Design for Innovation
 
 

THE MCGRAW-HILL COMPANIES

Interview with Tim Hawk

“WOULD YOU ASK ME SOMETHING THIS WEEK?” Tim yelled. “I just sit down and I have to start talking. You never ask me anything!”

“Talking unprompted has never been an issue for you,” I said.

“What are we even doing? McGraw-Hill?”

This was Tim’s first project. On previous projects, he was supporting staff to Bob and Tom. “Tom let me do everything,” Tim said. His first introduction to project management was a flight to New York City for a meeting with Mr. McGraw at his corporate office. “We literally flew with brick samples,” he said. “We went into the holding office in his suite and his assistant came out 20 minutes later telling us Mr. McGraw was unavailable and we’d have to reschedule a few weeks later,” Tim explained with a laugh waiting its turn. “It was my first introduction to discretionary expenditures.”

McGraw-Hill purchased property at Polaris next to what was decided to become a hotel. Very soon after the transaction was complete, as in 15 minutes after, the property intended to be a hotel was purchased by a gas station. Once the building was framed, Mr. McGraw came to the site. He entered the area where the board room was going to sit and immediately said he didn’t want to be looking at a gas station. Tim, only in his early 30s, explained to the CEO of a huge, international company that the focus would not be on the gas station; it would be on the landscaping because the building was surrounded by hundreds of trees that were to be spared in the construction process. In earlier versions of a board room, it was standard practice to have the CEO in the power position at the head of the table. This design wasn’t that. The board room operated under the idea that it was a team environment and that wasn’t really done before.

“This was the most efficient building I’ve ever designed,” Tim said. It’s filled with natural light and simple, timeless architecture. McGraw-Hill is comprised of a few different branches, one being the SRA division (education kits for elementary schools). The idea was to design a small building under the pretenses that it would house several departments and absorb seven years of growth as well as provide an exit strategy if the company were to sell and relocate. The building was designed to shift.

To end the conversation, Tim saved the coolest detail. In 2007 he opened the newspaper and read that McGraw-Hill had signed a lease to relocate their SRA division because they had become so large and interactive that they grew out of the space. “I planned that building to absorb seven years of growth. They moved after seven years,” he said. He looked at me and looked back to the scratch sheet of paper he was scribbling on, put the pen to it, and drew a hard line. “That building is resilient.”

1998 Pop Culture Facts

Some people were out doing big things in 1998: John Glenn (more New Concord shoutouts!) joined the Discovery Mission. The guy who created Monster.com launched it. Smart Water stocked the shelves. JK Rowling was doing big things and releasing Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Sarah Jessica Parker was drinking a Manhattan and being filmed doing that (you know, on Sex and the City!). The first MP3 player was released just in time for Seinfeld to air its last episode. That’s lucky! And the reason all of this is possible, the reason I can tell you all of this information… Google, thanks for being born in 1998!

Also, it’s really no big deal, but Tim Hawk became principal of Wandel & Schnell, Architects.