Press Releases

SOM Publishes Journal 7

Image © SOM

New York, NY: The partners of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP (SOM), the architecture, engineering, interiors and planning firm, are proud to announce the release of SOM Journal 7 (Hatje Cantz, 2011). In a continuing series that highlights the conceptual undercurrents being developed at SOM, the Journal presents a selection of recent SOM projects chosen by an external, interdisciplinary jury. The process of review by the jury and its documentation of criticism is an endeavor unique to SOM. Since it was founded, the Journal has evolved to include a collection of essays based on a specific theme; this issue is devoted to tall buildings. This is the seventh installment of the publication.

Juhani Pallasmaa and Kenneth Frampton comprised the Journal’s Editorial Board for the third year in a row and were again responsible for the selection of jurors, thereby removing SOM from the process of assessing its own work. The jurors for SOM Journal 7 included the following: architect, professor and editor Luis Fernández-Galiano, (Madrid), who acted as the chairman; Peter MacKeith, Associate Dean, Associate Professor of Architecture at the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts, Washington University (St. Louis); artist and professor Rita McBride (Italy, Germany); educator and author Joan Ockman (Philadelphia/New York); and mechanical engineer Erik L. Olsen, PE (New York). Each juror was asked to contribute a critical essay summarizing their view of the work submitted by teams from all of SOM’s offices.

The jury selected eight finalists — five projects and three research projects — that, as a group, create an accurate picture of the wide-ranging scope of SOM’s projects around the world. The projects chosen include: Chongqing River Tower, Chongqing, China; John Jay College of Criminal Justice, New York; Lotte World 2, Seoul, South Korea; Project Floyd, Geneva, Switzerland; and Public Service Answering Center II, Bronx, New York. For the first time, the decision was made to include research projects as a way of expressing the commitment to research that has underpinned SOM’s work for decades. Among the research projects selected are: High Performance Building Enclosures, a cross section of how five different curtain walls perform relative to contemporary demands placed on them; Hundred-Year Vision for the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River Region; and SOM Research, an internal unit of engineers and architects whose interest in innovation has given rise to undertaking series of “seminars” resulting in design-related research.

This latest installment of the Journal examines the special concerns, functional and technical requirements, challenges, and experiential consequences that have to be considered in the design of contemporary high-rise buildings. There were seven essays on this topic commissioned for this edition of the Journal, including “Beyond Tall” by SOM’s Structural Engineering Partner William Baker and “How the Leopard Got Its Spots: Lever House as a Skyscraper” by architectural historian Professor Nicholas Adams. Joan Ockman’s essay, “Beyond Image,” discusses the shift from the importance placed on the image of tall buildings to the importance of creating an environmentally responsible highrise in recent years:

. . . yet if the universal sign-language of can-you-top-this still obtains in many contexts, the contradiction between the technical expertise required to design such highly sophisticated structures and the magical thinking that often drives the decision to erect them, both economically and environmentally, remains to be reconciled. While a compact carbon footprint and inhospitality to cars may be easier on the planet than sprawl, as David Owen has argued in Green Metropolis, the idea of a “green” super-tall building continues to seem counterintuitive. From the latter perspective it is encouraging to know that SOM is devoting considerable talent and resources to new thinking and research about this building type.

The SOM Journal 7 jury met at the Four Seasons Restaurant in the Seagram Building, New York, in November, 2010. It has become a tradition that the jury deliberates in a great work of architecture; previous juries have met at 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 75 years ago. SOM remains the most honored architectural firm in the world with more than 1,600 major design awards, more than 700 of which have been won since the Journal was started in 2000.

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, with a reputation for design excellence and a portfolio that includes some of the most important architectural accomplishments of the 20th and 21st centuries. Since its inception, SOM 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 more than 1,600 awards for quality, innovation, and management. The American Institute of Architects has recognized SOM twice with its highest honor, the Architecture Firm Award. The firm maintains offices in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., London, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Mumbai and Abu Dhabi.