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Skidmore, Owings & Merrill


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American architectural firm founded by Louis Skidmore (1897–1962) and Nathaniel Alexander Owings (1903–84) in Chicago (1936) and New York (1937), later (1939) joined by John Ogden Merrill (1896–1975) and (1945) Gordon Bunshaft. It was organized on teamwork principles and incorporated ideas from American business practice. SOM won fame with Lever House, Park Avenue, NYC (completed 1952), a 21-storey curtain-walled skyscraper slab set on a lower podium-like building, influenced by the International Modern Movement and Mies van der Rohe, and designed largely by Bunshaft. Their work had a profound effect on the development of architecture in the USA, notably with buildings in landscaped settings (e.g. Connecticut General Life Insurance Company, Bloomfield, CT (1953–7), and the United Airlines Building, Des Plaines, IL (1962). With the John Hancock Center, Chicago, IL (1969–70), SOM evolved a tubular structure with diagonal bracing expressed on the exterior, and also designed the Sears Tower, Chicago (1972–4). More recently the firm was responsible for a series of office-buildings with large, covered atrium-halls, including the Fourth Financial Center, Wichita, KS (1974), and the First Wisconsin Plaza Building, Madison, WI (1974). The National Commercial Bank, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia (1982), set new standards for tall office-blocks in very hot climates, while the Broad-gate and Canary Wharf developments in London (1990s) have kept the firm well in the public eye.

Bruegmann (ed.) (1994);Bush-Brown (1984);Bussel (2000);Danz (1962);Drexler & Menges (1974);Kalman (1994);Gretes (1984);Krinsky (1988);Menges (1974);S O Muthesius (1995);Whyte (ed.) (2000);Woodward (1970)

Subjects: Architecture — Art.


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