In Memory: John Kriken, Former SOM Partner

Photo © Cody Pickens

Retired Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) Partner John Kriken, FAIA, AICP, has passed away at the age of 81.

A celebrated city planner and urban designer, Kriken joined SOM in 1970 and spent his career with the multidisciplinary practice. He was the first urban designer promoted to partner in SOM’s history and founded the firm’s Urban Design & Planning Studio, instilling a focus on sustainability, placemaking, and cultural heritage that helped grow the group into one of the most influential city design practices in the world. His professional experience ranged from districts and downtowns to entire cities and open land. He was widely recognized for helping to shape cities across the globe—from North and South America to Europe, the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and China.

Kriken greatly influenced San Francisco’s public architecture throughout his career, serving as arts commissioner and Civic Design Committee chair in the 1990s. He was also a member of the Bay Conservation and Development Commission and design advisor to the Port of San Francisco, helping to transform the city’s waterfront following the removal of the Embarcadero Freeway. He completed many notable plans throughout the city, including developments for Yerba Buena Center, Fisherman’s Wharf, Mid-Market, Mission Bay, and the Transbay Redevelopment Area.

In addition to his work in the Bay Area, Kriken led a series of campus plans for the University of California (UC) at Berkeley, Davis, Davis Medical Center, San Diego, Santa Cruz, and UC’s newest campus—the first American research university to be designed and built in the 21st century—Merced. He also planned major office and research campuses for Boeing in Seattle and Hewlett-Packard throughout the United States, Australia, and Western Europe.

Kriken’s work received many accolades, including honors from the American Institute of Architects, which often recognized his projects in Asia, such as Saigon SouthFoshan Lingnan Tiandi, and Nanhu New Country Village. He also received numerous awards from the American Planning Association, American Society of Landscape Architects, and Urban Land Institute. He taught urban design at UC Berkeley, Rice University, and Washington University, and served on design review panels and awards juries.

Even in retirement, Kriken remained influential and deeply engaged at SOM, regularly mentoring and collaborating with staff. He was a talented water colorist and published author as well, having written City Building: Nine Planning Principles for the 21st CenturyBuilding Saigon South: Sustainable Lessons for a Livable Future; and The Sunday Afternoon Watercolor Society: San Francisco Impressions.

SOM’s Partners and the entire practice extend their deepest sympathies to the Kriken family.