The Partners of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP (SOM) are pleased to announce the release of SOM Journal 10 (Berlin: Hatje Cantz, 2017). This edition of the SOM Journal is the tenth installment in a continuing series that highlights conceptual undercurrents being discussed and projects being developed by SOM.
The series presents a selection of recent SOM projects chosen by a jury renowned in the fields of architecture, architecture criticism, and engineering. The process of review by an external, interdisciplinary jury, and its documentation of criticism—without participation, influence, or distraction from any member of the firm—is an endeavor unique to SOM. Since the publication of SOM Journal 1 in 2002, the Journal has evolved to include a collection of essays based on a specific theme; this issue is devoted to ethos.
“We launched the Journal 15 years ago as a candid and open evaluation of our firm,” says Roger Duffy, Design Partner at SOM. “There have been times over the years when the jury’s words have been incisive, but it has been extremely constructive for us to look at ourselves honestly. I can truly say that the net result of the Journal has been exactly what we’d hoped—the firm sees inclusion in the Journal as an honor and everyone wants to do the kind of innovative work that will be selected.”
Thomas De Monchaux, an architect and writer, served as the editor for Journal 10. The jurors for this issue were Brandon Haw, an architect and President and CEO at Brandon Haw Architecture in New York City; Sylvia Lavin, Director of the Critical Studies and MA/PhD programs in the Department of Architecture and Urban Design at UCLA; and Zoë Ryan, John H. Bryan Chair and Curator of Architecture and Design at the Art Institute of Chicago.
The jury selected eight finalists—six buildings, one building system, and one research project—that, as a group, demonstrate SOM’s ability to “think big” and to design large-scale, complex typologies. The projects are:
- Al Ahmadi Cultural Center, one of a series of new cultural centers proposed by the National Council for Culture, Arts and Letters (NCCAL) in Kuwait;
- Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport Terminal 2, a new, 4.4-million-square-foot terminal in Mumbai, India, that accommodates both domestic and international travelers;
- CITIC Financial Center, two mixed-use towers in Shenzhen, China, that will connect the urban environment with the surrounding landscape and waterfront park;
- Closed Cavity Facade, an innovative curtain wall system developed to meet the requirements of both European regulations and the Swiss Minergie sustainability rating;
- Denver Union Station, a multi-modal, transit-oriented development in the heart of Denver, Colorado;
- Shenzhen Rural Commercial Bank Headquarters, a 150-meter tower located on a public park in Shenzhen;
- SOM Tools: SOM HPD Methodology + SOM Wind Tunnel 260, ongoing, internally generated initiatives: a High Performance Design (HPD) portal to inform and track a project’s environmental performance, and a controlled, in-house wind testing environment; and
- The University Center at The New School, a 16-story building that unifies academic and student space in New York City.
For the first time in the annual jury cycle, designers submitting projects were invited to cite which of SOM’s legacy projects have directly informed their work. Prompted by the double-digit milestone of the SOM Journal—fifteen years after the first jury cycle in March 2001—the jury deliberations included “a conversation about how [SOM's] built legacy, since 1936 an estimated 10,000 buildings around the world, can be understood not only as a kind of monumental museum—something to forever record the aspirations and tactics of particular times and places, especially of the American mid-twentieth century of the firm at its canonical maximum—but a living archive: a shared intelligence, an ethos, a kind of collective unconscious for the conscious design decisions of today.”
Following the critique of these eight projects, Journal 10 examines the issues at hand through the following essays, three of which are also translated into Chinese:
- Karrie Jacobs: When Mid-Century Met Modernism;
- Nicholas Adams: “You Young Men Are So Sure": Architectural Ethos at J. Walter Severinghaus’ Chapel House;
- Oren Abeles: “I Think I Said What They Probably Said": Rhetorical Ethos in the Work and Words of Gordon Bunshaft;
- Marco Roth: On Modern Memory: A Case Study in Brick; and
- Thomas De Monchaux: At La Tourette.
This year’s jury gathered to discuss SOM’s recent work at Le Corbusier’s Sainte Marie de La Tourette in Éveux, France, on April 17 and 18, 2015. It has become a tradition that the jury deliberates in a great work of architecture—previous juries have met at Pierre Chareau’s Maison de Verre, Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s Glasgow School of Art, and Alvar Aalto’s Maison Louis Carré.
From its inception, the primary function of the SOM Journal has been to generate an objective critique of the firm’s work as a means to initiate an internal conversation about how to elevate the quality of the dialogue and the design throughout the firm. The Journal has helped to reemphasize the culture of excellence that has defined SOM since its founding more than 80 years ago. SOM remains the most honored architectural firm in the world with nearly 2,000 major design awards, more than 900 of which have been won since the Journal was first published in 2002.
SOM Journal 10 is now available for purchase from Hatje Cantz.
About Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP
Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP (SOM) is one of the leading architecture, interior design, engineering, and urban planning firms in the world. Since its founding more than 80 years ago, SOM has earned a reputation for design excellence with a portfolio that includes some of the most important architectural accomplishments of the 20th and 21st centuries, and has been a leader in the research and development of specialized technologies, new processes and innovative ideas, many of which have had a palpable and lasting impact on the design profession and the physical environment. The firm’s longstanding leadership in design and building technology has been honored with nearly 2,000 awards for quality, innovation, and management. The American Institute of Architects has recognized SOM twice with its highest honor, the Architecture Firm Award—in 1962 and again in 1996. The firm maintains offices in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., London, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Dubai, and Mumbai.