About

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We are a collective of architects, designers, engineers, and planners working together to build a better future.

Interdisciplinary from the start

Long before “interdisciplinary” became a buzzword, it was the bedrock principle on which SOM was founded. For more than 80 years, it has defined the way that we practice design—as a collective endeavor.

In 1936, two architects and an engineer formed a partnership: our founders understood the power of combining their expertise within a single firm. Since then, SOM has grown to include urban designers and planners, interior designers, and more. Our teams are composed of designers with an artistic sensibility, engineers with highly specialized technical knowledge, and planners with a deep understanding of policy and economics. The synthesis of these viewpoints generates design solutions that no single person could have imagined on their own. From sustainable engineering, to healthcare design, to regenerative city planning, none of our areas of expertise stands alone. Each is deeply interwoven with the others, informing and being informed by them.

JTI HQ
JTI Headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland © Hufton + Crow

The merger of architecture and structural engineering has been SOM’s hallmark for decades. From the glass and steel facade of Lever House, completed in 1952 as the first modernist office building in New York City; to the record-breaking skyscrapers, Sears Tower and John Hancock Center, which redefined the Chicago skyline in the 1970s; to the cantilevered trusses of San Francisco International Airport, opening a gateway to the city for the new millennium; and the engineering of Burj Khalifa, which stands as the world’s tallest building, SOM continues to innovate.

Advocates for the environment

UCM Campus_2020_DB_058_large
UC Merced: the first university in the US to achieve carbon neutrality. © Dave Burk | SOM

We channel all of our expertise toward solutions for reducing carbon impact. Sustainability is not an add-on, but the driving principle of each project. In 2018, we launched our Climate Action Group, bringing together representatives from every discipline and office to guide a holistic response to environmental demands.

We carry this work forward in our advocacy within and beyond our industry. SOM has committed to meeting ambitious environmental goals in our own work, and we are also helping to shape building codes, influence climate policy, and define rigorous standards for low-carbon architecture and construction. We collaborate with the World Green Buildings Council, the U.S. Department of Energy, the UN Climate Change Conference, and more.

A place for talent to grow

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Designers compare material samples at SOM's Shanghai studio. © Seth Powers

Through summer internships, shadowing programs, and the Year One career accelerator program, students and emerging designers get access to the full range of professional expertise across our firm. Our design teams foster a culture where all voices are heard, and the best ideas are elevated.

Within and across our studios, grassroots groups—from those studying climate change, technology, and structure to those representing diverse voices of women, minorities, and the LGBTQ community—continue to advocate for ideas and talent to percolate up. Today, SOM is led by an all-women Executive Committee — Carrie Byles, Xuan Fu, and Laura Ettelman.  

A community that never stops learning

We’re driven by an innate curiosity—to explore, to discover, to invent. This is why SOM has always invested aggressively in research, often working with universities, research laboratories, and industry partners. We advance research projects independently, harnessing the collective intelligence within our studios. Our work in areas such as sustainability, materials, digital technology, and fabrication has led to innovations that have transformed the building industry.

Kinetic Structure
SOM’s origami-like art installation explores kinematics, the science of motion, and is inspired by the mathematical relationships between force and motion. © Fadi Asmar

The exchange of knowledge and ideas that happens here is the product of our interdisciplinary practice. Over the years, we have deepened our well of talent, expanded our partnerships, and sharpened our focus in fields like urban planning, sustainable engineering, and ecology—enabling us to bring a holistic approach to the most pressing challenges that cities and regions face today.

SOM has always been about grasping into the future, walking a kind of tightrope without a net, where its rigor and skill has allowed it to achieve true innovation.

Our Legacy

Since our founding in 1936, SOM has been designing the future. From the first glass-and-steel office building in New York City to supertall towers that have redefined skylines around the world, our firm has been responsible for some of the most significant architectural and engineering achievements in modern history.

Studios

We work from a network of creative studios across the globe, applying international expertise at a local level.

SOM's New York studio
SOM's New York studio at 7 World Trade Center. © Dave Burk | SOM