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Skidmore, Owings & Merrill

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What Will the Future Hold for SOM's Modernist Arena in Portland?

Built in 1960 and designed by Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill, the Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Portland—a modernist gem on the National Register of Historic Places—could soon face destruction, as the city council prepares to take a vote deciding between restoration or demolition.

Since the Moda Center, better known as the Rose Garden, was built next door and became the new host of the Portland Trail Blazers basketball team, the Memorial Coliseum has been in a state of decline. Currently, the building generally only hosts infrequent concerts, as well as minor league hockey. However, Friends of Memorial Coliseum see it as much more than just an outdated venue, which is why since the building was first threatened with demolition in 2009 they've been campaigning for its preservation.

© Flickr CC User The West End © Flickr CC User Tony Webster © Flickr CC User The West End © Flickr CC User A.F. Litt

SOM Masterplans Egypt's New Capital City

Skidmore, Owings and Merrill (SOM) has released a conceptual masterplan for Egypt's new capital city following its unveiling at the Egyptian Economic Development Conference. The 700-square-kilometer "Capital Cairo" hopes stimulate Egypt's ailing economy and alleviate Cairo's rising population density, while adhering to the cultural and climatic conditions of its site.

All the details, after the break.

Train Station. Image © SOM Night View. Image © SOM Government District. Image © SOM Innovation District. Image © SOM

Walter Netsch: The "Radical Mind" That Designed SOM's Air Force Academy Chapel

Having joined Skidmore, Owings & Merrill after World War Two at the age of 27, Walter Netsch was promoted to become a partner at the age of 31. Netsch entered the firm during what was arguably its defining era, when the reputation of Gordon Bunshaft and the image of a corporate-driven, teamwork-minded made SOM one of the most recognizable practices in the US. He was also, at the age of just 34, responsible for one of SOM's most recognizable projects of the decade, the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs and its striking geometric chapel.

To honor what would have been Netsch's 95th birthday, SOM recently republished an interview between Netsch and architecture theorist and writer Detlef Mertins, which had originally been published in 2001 in SOM Journal 1. In the following extract from this interview, Netsch discusses the story of how he developed the design, and what it was like to participate in one of America's most influential practices among a host of strong characters.

© William Lukes Workers prepare the glass strips for installation in the chapel. Image © SOM © William Lukes © SOM

AIA Honors SOM's Broadgate Exchange House with 25-Year Award

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill’s Broadgate Exchange House (1990) in London has been announced as the 2015 recipient of the American Institute of Architects25-Year Award. The first UK project to ever win the award, the ten-story Exchange House was commended for “standing the test of time” with its “simple yet ingenious structural system that unifies design and function in the mid-century Modernist tradition.”

© John Davies © Nick Guttridge © Nick Guttridge © SOM

Images of SOM's Completed One World Trade Center in New York

The first tenant has moved into the One World Trade Center, making Monday, November 3, the official opening of the (arguably) tallest building in the Western hemisphere 13 years after the tragedy of 9/11. The “extraordinary moment was passed in the most ordinary of ways,” described the New York Times, as employees of Conde Nast entered into the white marble lobby (taken from the same quarry that produced marble for the original twin towers) and headed straight to the elevators to start their work day.

To celebrate its completion, renowned architectural photographers Iwan Baan and James Ewing took it to the sky to capture the One World Trade Center in all its glory. The images, after the break.

AD Interviews: Benton Johnson / SOM

Inside the Wood Pavilion at this year's AIA Convention, we had the chance to chat with Benton Johnson of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) about SOM’s research on using wood for highrise buildings. Although wood is a sustainable and efficient material, it hasn’t entered the world of skyscraper construction yet. However, through their Timber Tower Research Project, SOM has come up with a structural system for skyscrapers that uses mass timber as the main structural material and consequently minimizes the building’s carbon footprint.

“Architects should focus on using wood for these types of structures because we do think of it as the way of the future. Energy and resources are just going to become more and more important going forward, and mass timber technology has no way to go but up,” Johnson explains.

SOM Wins Competition for Sweden's Tallest Tower

SOM, working alongside Danish practice Entasis Arkitekter, has been selected to design a new residential building in Gothenburg that will be Sweden's tallest tower. Coming out on top against an international shortlist that included Zaha Hadid Architects, SOM's 230m tall proposal 'The Pole Star' features four connected prisms which twist 90 degrees near the top.

The competition, run by developers Serneke, called for proposals for a 32,000 square meter mixed-use masterplan, including a 200+ meter residential tower, in Gothenburg's Lindholmen area. A particular focus for the jury was for proposals to "demonstrate how the skyscraper can be integrated into the structure of the neighborhood," adding that "the building should be a part of the area’s social and architectural context, not stand as a solitary monolith."

Read more about the jury's decision after the break

Courtesy of Serneke Courtesy of Serneke Courtesy of Serneke Courtesy of Serneke

Zaha Hadid and SOM Among 5 Competing to Design Scandinavia’s Tallest Tower

Proposal #1: “Ursa” (214 meters). Image Courtesy of Serneke
Proposal #1: “Ursa” (214 meters). Image Courtesy of Serneke

Zaha Hadid Architects, SOM, Ian Simpson Architects, Manuelle Gautrand Architects, and Wingårdhs Arkitektkontor are all competing to design what will be the tallest tower in Scandinavia. Submitted anonymously, the five shortlisted proposals have just been unveiled by Serneke, who has envisioned the skyscraper as an integral piece to a larger 32,000 square meter mixed-use masterplan in Gothenburg that has been in the making for more than ten years. 

Check out each shortlisted design, after the break...

SOM Chosen to Design New Learning Facility for Barnard College

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP (SOM) has been chosen to design a new teaching and learning facility for Barnard College - Columbia University’s world-renowned liberal arts college for women. The selection committee chose SOM after deeming them the best candidate in three categories: “a history of creative and innovative architecture,” a proven recorded on similar academic projects, and “an internal commitment to woman’s leadership reflected by women holding key roles in the firm.”

Simplicity, Structural Clarity & Sustainability: How SOM Remains a Global Leader

Originally posted under the title "Well-Oiled Machine" on Metropolis Magazine, this fascinating article by Ian Volner profiles the international behemoth that is SOM, exploring how the practice has remained so prominent - and relevant - after 78 years, and what it is that stylistically unites a practice spread across five continents with more than 10,000 buildings to their name.

Frank Lloyd Wright called them the “Three Blind Mies.” Louis Skidmore, Nathaniel Owings, and John O. Merrill were the architectural troika whose namesake firm—founded in Chicago in the mid-1930s—became something like the Julia Child of postwar design, delivering European sophistication to middle America at midcentury. Through hundreds of buildings in cities all across the country (and, later, around the world) the office turned the stringent aesthetic of German master builder Ludwig Mies van der Rohe into an architectural metonym for big business. Whether you look at rows of sleek glass skyscrapers and see grace and economy, or only the “thousand blind windows” of Allen Ginsberg’s monstrous “Moloch,” it’s no stretch to say that you have Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) to thank for them.

More on SOM's huge influence after the break

BIG, SHoP, Snøhetta Among Shortlist for Melbourne Office Complex

Australian developer CBUS Property has invited four pairs of Australian and internationally-renowned architectural practices to compete to design an office complex at a 6,000 square meter site in downtown MelbourneAustralia where the National Mutual Plaza currently stands. 

Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport - Terminal 2 / SOM

  • Architects: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill
  • Location: Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport (BOM), सहार रोड, Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport Area, मुंबई, महाराष्ट्र 400099, India
  • Design Partner: Roger Duffy
  • Senior Design Architect: Scott Duncan
  • Design Architect : Peter Lefkovits
  • Technical Architect: Narin Gobindranauth
  • Senior Aviation Planner: Derek Moore
  • Project Year: 2014
  • Photographs: Robert Polidori, SOM

© SOM © Robert Polidori © Robert Polidori © Robert Polidori

Ten Firms Shortlisted to Renovate Mies' MLK Jr. Memorial Library in D.C.

In August, we reported a Request for Qualifications for the renovation of Mies van der Rohe's Martin Luther King (MLK) Jr. Memorial Library in Washington D.C. - Mies' only library and the only building in D.C. A few days ago, the District of Columbia Public Library (DCPL) narrowed down the list of potential firms from 26 to 10 and revealed that it was looking for community input on the library's future spaces and services.

The ten firms that made the cut are:

SOM Breaks Ground on Los Angeles' Courthouse

Just eight months after being awarded the design-build contract with Clark Construction Group, Skidmore, Owings, & Merrill (SOM) has broke ground on the new, $318 million United States Courthouse in downtown Los Angeles. This is a long-awaited achievement for the city of Los Angeles, as attempts have been made to construct a new courthouse since 2007. However, despite having to abandoned a $1.1 billion Perkins + Will proposal years ago, many believe this sustainable and more cost-effective design by SOM was worth the wait. 

An Eloquent Eulogy to Natalie de Blois

"In architecture’s 'Mad Men' era, there was a woman." So begins David W. Dunlap's eloquent eulogy, published yesterday in The New York Times, to Natalie de Blois. Dunlap explores de Blois' significant contributions to Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill's iconic buildings, including the Lever House, as well as the significant hurdles she had to overcome. As SOM partner Nathaniel Owings wrote of de Blois in his autobiography: “Her mind and hands worked marvels in design — and only she and God would ever know just how many great solutions, with the imprimatur of one of the male heroes of S.O.M., owed much more to her than was attributed by either S.O.M. or the client.” Read the entire article at The New York Times.

Muqarnas Tower / SOM

  • Architects: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill
  • Location: Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
  • Design Partner: Roger Duffy, FAIA
  • Managing Partner: Peter Magill, AIA
  • Project Manager: Joseph Ruocco, AIA
  • Senior Design Architect: Scott Duncan, AIA
  • Design Architect: Jackie Wong, AIA
  • Area: 890000.0 ft2
  • Project Year: 2013
  • Photographs: SOM

© SOM © SOM © SOM © SOM

Penn Station, Re-Imagined

This morning, four architectural firms, invited by the Metropolitan Art Society(MAS), displayed how they would transform New York's darkest & dingiest hub - Penn Station - into a space worthy of its site in the heart of the city.

New Yorkers have been up in arms about Penn Station ever since its Beaux-Arts predecessor, designed by McKim, Mead & White, was demolished in 1963. Its replacement is a dark, cramped station that lacks both the operational and security features it needs to sustain the hundreds of thousands of travelers who use it daily. As Michael Kimmelman put it in his inaugural piece as architecture editor for The New York Times: "To pass through Grand Central Terminal, one of New York’s exalted public spaces, is an ennobling experience, a gift. To commute via the bowels of Penn Station, just a few blocks away, is a humiliation."

As we reported last month,Madison Square Garden’s (MSG) 50-year permit expires this year, and it will be either renewed without limit, or extended 10-15 years, by The New York City Council in the coming months. The problem, according to MAS, is that "MSG happens to sit on top of the busiest train station in North America [a.k.a, Penn Station] and constrains its ability to serve over half a million people every day. [...] 2013 presents New York City with a truly unique opportunity and together we need to seize this moment."

And so MAS invited Diller, Sofidio, & Renfro; H3 Hardy Collaboration Architecture; SHoP; Skidmore, Owings, & Merrill, to do just that. See their visions, after the break...