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Skidmore, Owings & Merrill

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Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) is an architecture, design, and engineering firm formed in Chicago, Illinois in 1936. It has been involved a large number of major projects throughout the United States and internationally. Its expertise is in high-end commercial buildings and skyscrapers, but it has been involved in a number of larger scale projects.


[edit] History

[edit] Forming Skidmore, Owings & Merrill

Louis Skidmore studied architecture and design in Paris in the late 1920s, during which time he met many of the men planning the “Century of Progress” Exposition scheduled for 1933 in Chicago.

Skidmore was eventually hired as chief architect for the Chicago Expo, so he hired his brother-in-law, Nathaniel Owings, to help him with the design. However, their partnership was not made formal until 1936. A year later they established an office in New York. Soon they had a contract to design the 1939-1940 New York World’s Fair.

Engineer John Merrill joined the firm in 1939, resulting in the changing of the company’s name to Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM).

[edit] Designing Atom City

World War II resulted in the firm’s first large project. It was hired for the design of “Atom City” in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, as part of the Manhattan project. The firm expanded to 450 employees and set up a special office to deal with the new project.[1]

“Atom City” entailed the creation of a city from scratch. SOM designed 15,000 family houses, 13,000 dormitory units, 5,000 trailers, and 16,000 hutments and barracks.[2] The population of the new city grew from zero in 1942 to 75,000 by 1946.[3] The entire project cost $120 million to build.[4]

The success of “Atom City” led to many more expansive contracts for SOM.

[edit] Post-war Business

By 1946 Skidmore, Owings & Merrill added four new partners: Gordon Bunshaft, William Brown, Robert Cutler, and J. Walter Severinghaus.

After the war, the Chicago Land Commission hired SOM for a project. The Lake Meadows project, as it was called, required the clearance of a number of slums in Chicago to make way for housing for 1,400 families. SOM’s design called for a 23-storey high building, 832 feet (254 m) long and one apartment 40 feet (12 m) deep. A landscaped park would separate the buildings. The design also included a suburban-style shopping center and some row houses.

SOM also became involved in a number of individual building projects after the war. The firm designed four “canonical” buildings in the 1950s and early 1960s, dubbed SOM’s “American” period. These buildings include the Lever House in 1952, Manufacturers Hanover Trust, Fifth Avenue Branch in 1954, Connecticut General Life’s offices in 1957, and the Chase Manhattan Bank in 1961.[5]

[edit] Fame and International Expansion

In the 1970s SOM reached “the peak of its influence.”[6] The firm was very busy. During 1970 and 1971 it designed the John Hancock Center in Chicago, Regenstein Library at the University of Chicago, One Shell Plaza in Houston, the Bank of America building in San Francisco, the library at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, and the Lyndon Baines Johnson Memorial Library at the University of Texas.

In 1974, SOM designed the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C., and the Sears Tower in Chicago.

SOM expanded internationally in the late 1970s when it was commissioned to design the National Commercial Bank in Jidda, Saudi Arabia. The building was described as “a stunning merger of traditional Islamic elements with modern design.”[7]

The firm continued to succeed throughout the 1980s with “two of the most impressive buildings of the era”: the AT&T Corporate Center in Chicago and Rowes Wharf in Boston.[8]

[edit] Financial Downturn and Recovery

The early 1990s were not as formidable for the firm. Sales for 1990 were $134 million, but dropped to $63 million by 1992, which resulted in massive layoffs. Employment dropped from 1,623 to 687.[9]

SOM was in need of a new focus, which turned out to be designing a number of institutional projects. The firm also increased its involvement in international projects: the Jin Mao Tower in Shanghai and the Hong Kong Convention Center.

By the mid-1990s SOM appeared to be making a comeback. Revenues rose to $117 million with employment rising to 800 people. By the turn of the century SOM had regained its esteemed position amongst architecture firms.

[edit] Major Projects

Skimore, Owings & Merrill has been involved a huge number of enormous projects throughout the twenty-first century: Columbus Center to house Time Warner, Pennsylvania Station transportation facility, and a new building for the New York Stock Exchange. SOM were also involved in the design of the Freedom Tower located at Ground Zero site in Manhattan and the Burj Dubai and the United Arab Emirates.

[edit] Completed

[edit] Under Construction

[edit] The Company Today

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill is a large architectural design firm operating with offices around the world. It is currently involved in a number of well-known international construction projects including the Burj Dubai in Dubai, UAE; Al Hamra Tower in Kuwait City, Kuwait; and the Arrowhead building in London, England.

[edit] References

  1. Woodward, Christopher. Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. Simon & Schuster:1970.
  2. Woodward, Christopher. Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. Simon & Schuster:1970.
  3. Woodward, Christopher. Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. Simon & Schuster:1970.
  4. Woodward, Christopher. Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. Simon & Schuster:1970.
  5. Woodward, Christopher. Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. Simon & Schuster:1970.
  6. Skidmore, Owings and Merrill. Business Forum. 2008-09-09.
  7. Skidmore, Owings and Merrill. Business Forum. 2008-09-09.
  8. Skidmore, Owings and Merrill. Business Forum. 2008-09-09.
  9. Skidmore, Owings and Merrill. Business Forum. 2008-09-09.

[edit] External Links