Who We Are
Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP (SOM) is one of the largest and most influential architecture, interior design, engineering, and urban planning firms in the world. Founded in 1936, we have completed more than 10,000 projects across 50-plus countries. We are renowned for our iconic buildings and our steadfast commitment to design excellence, innovation, and sustainability.
SOM's unrivaled portfolio contains some of the greatest design achievements in the modern era. We have deep experience in a vast range of building types, from cutting-edge research facilities to soaring glass office towers. SOM has earned more than 1,700 awards and is the only practice to have twice been named ‘Firm of the Year’ by the American Institute of Architects.
Collaboration is a guiding force at SOM. We believe the best results stem from an ongoing dialogue with all stakeholders. There are no pre-established formulas at SOM. We design each project to meet specific needs and conditions.
SOM Partners and Directors are world-renowned leaders in their respective fields. As design, technical, and management experts, together they form a holistic approach that bolsters the design and construction process and contributes to each project's success.
SOM has a long history of working internationally and today employs 1,000 professionals worldwide. We maintain offices in Abu Dhabi, Chicago, Hong Kong, London, Los Angeles, Mumbai, New York, San Francisco, Shanghai, and Washington, D.C.
See All Awards
Year Project Award Title Organization 2014 Son Tra Peninsula Strategic Vision Plan Institute Honor Awards for Regional & Urban Design American Institute of Architects 2014 Denver Union Station Institute Honor Awards for Regional & Urban Design American Institute of Architects 2013 Burj Khalifa Best Overall Project Architectural Engineering Institute 2013 Great Lakes Vision Plan Professional Award American Society of Landscape Architects 2013 Crown Zellerbach Headquarters 25 Year Award AIA - San Francisco Chapter 2013 Pearl River Tower Best Tall Building Asia & Australia: Finalist CTBUH 2013 Greenland Group Suzhou Center MIPIM Future Project Award: Tall Buildings MIPIM/Architectural Review 2013 U.S. Embassy – Beijing Greening Diplomacy Initiative (GDI) Award U.S. Department of State 2013 Parkmerced Vision Plan Regional and Urban Design Award AIA 2013 Dallas City Performance Hall Honor Award - Frank Lloyd Wright AIA Illinois
SOM has won more awards than any other architecture firm.
China Project Wins Global Award
The Nanjing Xiaguan Riverfront Master Plan has won a 2014 World Architecture News Award in the "Future Schemes" category. The 236-hectare project calls for the creation of five mixed-use neighborhoods with good transit connections and waterfront access.
Two Urban Plans Earn Top Honors
SOM has received two 2014 Honor Awards in the Regional and Urban Design category from the American Institute of Architects. The winning projects are the Denver Union Station Neighborhood Transformation and the Son Tra Peninsula Strategic Vision Plan.
High Praise for U.S. Consulate
The U.S. Consulate General in Guangzhou has been honored in Architect Magazine's Annual Design Review. Notes the jury: “The consulate building is representative of a quality that we want to continue to see in foreign projects, where our soft culture can be embraced."
Rebuilding the New York Skyline
With its spire already in place, the 1,776-foot-high One World Trade Center is the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere. When fully complete in 2014, the skyscraper will recapture the New York City skyline, reassert Lower Manhattan’s preeminence as a business center, and establish a new civic icon for our country. The tower also embodies another major achievement: It’s the tallest building in North America to be designed using Revit.
A Net-Zero Energy School
With a strong commitment to environmentally responsible architecture, SOM was selected to design the first net-zero energy school in the northeastern United States and one of the first worldwide. Located in Staten Island, P.S. 62 will harvest enough power to meets its yearly energy needs. Sustainable features include photovoltaics that wrap the roof and southern facade, a geo-exchange system, and a high-performance building envelope.
First Firm to Win National Arts Medal
In 2012, the National Arts Club awarded its coveted Gold Medal to SOM. It was the first time in the venerable organization's 113-year history that it bestowed the medal upon an architecture firm. The club's membership has included presidents and some of the most important artists and art patrons in America.
New Discoveries in Computational Design
For an architecture firm to remain competitive, perhaps nothing is more critical than the pursuit of emerging technology. To that end, SOM established the Black Box Studio in 2007 to explore the nascent field of computational design. Based in our firm’s Chicago office, the research team develops and leverages parametric and algorithmic processes to generate new, innovative approaches to form-making.
Winner of the Most 25-Year Awards
The American Institute of Architects annually bestows its Twenty-Five Year Award on remarkable works of architecture that have stood the test of time. Five SOM buildings — more than any other existing firm — have received the honor: Lever House (1980), U.S. Air Force Academy Cadet Chapel (1996), John Hancock Center (1999), Weyherhaeuser Corporate Headquarters (2001), and the Hajj Terminal (2010).
A Landmark Airport in the Arabian Desert
SOM designed the Hajj Terminal in Saudi Arabia to accommodate the millions of pilgrims who pass through each year en route to Mecca. Mindful of the unique cultural conditions and harsh desert climate, the designers created a series of tent-like structures that refer to Bedouin shelters. The terminal was the world’s largest cable-stayed, fabric-roofed building when it opened in 1981.
Building the Foundation for CAD
SOM led the way when it came to computer-aided design, or CAD. To wit: In 1980, we single-handedly created Architecture Engineering Systems, a computer program that was used to study complex structural systems and energy demands. The program is regarded as precursor to the array of building information modeling (BIM) tools now used by the profession.
A New Era in Skyscraper Design
Often considered the greatest structural engineer of the 20th century, Fazlur Khan was the engineering mastermind behind many illustrious SOM buildings. His development of the tubular framing system for high-rise construction initiated a new era of skyscraper design. The system was employed in many significant SOM buildings, including the John Hancock Center and Sears Tower.
Infusing Architecture with Art
When SOM began designing the Chicago Civic Center in the 1960s, we envisioned a large piece of art for the public plaza. In turn, we hired Pablo Picasso to create what would be his first monumental sculpture in America. It’s just one example of our numerous collaborations with leading artists. Site-specific works by Alexander Calder, Isamu Noguchi, Jenny Holzer, and many others grace SOM buildings.
A Radical New Campus Takes Flight
SOM’s master plan for the U.S. Air Force Academic Complex in Colorado offered a new architectural language for a military campus. One of its most distinctive buildings was the Cadet Chapel, which opened in 1962. Topped with 17 spires composed of 100 aluminum-clad tetrahedrons, the geometrically complex building was regarded as a successful fusion of Gothic and Modern styles.
San Francisco's Tower of "Firsts"
Completed in 1959, the Crown-Zellerbach Building was San Francisco’s first modernist tower with a glass curtain wall. It also was the first tall office building in which the mechanical systems were separated from the vertical circulation, enabling perfectly rectangular, open floors. The tower “floats” over a sunken plaza, creating a sense of openness that was unprecedented in a downtown setting.
Inventing the New American Workplace
By the mid 20th century, SOM was the go-to firm for a new type of commission emerging throughout post-war America: the suburban office park. One of our most influential projects was the Connecticut General Life Insurance Company Headquarters, completed in 1957. The complex is celebrated for its clean, open design. Inside it was more like a village street than a workspace.
SOM's Pritzker Winner
In 1937, the legendary Gordon Bunshaft joined SOM, where he thrived for more than 40 years. His many influential works include the Lever House, One Chase Manhattan Plaza, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, and the Hajj Terminal. Bunshaft garnered numerous accolades during his career, and in 1988 he received the architecture profession’s highest honor, the Pritzker Prize.
A Daring New Bank
Unveiled in 1954, the all-glass bank branch for the Manufacturers Hanover Trust Company was more than a showstopper in New York City. It was a gutsy and trend-setting departure from tradition, as financial institutions were typically housed in fortress-like structures. This exquisite building exemplified the concept of transparency; even its vault was visible to passersby on bustling Fifth Avenue.
The Tower That Changed Everything
With its elegant massing, public space, and sleek glazing, the Lever House was a radical addition to Midtown Manhattan when it opened in 1952. The International Style office tower — the first commercial tower in New York with a glass curtain wall — embodied the spirit of the modern age and set a bold new standard for high-rise architecture.
The Modern Hotel That Raised the Bar
When it opened in 1948, the Terrace Plaza Hotel in Cincinnati, Ohio, was one of the most modern hotels in the United States. Its design and technologies were so advanced that it was affectionately referred to as the “push-button palace.” With artwork by Joan Miro, Saul Steinberg, and Alexander Calder, this avant-garde hotel set a high bar for commercial design.
A Top-Secret Town
One of SOM’s earliest urban planning projects was Oak Ridge, a secret town in Tennessee that served as the Manhattan Project headquarters. For the bucolic site, we conceived a well-orchestrated network of roads lined with prefabricated homes, dormitories, schools, and stores. Commissioned by the government in 1942, the project was a milestone for both SOM and American urban planning.
Empowering Young Designers
Supporting emerging talent has always been an important part of SOM’s mission. In 1979, we started the nonprofit SOM Foundation, whose goal is to enable aspiring architects, engineers, and planners to expand their horizons via travel and research grants. Since its establishment, the foundation has given 218 awards totaling more than $1.9 million.
Setting a New Course for Architecture
Founded in 1936, SOM has long been renowned for bringing a combination of design, management, and technical expertise to every project. This revolutionary approach has greatly impacted the profession, inspiring other firms to follow suit. While we have many acclaimed individuals within our ranks, SOM is committed to harnessing and honoring the power of the collective.
Work at SOM
Our firm offers architects, engineers, planners, interior designers, graphic designers, and administrative staff a rewarding career experience. If you are interested in working for SOM full-time, part-time, or as an intern, please submit your resume online.Search All SOM Careers and Internships
Through research and travel support, the SOM Foundation enables individuals with the highest design aspirations to broaden their horizons and achieve excellence in their professional or academic careers. Learn more on the foundation's website.Go to SOM Foundation Website
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