Skidmore Owings and Merrill

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill
Industry Architecture
Founded Chicago, Illinois, United States (1936 (1936))
Founder(s) Louis Skidmore
Nathaniel Owings
John O. Merrill
Area served International
Key people John O. Merrill
Fazlur Rahman Khan
Services Architecture, Building Services/MEP Engineering, Graphics, Interior Design, Structural Engineering, Civil Engineering, Sustainable Design and Urban Design & Planning

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP (SOM) is an American architectural and engineering firm. It was formed in Chicago in 1936 by Louis Skidmore and Nathaniel Owings; in 1939 they were joined by John O. Merrill. They opened their first branch in New York City, New York in 1937. SOM is one of the largest architectural firms in the world. Their primary expertise is in high-end commercial buildings, as it was SOM that led the way to the widespread use of the modern international-style or "glass box" skyscraper. They have built several of the tallest buildings in the world, including the John Hancock Center (1969, second tallest in the world when built), Sears Tower (1973, tallest in the world for over twenty years), and Burj Khalifa (2010, current world's tallest building). SOM provides services in Architecture, Building Services/MEP Engineering, Digital Design, Graphics, Interior Design, Structural Engineering, Civil Engineering, Sustainable Design and Urban Design & Planning.[2]


Many of SOM's post-war designs have become icons of American modern architecture, including the Manhattan House (1950), designated as a New York City landmark in 2007 by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission; and the Lever House (1952), also in New York City; as well as the Air Force Academy Chapel (1958) in Colorado Springs, Colorado; and the John Hancock Center (1969) and Sears Tower (1973), both in Chicago.

Although SOM was one of the first major modern American architectural firms to promote a corporate face (i.e. not specifically crediting individual architects for their buildings), many famous architects, engineers and interior designers have been associated with the various national offices.

Due to their faithful following of Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe’s ideas, Frank Lloyd Wright nicknamed them "The Three Blind Mies".[3]


Notable SOM architects include: Gordon Bunshaft,[4][5] Natalie de Blois,[6][7] Myron Goldsmith,[8][9] Bruce Graham,[10][11] Brigitte Peterhans,[12][13] Gertrude Kerbis,[14] Walter Netsch,[15][16] Edward Charles Bassett,[17] Adrian Smith, Larry Oltmanns,[18] Fazlur Rahman Khan.[19] Lucien Lagrange,[20] and David Childs.[21][22]


The earliest amongst the many SOM engineers was John O. Merrill.[23] Fazlur Khan, another engineer at SOM, is considered "the greatest structural engineer of the second half of the 20th century"; he is best known for his design and construction of the Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower), and John Hancock Center and for his designs of structural systems that remain fundamental to all high-rise skyscrapers.[24] Indeed, Khan is responsible for developing the algorithms that made the Hancock building and many subsequent skyscrapers possible. Another notable SOM engineer is Bill Baker, who is best known as the engineer of Burj Khalifa (Dubai, 2010), the world’s tallest manmade structure. To support the tower’s record heights and slim footprint, he developed the “buttressed core”[25] structural system, consisting of a hexagonal core reinforced by three buttresses that form a Y shape.

Interior designers

Davis Allen, a pioneer in corporate interior design, had a forty-year tenure at SOM.[26]


Throughout its history, SOM has been recognized with more than 1400 awards for quality and innovation.[27] More than 580 of these awards have been received since 1998.[28] In 1996 and 1962, SOM received the Architecture Firm Award[29] from the American Institute of Architects, which recognizes the design work of an entire firm. SOM is the only firm to have received this honor twice.

August 2009, SOM received four of 13 R+D Awards from Architect Magazine.[30][31][32][33] In addition, a collaboration between SOM and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, The Center for Architecture, Science and Ecology, was honored with a fifth award.[34]


SOM has completed over 10,000 projects around the nation and in more than 50 countries around the world and maintains offices in Chicago, New York City, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., London, Hong Kong, Abu Dhabi, Mumbai and Shanghai.

Burj Khalifa

Burj Khalifa (Arabic: برج خليفة‎ "Khalifa Tower"),[35] formerly known as Burj Dubai, is a supertall skyscraper in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and is the tallest man-made structure ever built, at 829.8 m (2,722 ft).[35] Construction began on 21 September 2004, and the building officially opened on 4 January 2010.[36][37] The tower's architect and engineer is Skidmore, Owings and Merrill.[38] George J. Efstathiou was the Managing Partner for the project. Bill Baker, the Chief Structural Engineer for the project, invented the buttressed core structural system in order to enable the tower to achieve such heights economically. Adrian Smith, who worked with Skidmore, Owings and Merrill until 2006, was the Consulting Design Partner.[38][39] The primary builder is a joint venture of South Korean Samsung C&T, who also built the Taipei 101 and Petronas Twin Towers,[40] Besix and Arabtec. The total budget for the Burj Khalifa project is about US $1.5 billion; and for the entire new "Downtown Dubai", US $20 billion.[41]

One World Trade Center

One World Trade Center, formerly known as Freedom Tower, is located in New York City. After Daniel Libeskind won the competition for master-planning, SOM was awarded the architectural design contract for the Freedom Tower, despite having withdrawn their entry in the original design competition.

Planning work

In addition to architectural services, Skidmore, Owings and Merrill has also competed in the field of large scale planning programs. An example of one important commission was as the lead design firm for the Boston Transportation Planning Review, a metropolitan wide re-design of Boston's entire transit and roadway infrastructure in the 1970s.

Notable projects

Project Location Completed Principal architects Notes
Oak Ridge New Town Master Plan Oak Ridge, Tennessee 1949 John O. Merrill [42]
Manhattan House New York 1951 New York City Landmark [43]
Lever House New York 1952 Gordon Bunshaft
Natalie de Blois
New York City Landmark
National Registry of Historic Places
Manufacturers Hanover Trust – 510 Fifth Avenue New York 1954 Gordon Bunshaft
Charles Evans Hughes III
New York City Landmark [45]
Hilton Istanbul Istanbul, Turkey 1955 Turkey's first five-star hotel.
Inland Steel Building Chicago 1958 Bruce Graham
Walter Netsch
Veterans Memorial Coliseum Portland, Oregon 1960 Also known as Portland Memorial Coliseum. [47]
One Chase Manhattan Plaza New York, New York 1961 New York City Landmark[48] [49]
BMA Tower Kansas City, Missouri 1961 Bruce Graham Also known as One Park Place.
Telus Tower Montreal, Quebec 1962 Gordon Bunshaft French: Tour Telus. Previously known as CIL House.
McMath-Pierce Solar Telescope
at Kitt Peak National Observatory
Kitt Peak, Arizona 1962 [50]
Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
at Yale University
New Haven, Connecticut 1963 Gordon Bunshaft [51]
United States Air Force Academy Cadet Chapel Colorado Springs, Colorado 1963 [52]
Mauna Kea Beach Hotel Kohala, Hawaii 1965 Edward Charles Bassett
Circle Campus
of the University of Illinois at Chicago
Chicago 1965
Autzen Stadium
of the University of Oregon
Eugene, Oregon 1967
Louis Jefferson Long Library
at Wells College
Aurora, New York 1968
Equitable Building Atlanta, Georgia 1968
University of Illinois at Chicago – Phase III: Behavioral Sciences Building Chicago 1969 [53]
555 California Street San Francisco, California 1969 Formerly Bank of America Center.
Grand Rapids City Hall & Kent County Administrative Building Grand Rapids, Michigan 1969
John Hancock Center Chicago 1969
Dan Ryan Rapid Transit Stations Chicago 1969 Myron Goldsmith
Kennedy Rapid Transit Stations (Jefferson Park to Logan Square) Chicago 1970 Myron Goldsmith
Regenstein Library
of the University of Chicago
Chicago 1970
Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum Austin, Texas 1971
One HSBC Center Buffalo, New York 1971
Weyerhaeuser Headquarters Tacoma, Washington 1971
Hajj Terminal
at King Abdulaziz International Airport
Jeddah, Saudi Arabia 1972
Olympic Tower New York 1972
Willis Tower
(formerly Sears Tower)
Chicago 1973 Bruce Graham
Fazlur Khan
Carlton Centre Johannesburg, South Africa 1973
U.S. Bank Center Milwaukee, Wisconsin 1973 Bruce Graham
James DeStefano
Fazlur Khan
Edmonton City Centre Edmonton, Alberta 1974 Formerly Edmonton Centre.
First Wisconsin Plaza Madison, Wisconsin 1974
City Center Square Kansas City, Missouri 1977
555 17th Street Denver, Colorado 1978 Formerly Anaconda Tower and Qwest Tower.
Denver World Trade Center Denver, Colorado 1979
3 World Trade Center New York 1981 Also known as the Marriott World Trade Center. Destroyed in the September 11 attacks in 2001.
Madison Plaza Chicago 1982 Former Hyatt Corporation headquarters.
Enerplex, North Building Princeton, New Jersey 1982
Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome Minneapolis, Minnesota 1982
AT&T Midtown Center Atlanta, Georgia 1982 Formerly BellSouth Center and Southern Bell Center.
Georgia-Pacific Tower Atlanta, Georgia 1982
Wells Fargo Center Los Angeles, California 1983
U.S. Bancorp Tower Portland, Oregon 1983 Nicknamed Big Pink.
National Commercial Bank Headquarters Jeddah, Saudi Arabia 1983
Trammell Crow Center Dallas, Texas 1984
Republic Plaza (Denver) Denver, Colorado 1984
Fort Wayne Museum of Art Fort Wayne, Indiana 1984
Southeast Financial Center Miami, Florida 1984
63 Building Seoul, South Korea 1985 In Yeouido.
Wachovia Tower Birmingham, Alabama 1986
McCormick Place - Phase 2 - Exposition Center Expansion North Building Chicago 1986 [54]
Cannoneer Court
at Pratt Institute
Brooklyn, New York 1986
Wells Fargo Tower (Birmingham) Birmingham, Alabama 1987 Previously known as SouthTrust Tower and Wachovia Tower.
321 North Clark Chicago 1987
Chase Tower Dallas, Texas 1987 Also known as JPMorgan Chase Tower and Texas Commerce Tower. Nicknamed Keyhole Building.
Leo J. Pantas Hall
at Pratt Institute
Brooklyn, New York 1987
NBC Tower Chicago 1989
One Worldwide Plaza New York 1989 David Childs
461 Fifth Avenue New York 1989
Milwaukee Center Milwaukee, Wisconsin 1989
Roosevelt Hospital New York 1990
Islamic Cultural Center of New York New York 1991
100 East Pratt Street Baltimore, Maryland 1992
Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre Hong Kong 1997
Kirchsteigfeld Kirchsteigfeld, Germany 1997 [55]
Terminal 3 of Ninoy Aquino International Airport Manila, Philippines 1997
Sioux City Art Center Sioux City, Iowa 1997 [56]
MEO Arena Lisbon, Portugal 1998 Formerly Pavilhão Atlântico (Atlantico Pavilion). [57]
Jin Mao Tower Shanghai, China 1999 [58]
Embassy of the United States, Ottawa Ottawa, Canada 1999
Korea World Trade Center Expansion Seoul, South Korea 2000
PBCom Tower Makati, Philippines 2000 Tallest building in the Philippines.
7 South Dearborn Chicago Planned but never built.
Adelaide Convention Centre Adelaide, Australia 2001
John F. Kennedy International Airport, International Arrivals Building, Terminal 4 Queens, New York 2001
International Terminal at San Francisco International Airport San Francisco, California 2001 Craig W. Hartman
Dallas Convention Center Dallas, Texas 2002
Time Warner Center New York 2003
Random House Tower New York 2003
Terminal 3 of Ben Gurion Airport Tel Aviv, Israel 2004 In association with Moshe Safdie.
Rondo 1 Warsaw, Poland 2005 Also known as Rondo ONZ.
10 Exchange Square London 2004
Finsbury Avenue Square London 2004
Samsung Tower Palace 3 – Tower G Seoul, South Korea 2004 In partnership with Samoo Architects & Engineers
Terminal 1 of Toronto Pearson International Airport Toronto, Ontario 2004 In association with Adamson Associates Architects, and Moshe Safdie & Associates
Jianianhua Centre Chongqing, China 2005
AIG Tower Hong Kong 2005
New Providence Wharf London 2006
7 World Trade Center New York 2006
Tokyo Midtown Tokyo 2007
Dublin Airport Dublin, Ireland 2007
Terminal 3 of Singapore Changi Airport Singapore In partnership with CPG Corporation.
Cathedral of Christ the Light Oakland, California 2008
Centennial Towers South San Francisco, California 2008
Chemsunny Plaza Beijing 2008
University of Utah Campus Master Plan Salt Lake City, Utah 2008 [59]
222 Main Salt Lake City, Utah 2009 [60]
Trump International Hotel and Tower Chicago 2009
Pan Peninsula London 2009
Al Rajhi Bank Headquarters Riyadh, Saudi Arabia 2009
Burj Khalifa Dubai, United Arab Emirates 2010
Nanjing Greenland Financial Center Nanjing, China 2010
China World Trade Center Tower III Beijing 2010
Al Hamra Tower Kuwait City, Kuwait 2011
John Jay College of Criminal Justice New York 2011 [61]
510 Fifth Avenue New York 2012 Renovation and adaptive reuse. [62]
University of North Carolina Genome Science Lab Chapel Hill, North Carolina 2012 [63]
Zuellig Building Makati, Philippines 2012 [64]
Chongqing Rural Commercial Bank Financial Building Chongqing, China 2012 [65]
One World Trade Center New York 2013 [66]
Pearl River Tower Guangzhou, China 2013 [67]
KAFD Conference Center at King Abdullah Financial District Riyadh, Saudi Arabia 2014 [68]
Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport Terminal 2 Mumbai, India 2014 [69]
United States Air Force Academy
Center for Character & Leadership Development
Colorado Springs, Colorado 2014 [70]
NATO Headquarters Brussels, Belgium 2015 [71]
OKO Tower Moscow 2015 [72]
Poly International Plaza Beijing 2015 [73]

See also

  • Gary Berkovich


External links

  • Official website
  • Review of the 1954 Manufacturer's Hanover Trust Branch Bank in NYC
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