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Keith O'Connor Joins SOM's City Design Practice

Photo © SOM

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP (SOM) welcomes Keith P. O’Connor as the new City Design Practice Leader for the New York and Washington D.C. offices. O’Connor’s noteworthy appointment within SOM’s award-winning City Design Practice will reinforce the firm’s long-standing commitment to exceptional urban design and expand SOM’s focus on regenerative urbanism.

Keith O’Connor brings to SOM more than 20 years of diverse public, private, and nonprofit experience leading complex multidisciplinary planning and urban design projects. In his previous role at the New York City Department of City Planning, as Director of Lower Manhattan and Chief Planner for Manhattan Special Projects, O’Connor advanced major public initiatives, including the redevelopment of the World Trade Center site, and the implementation of the New York Stock Exchange streetscape and security project, Applied Sciences NYC, the High Line, and the Eastern Railyards at Hudson Yards.

In his new role, O’Connor will lead SOM’s City Design Practice in the New York metropolitan region and along the East Coast. He will spearhead research and projects that address the most pressing challenges facing American cities today, including climate change, resilience, mobility, affordability, and equity. “Given SOM’s unique approach to city planning, which pairs visionary urban design thinking with data-analytics, applied research, and emerging technologies to create exceptional urban environments, Keith was a natural match for us,” stated SOM Design Partner Colin Koop.

“Keith’s leadership and diverse expertise in landscape architecture, urban design, and city planning will amplify our ambitious multidisciplinary approach to advance a sustainable and inclusive urban agenda for the future of our cities,” said SOM Design and Planning Partner Douglas Voigt.

Recognized for spearheading public realm projects that elevate and redefine the value of public spaces in New York and around the world, O’Connor played a critical role in the World Trade Center redevelopment project during the second and third terms of the Bloomberg administration. Additionally, he was instrumental in ensuring the preservation and revitalization of the High Line’s 10th Avenue Spur, shaping plans for the Eastern Railyards and Hudson Park and Boulevard, and the implementation of the city’s ambitious East River Waterfront Esplanade.

As a principal at James Corner Field Operations, O’Connor notably led the transformation of Chicago’s Navy Pier, generating new opportunities for culture, recreation, and social engagement on the Lake Michigan waterfront; revitalization of Hong Kong’s Tsim Sha Tsui waterfront; zoning and landscape design for more than two acres of open space at the heart of Manhattan West; and redevelopment of the Citi Plaza in Tribeca. Previously, at the national nonprofit The Conversation Fund, he focused on the integration of economic and environmental objectives. He developed a Community-Based Master Plan for 65,000 acres on the island of Molokai in Hawaii and a Green Infrastructure Plan for the 725,000 acre Nanticoke Watershed, the most pristine watershed in Chesapeake Bay.

“It is an honor to join the venerable SOM,” said Keith P. O’Connor. “I am delighted to bring my open space conservation, city planning, and urban design experience to SOM’s City Design Practice and I look forward to leading a talented team working to protect our natural, cultural, and historic resources, elevate the public realm, and prioritize regenerative urban design in and around New York City.”

O’Connor has presented at Harvard University and Yale University on topics such as sustainable infrastructure, and the relationship between climate change and urban design. Most recently, O’Connor served as the Senior Field Director at the National Trust for Historic Preservation, where he focused on an ambitious initiative to re-use existing buildings and revitalize historic resources to help address climate change, affordability, and equity in cities across the United States.

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.