Michael van Hamel

UIA, PhD

Associate | Senior Design Architect

At SMMA

  • Michael joined SMMA in May 2015, and began contributing immediately to the K-12 studio—presenting at a client interview in his first week with the firm
  • Recognized as a thought leader in the design of dynamic, progressive children’s learning environments, with a portfolio that includes both domestic and international projects
  • Leverages technical facility with programs such as Lumion 3D and SketchUp to develop and deliver solutions to complex design challenges
  • Combines honed design and administrative skills with congenial and enthusiastic demeanor to guide, educate, and foster a spirit of familiarity and collaboration with clients 

A Career Driven by Curiosity 

Michael credits his father and, especially, his grandmother with fostering in him a love of design and the built environment. “As a child, my grandmother would bring me to museums, and we’d see houses of various styles, and I’d wonder, ‘What makes these spaces what they are? Why are they designed this way?’ She was very patient in explaining to me that, in some cases, spaces are defined by their function, and that others are unique because of cultural differences,” he says. “That’s also what ultimately led me to environmental psychology—because that’s exactly what it is: You take a person and put them in a space; do they love it? Do they hate it? Why? You have to take into account their age, their culture, socioeconomic factors, all of these different things. It’s fascinating to me.”

“There are so many fantastic people doing research and sharing it—translating that research into what can physically be achieved in today’s educational environments is what makes my job tremendously exciting.”