Before joining SOM in 2006, Anthony Treu worked for a boutique design practice (which has since become MODU), lending his design skills on residential interiors, which translated to a lot of custom material considerations and precise detailing.

The experience taught him to appreciate how much thought could go into elements like cabinetry and the impact of small details on the bigger picture. “No matter how large or complex the problems we solve for, we always have opportunities to change how people experience spaces,” he says.

Today, Treu is applying those insights and skills on much larger-scale projects, including many international healthcare projects most recently serving as healthcare designer on the New National Cancer Institute (Giza, Egypt) and the Alma-Ata International Medical Center (Almaty, Kazakhstan).

“Many of our international clients are driven by innovation and doing things in novel ways to differentiate themselves, but lately, we’ve been finding similarly ambitious clients in the North American market,” he says.


On industry trends:

Thumbs up: Practices have decided to stop polishing well-worn topics, and instead roll up their sleeves and fundamentally reinvent the way healthcare is delivered. The industry has spent years ricocheting industry buzzwords and over-exposed ideas—do we really need to spend another decade debating centralized versus decentralized nurses’ stations?
Thumbs down: Healthcare settings need to escape the use of tropes like “playful vinyl floors” with random inlay patterns and the color beige and all its relative. If you can tell from a photograph or rendering, without a caption, that a space is within a hospital, then it’s probably a missed opportunity.

What drew you to a career in healthcare design?
As an architect, you can have a great career in many ways … but I’ve found purpose in improving the places where people experience some of the most profound and meaningful moments of their lives.

What was your first healthcare project?
Working on the clinical and interior design for Northwell Health’s Katz Women’s Hospital and Zuckerberg Pavilion. We considered every detail to find ways of making a visit to a maternity hospital feel less like a healthcare experience and more like a life experience.

What lesson did you learn on that project that you still carry with you today?
It’s easy to replicate existing solutions but usually better (though more challenging) to work toward discovering original, inventive ways of doing things.

Three words to describe your design aesthetic:

1 precise

2 inviting

3 timeless

Three unexpected items on your desk:

1 framed picture of a hospital that my five-year-old daughter drew. Trouble ahead?

2 vegan snacks. I made the switch a few months ago and feel great.

3 Bowers & Wilkins over-ear headphones (for emergencies only)


Outside the office, you’ll likely find me….
Enjoying Battery Park, the New York neighborhood where I live with my wife and two young daughters.

Dog or cat?
Dog is the right answer.

Morning person or night owl?
Mornings are terrible.

Fiction or nonfiction?
Fiction—everything else in life is already non-fiction.

How did you make your first dollar?
I taught swimming lessons and lifeguarded in North Kansas City, but my first hard-earned paycheck was as a concrete laborer—and it instilled a lifelong respect for builders.

Your go-to karaoke song?
Sitting at a table and plotting my escape.

Cocktail of choice?
Rob Roy (a Manhattan made with Scotch; not a children’s drink).

Coffee or tea?
Cold brew coffee, no matter the season.

Your hidden talent?
If I wasn’t an architect I would be…

I have an irrational fear of …
Not getting things just right.

Last time I danced?
Every client presentation.

Last game I played?
Legos with my two daughters.


Favorite …

Quote “I didn’t know what you couldn’t do. I didn’t deliberately set out to invent anything. It just seemed to me ‘why not?’ There is a great gift that ignorance has to bring to anything.”—Orson Welles on creating “Citizen Kane” at 25 years old.

TV character Currently Al Swearengen from “Deadwood.”

Weekend activity Sleeping in, which is increasingly rare.

Band/musical artist Ben Folds.

Color International Klein Blue.

Guilty pleasure Screen time.
App/website The Onion.
Ice cream flavor Raspberry sorbet (more of a lifestyle choice).
Sport I think we should suspend all sports for one year and use the ticket sales, advertising, stadium construction, and all other saved costs and fund cancer research or some other moon shot.

Hobby Binge-watching TV (currently “Deadwood”) with my wife at the end of the day.
Book All three pounds of “Infinite Jest” by David Foster-Wallace.
City to visit I have a soft spot for rural Tuscany, outside of Siena.

Treu’s international work includes serving as healthcare designer on the New National Cancer Institute in Giza, Egypt, with phase one anticipated to be completed in 2021. (Photo credit: © SOM | ATCHAIN)