and thanks for growing up in a pretty crazy society in South Africa at the time. When you reach the peak of apartheid's heyday, you know I got out as fast as I could.

But I met people from different cultures in the Middle East. I met friends who would look after me. Help me when necessary. Up until recently, they continued to send me Christmas cards. I would send them cards for their festivals, and I know it's a cliche, but I've discovered that people are people. In fact, used to amuse me when I was in South Africa, the big bogeymen were the communists, the Russians. They were going to take over the world, including Africa. They were about to march down at any moment. We’d all be force-fed at gunpoint back into the sea.

I had this thought even in high school.  I'm sure the average person in Moscow doesn't want to take over the world. He or she just wants to get home in one piece, feed their family, and make it through the next week. The next day, whatever. It may be both. Many years ago, I read a book called The See Club, which I still remember. In fact, every person had a computer terminal where they could communicate with anyone. The world was that way, and when politicians did stupid things, you could call them up. I put on a mask and ask, "Hey, Ivan, what's up?" Are you guys really to wipe out the world? Do you want to nuke us all? And it's amazing that—I mean, Clark was a visionary; science is pretty well established. He was referring to the Internet, which has reduced distances to the point where we can FaceTime people from anywhere the world.

And I think it's becoming harder and harder for politicians to drum up fear of the unknown people, which is traditionally where politicians meet and get their power from. So it's an exciting time to live in a world where we can communicate globally.

The other feeling I've had for a long time is that we probably have the answer to a lot of the big problems we face. The cure for cancer, different diseases, social illnesses, et cetera. But it's distributed across the world and the only way in the past people could interact was by going to conferences, clubs, and similar events, as well as attending meetings, which would be examples of interaction. But now we can talk to each other through the Internet, and maybe a physicist in San Diego can communicate with an organic chemist in Strasbourg, France, and another guy in Japan somewhere. Say, "Hey, you know that's a good idea." Let's try that in my field.

One of the major projects on which I worked was Colombo, which included the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST). It's been an incredibly successful campus where there's a long, difficult history of getting it built, but on this campus, there are no departmental boundaries within reasonable practical limits. You may have a physicist sitting side by side with a chemist with a biotechnology person, etc. And the whole idea is that these people will talk to each other. They'll sit down and have coffee with each other. Sometimes an idea comes out of the left field from a different discipline and will germinate into something meaningful.

That's 100% right in any business. Anytime we get folks from different disciplines sitting down together and communicating well and effectively, what you tend to find are new ideas. Sprout good ideas that are collective in nature; think about inclusivity; and try to create products and services that reflect that are thinking about a global audience.

And I love when we have those types of conversations, whether it's in the science community or in any other business community around the world. I think it's important that we're looking at things from a global perspective, and you hit the nail on the head.

It's people getting together from different disciplines and understanding how to build something new and unique for the betterment of humankind.

You know, it kind of goes against what I said about making the lab as comfortable as possible for people to work in, but at the same time, we need to get people. out of the lab and into common areas. And you know, I remember working on the Pfizer campus here in La Hoya, where we designed little elcos along the hallways with a free-standing sheet of glass, for instance, as a marker board. a couple of simple ones. There's maybe a coffee machine; two people are walking by and say, "Hey Joe, what do you think about this new way to sequence DNA or whatever it may be?" And then pick it up and start brainstorming right away. And that's where the sparks are ignited to create those discoveries.

Yeah, so let's go there, you're an architect by nature. You work in the life sciences—Biocon, biotech—kind of space, and you build things so that people can go in and build things, for lack of a better term.

And this is really important work, primarily because these are the folks that are designing the future of support for humankind.

So, as you think about space, as you think about human interaction, as you think about how to put people together, is there a game plan that you have for every facility you build? Is it different depending on the facility or the company?

You know every program is different. Every research direction is somewhat different. Yes, certain components are fairly standard, and you know that almost every discipline has a lab bench. What happens on that bench will differ for a chemist, biologist, or physicist. But that is kind of standard; once you leave that, there are some big differences.

One of my great loves in life is doing puzzles and finding solutions to different projects, especially in the three-dimensional world. I remember in school, a friend of mine had some of those Chinese puzzles. They come as wooden spheres. When you press a specific part of the piece, it pops out. And the whole idea is to put these pieces back together again when the things are disassembled. And putting together a research program is very much like that.

Just recently, I was asked to design a… I was given the basement profile as a 15,000-square-foot rodent habitat, a vivarium with clean and dirty circulation, and the basement of a new building. The number of procedures, rooms, holding rooms, etc., and getting that puzzle together while still having it practical and constructible on some kind of halfway reasonable budget and at the end of the day working for the research program fantastic challenge. I simply cannot handle challenges, physically or mentally, in almost any event. I still run obstacle courses, as I did recently the Marine Corps Boot Camp Challenge just because I'm too stubborn to ever lie down and play dead, but also because I enjoy a good challenge. It’s very hard to resist.

And I don't like the idea of a standard solution. It’s interesting that I believe it's happening all over the world. Firms are much more special and specialized than they were. For example, in the United Kingdom, where I was working, In UK, I worked for a company called Triad, and before that, Fitzroy Robinson and Partners. And we'd be designing hotels one day and shopping malls the third day, maybe a little. lab somewhere or at school? And the good news is that we approach those projects with an open mind and no preconceptions.

In the US, clients will go to a lab architect. He is, in fact, a highly specialized lab architect. If you want a clean room in a GMP facility, you go to somebody who's just done it. Hopefully, they put pencil to paper on the identical project last week, so they learned all the expensive lessons on somebody else's dime and can give you the new, improved version. But that way, you tend to get more formal formulas. Solutions that, yeah, I guess are economical, but at the same time, they can be very unimaginative  

And what is the biggest waste of time that you see people taking on in this space? Are people wasting time in the science space, or are they doing projects or taking on different components of their day that waste time? Or are these efficient individuals?

I think they're fairly efficient. I mean, they're expensive, folks. They usually have a pretty decent income, but the facilities are so expensive. It's interesting that I worked on a project for the Cleveland Clinic New Ice Center. They recently hired a top-tier superstar up-and-coming surgeon, as well as some of the people, told me it was like an NFL negotiation with a star player. This guy was coming in, and they designed the facility, so they'll want it to be as efficient and productive as possible. as special as possible.

A waste of time. I don't know. Perhaps a material waste often, when you walk into a lab, you'll see several people standing around with experiment setups that haven't been touched in a long time. and you know they were set. They're done. The people moved on, maybe going somewhere else. Nobody got drawn to dismantling the thing. There are a few more nearby that they require.

It was like that when I was working at the Phazer campus, which began as an Aggron Pharmaceuticals campus before being purchased by Firestone. However, their COO, Vincenzo, was quite dictatorial in the sense that he would be if people demanded equipment that justified it. And he stated that there was only one scientist, one heard period, and nothing else. Because sometimes when you go to a lab for a new project and you start doing the initial programming, you ask the users, "OK, what do you need in this lab?" What equipment do you have? What are your functions? They'll also give you three lists.

They'll be the needs list, the want list, and the wish list. It will all come together in one list, but you must still go out from that list to where these three lists begin. Each one begins, each one ends, and you obviously give them some of them, hopefully, some of the wants, and the wishes Yes, if the butcher can stand it in the end, but you have to realize that some of these just wish that they would have if everything were perfect—for example, if they won the lottery.

It was also interesting that we had a competition a few years ago to redevelop a lab in Paris that was probably 200 years old. You take a current scientist who is given this lab and says, "Look, this is the lab where penicillin was developed. Make it work” And you'll make it work, or she'll make it work. But if you take the same person, give them a blank sheet of paper and a brand-new building, tell them what they want, and they'll have a huge shopping list of requirements and things they need. But again, they created people. They are intelligent people; they can work around things

And the secret is to, as I say, stimulate them and give them what they need. And then let them just do it. What they? I need to say thank you.

So, Mike does that make architecture a luxury? I mean, this feels like a luxury item now, in your Paris example.

Unfortunately, architecture is, to some extent, a luxury. It was interesting when I switched from medicine to architecture to work with a girlfriend of mine's father, who was a very successful architect. He once took me aside and told me that I should think about Swedish medicine because we'll always need doctors when we’re sick. You do not want to haggle over the cost of your heart surgery with the surgeon. When you're in trouble, you want the best lawyer in town.

As architects, we are luxury items in that people come to us when they have extra money to spend and want to build something. It's very rarely an absolute mission-critical need. And the problem with that, of course, is when the economy slows down even slightly. We're among the first people out on the streets because it's always easy to abandon a project, downscale it, value engineer it, and cancel it all, whereas if you need heart surgery, you'll find a way to pay for it; find a way to make it happen.  

Yeah, you bet; If you need heart surgery, you're going to find the best. At that point, the best surgeons and prices are no longer a problem or an object for many. That is why the United States has health insurance available for purchase. Those procedures are covered at least on some level.

So, when you think about designing spaces that people really want to be in and your creative juices are flowing, you've got that blank sheet of paper. Maybe you've got lists of needs, wants, and wishes. Where do you start?

Yeah, that's a good question. I remember the college I went to being very design-oriented. We'd have this brutal design critiques the college I went to being very design-oriented. We'd have these brutal design critiques. They give you an almost impossible problem. You should be able to solve it in two or three days, if not sooner.

My solution was always to read up on all of the information I could find on the program about the specifics. Maybe the building footprint if there was one. And then go away. And that subconsciously, I think, one's brain carries on calculating, manipulating, and looking at the data. And sometimes I wake up the next morning and half of the design would come to me. It comes to me intuitively.

It’s so... I'm at a loss for words. I believe it is something our school can excel at. As I previously stated, it was a six-year program, and I recall doing a bit of a cross-over in our second or third year where some of the second-year students worked with the first-year students and some of the third-year students worked with the sixth-year students. And people would come back and say, "Well, those people think differently."  Because again, through doing all these design charettes over and over and over again, we were trained to think outside the box to find solutions to visualize things.

Some of it is simply telling someone that you can learn. You know, I think there are many ways to design buildings. You can do it. Just follow the program. We're purely mechanically methodical. But if you want a building that is a little bit of a saw, that's going to inspire people. As I said earlier, to make people want to work longer hours, stay up later at night, and make great discoveries, It needs a little extra.

To go back to the founder or one of the big stars of the modern movement. A busy year back in France Way back, you know there were proportions used, the golden mean, and things like that those dimensions that are somehow intuitively pleasing to people. And there's a lot of science and mathematics behind it.

Math is my favorite subject outside of architecture and being a general geek. But you know, it's interesting to look at the math that involves music, Gödel, Escher, Bach: The Golden Braid is a fantastic book for Marisha Escher that compares the arts. The mathematics of Godel and the music of Johann Sebastian Bach are inextricably linked. There’s an overlap between this and that.

I think math can translate into the dimensions of spaces and the proportions of rooms. Things like that will again inspire people, so you can have a lab that is very Unitarian. It might work perfectly for all of the HVAC. All the different services—the gases, liquids, etc. But the people just won't be happy.

Take place in a similar situation. Bring in some color and pay careful attention to the movement patterns, the way people work in this space, and the textures, and suddenly that lamp will be more productive. People stick around longer.

In fact, with Cornberg, we did a study of the life-cycle cost of a built-to-suit research builder. Over the last 30 years, research has been conducted. Obviously, an owner-occupant is not a developer. In this case, the total cost over the course of 30 years was in the billions, but at least 95% plus. It assumed that the remaining 5% represented the cost of the initial construction of Azure. The permit covers all the good stuff that people are concerned about. People were responsible for 95% of the cost over the 30 years, so if you're trying to optimize anything—any process, anything—what happens if you look at the biggest numbers and see if you can improve them by 5%, say? You’re going to get a big return for your buck. If you take a tiny number, improve that by 5%. You're not going to get much back.

So sometimes, at the beginning of a project, we are faced with budget constraints. People are trying to squeeze, you know, $5 out of a 3-pound bag. That is a fast economy at times. I’m obviously going to work with the money you have and the resources you have, but you need to think long-term. Think about the process and what will come out at the end of the day, not just the initial return.

And you'll notice a big difference between labs built for developers and labs built for only users, S J. Craig Venter did recently in San Diego. Also, recently, but in any case, after completing the DNA sequencing, he built his research. They’re going to design for people.

Another great example is the Salk Institute. And Jonas made so much money from the polio vaccine that he was able to build that icon, from architecture to research. That is just a Taj Mahal for architects around the world. Again, but with very long-term goals, that building has full interstitials.

I did a building in Cleveland for the Cleveland Clinic where above the ceiling is a fully walkable floor between the floors where the mechanical service people can get in there. They can move things around. They can repair and change things without disturbing them. That starts from the bottom. There’s a big cost involved obviously, instead of a regular lightweight ceiling, there's a fully walkable gantry and things like that, but we'll use that building for the 30 to 40 years that the clinic may be open. It’ll pay itself back many, many times over.

 

Out of all of these projects, you've probably completed quite a few. A few: how many projects have you done, Mike?

Crooks never added them all up, but they were probably in the hundreds.

Several 100 years.

And they've ranged from, you know, one-room lab renovations to that project in Okinawa, which is probably several million square feet. It's the message they convey. It’s in the billions.

And do you have any? A favorite or a top three

The Okinawa project is my number one favorite. There was a long, tortuous process to get it built in the first place because the Japanese wanted it to be an open place for creativity and new thoughts, which the Japanese are. It's kind of judgmental, I guess, but traditionally they're not known for new ideas but for perfecting and developing other people's ideas So what they wanted was a center of excellence. It's far enough away from Turkey to avoid being too controlled by the Ministry of Education.

Okinawa was suffering at the time because the Marines had pulled out and the economy needed a bit of a boost. And so, we found this land. We had to be careful how we designed the project because it was on sensitive land, and we spent a long time figuring out how to site the buildings.

What we came up with in the end involved placing the buildings on the fingers. The ridges that led down to the sea and the canyons between them were very sensitive, so we left them alone and the buildings were built largely by the locals. Man built them to emulate Okinawan traditional hillside castles. Stone and wood textures, a lot of justice, and beautiful Japanese woodwork, for instance, connect the buildings with free-spanning bridges. We retroactively applied for LEED certification and were rewarded LEED Silver, which I think is the first time in Japan. because when we saw the design the clint didn't want to leave but thank you. The contractor meticulously documented everything, and thanks to our general good habits of environmentally friendly design from California and the US investor, we were able to obtain LEED certification retroactively.

After that, I'm guessing the Pfizer campus. That was an interesting situation where it started for Agram Pharmaceuticals with a landlord developer and then Agron coming in as the tenant. So, there are different agendas at play there. Pfizer bought Agron halfway through and bought the campus out, but the whole thing is very modular. And the great thing is that we have the lab module, which can be easily converted from chemistry to biology to robotics to whatever you require, as well as the campus. It’s close—about 800,000 square feet of lab the space has been modified, renovated, and changed many, many times since we completed it. There's also a challenge in that it comes with very strict height limits. We couldn't have huge exhaust stacks on the roof, for instance. There were lots of challenges, but I think the final solution was pretty amazing.

Following that is a small building in San Diego's University Town Center on Eastgate Moor that will now house pharmaceuticals. This was a company that wanted a toehold in the US. A Japanese company. They had a relationship with the general contractor, Takenaka. It went back to the 1600s, and it was interesting that through the whole construction process, there were no change orders.

I believe the contractor would have gone to the owner with the change audience expecting to commit seppuku or something on the spot, just to save face. But that's what it became a building's jewelry box. It has a central courtyard with a bamboo garden, very Zen, very Oriental, very Asian and very calming, and the building sort of goes around that in geometric forms at this triangle, which some people find satisfying as well. So, there we had one wing of chemistry and one wing of biology and also with institutional walkways above them.

So, we've got #1 Okinawa, #2 Pfizer, and #3 is this beautiful little building is in UTC, or University Town Center there in San Diego. I grew up in San Diego, so I happen to know exactly where that is.

I've had the opportunity to look at some of these documents from Okinawa. Mike, you've shared those with me when we think about that project in particular, and we'll share some of these photos and designs with our listeners and our viewers.

But when we think about that project, was there something like that? That was just so overwhelmingly challenging that you thought we weren't going to break through, but we did. Because when we think about our careers, it happens all the time, right? And we hit those points. Did you have some with Okinawa?

There are two things.

One is the sensitivity, the fragility, and the beauty of the sites.  I've teased the students on campus by claiming that the generation of this campus doesn't work out. It has been spectacularly successful. If it doesn't work out, they can turn to Club Med. There are beautiful white-sand beaches, turquoise seas, and an unspoiled jungle there. But it's sensitive, so What I think I had was the initial idea for this thing. I proposed the main entry—the tunnel that went under the mountain through the central elevator core. People coming in didn't have to walk up the zigzag road up the slope to get to the building on top of the hill; they went through this tunnel, which is walled with display screens, so as they walk through this unprobeable there’s a cluster about. Cluster 1/3 of a mile long, they'll see displays of what's happening in the research program. What's coming down are seminars that are coming up. What's on the menu in the cafeteria? That is ever-present again, the central core is a good place for intercession ascension to the middle of the campus with this beautiful, courtyard. with the water feature, and all the good stuff.

The second thing, as I said lead firms The lead certification was again done retroactively, and the third is working with two other firms.

Because whenever I work overseas, we've always worked with a local architect. In this case, we had Nick and Sekai out of Tokyo, which is a firm close to Hokes in science, and Kunken, who was out of ONA in Okinawa. They completed the task. The outside aesthetics are, shall we say, very Japanese in style. It's a beautiful natural building, but if you look at the plan, of which, I'm sure you will share. It looks almost like a goldfish; it's a very organic shape. anything but rectilinear, which is what most labs around here are. They're just shoe boxes with labs. because labs tend to be lined up in rows of benches, etc. The challenge was fitting functional latches into these shapes that were like fish or segments of an orange curvilinear shape. And we over came that. I think the labs came out beautiful.

In fact, they're attracting people from all over the world. The other interesting thing about that campus is the fact that it's multidisciplinary. There are no departmental boundaries. Various research functions grow and shrink as needed, and you'll have people sitting next to each other from different disciplines, hopefully talking to each other.

They also have a beautiful central cafeteria—the big courtyard I mentioned—where people can meet when they're there not working; again, to foster interaction and creativity.

It sounds like an absolutely beautiful campus, and it was designed and inspired in a way that creates and promotes human interaction so that people are developing the best products, services, pharmaceuticals, et cetera, that the world needs to continue in a way that inspires humanity and continues to push us all forward.

I think that's a beautiful way of looking at the world and things. work that you do. Mike's contribution is meaningful and important because you're inspiring the minds of these great scientists, and certainly for that. I thank you and we thank you for the great work that you have done over a very long, historic, and proud career in architecture.

I'm glad you didn't become a doctor and chose this path so that we can all enjoy these beautiful buildings and spaces that you've created over the past couple of decades.

Thank you; it's been a pleasure.

And for. If you're out there and looking to get in touch with Mike Mulvey, there are probably a couple of ways to do it. Mike, how would somebody get in touch with you if they wanted to connect?

The best way is probably through Hed Design LinkedIn and Mike’s personal Linkedin Search me by my name. I've got a pretty active profile there. Other than that, you can look up HED.Design for the company. and I believe that is most likely correct. The best lamb I would recommend as the primary one.

Yep, so connect with Mike Mulvey. We'll put that in the show notes. You can connect with him on LinkedIn. Mike, it's a pleasure to have you on the show. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts on design, people, and the empowerment of others through design. We are grateful for having you on the show.

Thank you; it's been a pleasure.

And thank you, my friends for joining the Talent Empowerment podcast and I hope this conversation lifted you up so you can lift up your teams and organizations.  If you're in the life sciences space and you're looking for a fantastic designer, head over to HD dot Design and find Mike. You'd be delighted to have one with you.

Let’s get back to people and culture together.  We’ll see you on the next episode!

Tom Finn

Tom Finn

Podcaster & Co-Founder

Tom Finn (he/him) is an InsurTech strategist, host of the Talent Empowerment podcast, and co-founder and CEO of an inclusive people development platform.