Chris Connell has joined global design firm Perkins&Will in a firmwide leadership role. Most recently, he was the chief design officer of Cleveland Clinic where he worked to ensure alignment between the organization’s architectural and strategic goals.
For more than 30 years, Connell has designed places, spaces and architectural products at various scales in cities around the world. A generalist, he has led complex design projects and master plans for clients in industries as wide-ranging as healthcare, hospitality, corporate and commercial, residential, science and technology, civic and cultural, transportation, higher education, and sports, entertainment and recreation.
Even as chief design officer at Cleveland Clinic—a role Connell held over the past four years—he oversaw much more than hospital architecture and medical planning. Often, his work entailed comprehensive master planning and urban design.
At Cleveland Clinic, Connell also led the expansion of the organization’s internal art and design institute, which developed global design standards for the entire enterprise, as well as conceptual design visions for key projects. Connell and his team then oversaw the work of partner architecture firms in executing those projects.
Connell points to his work on the Samson Pavilion at Cleveland Clinic’s Health Education Campus as a paragon of flexibility. Spurred by the pandemic, in 2020, he and his team helped oversee a series of rapid transformations of the pavilion—from a school to a 1,100-bed surge hospital for COVID-19 patients, to a Presidential debate venue and then back to a school.
“Flexibility is key, and never more so than in a post-pandemic world,” says Connell.